Jan, my birding expert friend, lives in an area that has a lot of quail. Every day a flock of quail comes to her yard to get a drink and take a dust bath. I was telling her that I love quail, and one day I want to create some artwork featuring one. Much to my delight, she asked me burn a quail on a trinket box as a gift for her daughter. I was super excited to work on this project!
The photo supplied for the artwork is not mine to share, but this photo gives you an idea of what I’m trying to replicate.
As I almost always do, I started with the eye.
Then I started blocking in the major features on the face.
I used zigzag strokes to burn in the black streak and the brown feathers on the back of the head.
I also used zigzag strokes to burn the feathers on the throat.
I just love the little top feather that dangles above a quail’s head.
Here’s a progress photo of the quail.
Along the back of the neck the feathers have tiny white spots. In this photo I’ve colored the spots with white charcoal and now I’m carefully burning around each spots with a micro writer.
The white spots disappear once reaching the bird’s mantle, but the feathers still have the very thin black line around them.
The neck and mantle were the toughest areas for me with this project. It was difficult to keep the little spots white and to keep the feathers from looking really ruffled.
When I’m working on non-tutorial projects, I tend to bounce around a lot as I work. I like to block in the color or tonal values of areas and then refine them later on. In this photo I’m starting to work on the edge where the wing feathers start to emerge.
Now I’m working on blocking in the mantle or back of the bird.
For some reason it was really bugging me that the face wasn’t close to how the bird looked in the reference photo, so I started fine-tuning the area before I could finish blocking in the rest of the body. In this photo I just finished re-burning the eye.
Then I worked on the beak.
And then the throat. Once I was done it looked a lot better to me.
So now I’m back to blocking in the chest feathers. I guess you could also call it applying the first layer of color.
The quail’s belly has these beautiful feathers that have thick black edges on them. Plus the feathers around the edges of the belly are cream color, but get progressively darker and tinged with orange near the center of the belly.
I used a writer pen tip to darkly burn in the black edges on the feathers.
Here’s another progress photo.
After I got the black edges done on the belly feathers, I worked on the chest feathers again. As I said before, I like to block in the areas and then fine-tune them later on. What I’m doing is comparing the tonal values between the different areas and making adjustments as needed.
In this photo I got most of the neck done. I did re-work the neck several more times fine-tuning small areas trying to get it to look right. Admittedly, unless you have the before/after pictures side-by-side, it is hard to tell what I’ve done. I just know that each time I did a little more work I was happier with how the neck was looking.
Now I’m working on the wing feathers.
The wing feathers had these little white streaks on them, so I had to be very careful not to accidentally burn over one.
Here’s another progress photo.
I was using the Colwood J shader, my usual, and used pull-away strokes along the feathers. I started the stroke on the end of the feather and pulled it towards the opposite side.
The long flight feathers were created using uniform strokes. The dark line between each feather was done using the razor edge of the shader.
When I work on bird feathers, I always burn each one individually as this provides greater realism to the work.
The underside of the quail had these pale golden feathers with dark markings. I’m burning in the dark markings first as that lets me know how ‘brown’ I can burn the rest of the feather and still have it look pale.
The feathers above the legs have jagged edges to them, so I’m using zigzag strokes to burn in the feathers.
Now I’m burning in the couple of really dark feathers along the bottom of the wing.
In this photo I’ve added the ‘golden’ color to most of the belly feathers.
I’ve got a base layer of color and texture on the post and I’m working on the shadows along the little knot.
You could see the underside of the feathers on the tail, so I’m blocking them in.
The legs had a lot of texture to them and they reminded me of lizard skin because they almost looked like were covered in scales.
What I’m doing now is burning the shadows on the back of the legs, toes, and claws.
With everything blocked in, now it’s time to fine-tune to get the final color and contrast levels where I think they should be. I started with the lower wing feathers.
Then re-burned some of the shorter wing feathers.
The chest and back of the bird were grey in color, but the wings were brown. This meant I had to re-burn the wings until I had two distinct color or tonal levels.
You should always keep the pen tip in optimal position when burning along edges of objects. Here I’m working on darkening up the belly.
More work on the wings.
And still more work on the wings.
Adding more color to the lower belly or rump of the bird.
This group of feathers on the wing I re-burned numerous times. For some reason I had a hard time getting the darkness level correct.
Re-burning the jagged feathers above the legs.
One last time of fine-tuning the wing feathers again.
At this point I have pretty much re-burned the entire bird. I sent this progress photo to Jan, and she thought I was done, but I told her that more work needed to be done like finishing the toes and darkening up the fence post.
Finishing up the post. I really like how it turned out.
I made the claws really dark, so they would stand out. They were just too small to try and have highlights and subtle shading on them.
But I did add some shadows on the post under the claws and toes.
Continued work on building up the color and texture of the toes.
Since the toes were so small, I used the micro writer pen tip to do almost all of the burning.
Finishing up the underside of the tail feathers.
Adding a little more texture or hint of feathers on the chest.
Ok, this time is really the last time of fine-tuning the wing feathers.
Lastly darkening up the feathers above the legs a little more.
The last thing to talk about is the embellishments I added to the plain store bought craft box.
First, I burned a dark tan border around the box.
Even the back wasn’t as visually striking as the sides. Not that it mattered because this rustic look was not what Jan was after. She envisioned black lacquered sides with red velvet lining the inside of the box.
I personally thought that the border around the top needed to be painted black too, but that wasn’t my decision to make.
Fortunately, Jan thought the same thing I did, so I painted the border around the quail black. I kept a matte finish on the paint as I didn’t have high gloss paint and I hate high gloss over artwork! High gloss and even semi-gloss create too much of a reflective surface that interferes with seeing artwork, so I always keep the finish matte.
I even painted the bottom of the box as I like everything to match and then permanently attached the 4 feet.
Here’s a side shot.
Plus, the inside was covered with red velvet. I thought it turned out very nicely.
Jan loved how the artwork turned out, and her daughter loved the gift. Plus I really enjoyed working on and creating this artwork. I had a lot of fun embellishing the craft box to make it look a lot fancier too.
Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently. This artwork was burned on a Birch plywood box that measured 8 x 8 x 2 inches (20.3 x 20.3 x 5.1 cm). It took me 8 1/4 hours to complete the artwork.
Until the next blog,
Feb 1, 2019
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