Nevsky Cathedral Pyrography Fine Art wood burning

There is an artist on YouTube (Jonny), Jm Art with Detail, who created a piece of pyrography art featuring ‘The Redhouse’ in Merthyr Tydfil that I loved.  It is so ornate looking with all of the windows, railings, pointed roof lines, etc., that it made me want to try a similar sort of building.   So I went looking on the internet for a photo of the Nevsky Cathedral that I thought was gorgeous.  This blog is going to talk about the creation of the Nevsky Cathedral pyrography artwork that I did. 

Watch a time lapse video of the artwork being created by clicking on the icon to the left.




First, let me talk about Jonny.  Jonny works in a lot of different mediums like painting, pyrography, and even does some tattooing.  His art focuses on a wide variety of subject matter like buildings, cars, portraits, and landscapes to name a few.   Here’s a link to his channel:  


This is an image of Jonny’s Redhouse artwork. I think it’s pretty easy to see why I was so taken with it as Jonny did a fantastic job on this building.  Not only is Jonny a good artist, but he is a really nice guy.   He has done a number of shout-out episodes where he talks about other artist he likes on youtube to help them gain followers.   Jonny, if you should read this, thank you for the shout-out!  This link will take you to Jonny’s Redhouse youtube video:



This is the photo I found on Wikimedia and it was submitted by Antoine Taveneaux.  I loved the domes and the many arching windows.  The more I looked at the photo the more little details I saw, so I was excited to get started on it.  Here’s a link to the photo:



Here’s the board after I transferred the needed lines from the photo to it.  I know the pencil lines are tough to see.






I decided I would leave the pencil marks in place and work a small area at a time.  Since I’m left-handed, this meant working from the left to the right so I wouldn’t smear the pencil marks.   In this photo I’m burning in some of the straight lines using a knife tip.  I’ve found that knife tips (rounded heel or skew) are awesome for burning in thin straight line.



Most of the pencil lines were burned in using a micro writer pen tip.






With the pencil lines for the area burned in, I switched to a shaded and started giving the building some color and depth.






There are lots of architectural features that I loved about the cathedral such as the windows.  They had these dark metal shutters, which I’m burning on in this photo. Plus there were columns between the windows and raised arches above the windows.




The windows also had these sloping ledges on them that were covered in something dark.  More metal is my guess, but I don’t know that for sure.






At the top of each column was an ornate carving with a ledge on top of it.  It’s funny, the whole time I was working on this artwork I just couldn’t figure out what the carving was.  As I started to write this blog, I zoomed in on the reference photo and found out it was a crucifix.  I should have zoomed in before I started working as it’s too late to fix my artwork now. 




As I continued to work my way across the board, I would burn over the pencil lines and then burn in the dark areas; that usually meant a shuttered window.





Another dark area were the steps in front of the main entrance, or what I’m assuming is the main entrance.





If you should watch the time lapse video on YouTube, I don’t show any video clips where I had to rotate the board to work.  It did happen.  I’ve said numerous times that it is important to keep your pen tip in optimal position to have nice crisp clean lines. 





One of the things that made this artwork fun to work on was the texture.  For example, the doors had this raised paneling on them.  In this photo I’m burning around each panel to give them very dark edges.






Then I burned over the door to dark up the panels.  Once I was done it was a minor detail that you don’t even notice unless you start to really look or examine the artwork.






Just below the roof line was a row of decorative block molding, sorry I do not know the proper terms for the architecture feature, and they added more visual interest and texture to the work.






Each section of the building had a roof line to be burned in, the decorative block molding which I’m working on, arching windows, and the decorative raised arching molding above the windows that followed the curve of the windows. 




I tried to replicate all of the features of the building including the stained glass scene above the door.  This area was so small that replicating the detail was tough even though I was using my micro shader.






I got the basics of the stained glass scene done and went back to the previous building section and worked on the decorative raised arches above the windows.   






To give you a bit of perspective, here’s a progress photo of the entire board.






The concrete foundation was a little weathered looking in spots on the reference photo.  I had debated on whether or not I wanted to replicate that, but decided in the end I wanted the cathedral to look closer to how it did after it was first built; new and pristine.






In the reference photo you could see subtle lines indicating rows of bricks.  So I would lightly burn in those lines and then later burn over them.  This way you could still see the lines if you looked, but they were very subtle.






With all monochromatic artwork, you have to determine tonal values for the different areas.  So the front of the building where the sun is striking needs to be lighter in tan hue than the sides which are in shadows.  As I work I constantly compare the area I’m working in against the similar areas to make sure I keep the tonal values the same or very similar.





As I worked on the cathedral, I was amazed at the amount of decorative accenting the building has.  This building has to be absolutely stunning in person and the inside must be amazing.






Despite being very careful, I discovered that my pencil lines were starting to smear, so I used a micro writer pen tip and burned them in. 






I also burning in the dark windows on each level after I got the pencil lines done.





The windows provided visual markers that I could use to quickly locate where I was in relationship to the reference photo.   





So here is how the entire artwork looks up to this point.







The ground around the cathedral was another area of debate for me.  Part of me wanted to put a more natural ground like grasses, flowers, and shrubbery, but in the end I stayed with the concrete sidewalks.





Most of the roofs were domed shaped, but this particular one had angled panels on it.  I rather liked the contrast of its shape with the small domed roof above it.







For many people the idea of burning in each roof line and all of the decorative molding would get monotonous and very tedious in a hurry, but I loved it. 






I enjoyed burning in each section on the building and giving it shape and depth.  I also enjoyed seeing just how much of the architectural detail I could replicate; especially along the smaller or more distant areas on the cathedral.






I will admit that I invented some details.  For example, I made the assumption that the raised panel design on the doors was also done on the windows.   I suppose I could have gone searching on the internet for other angles of the cathedral that would have revealed the pattern on the windows, but I didn’t figure most people will look that closely at my artwork.


Replicating shadows is probably the most important aspect to creating 3D art.  There were a lot of shadows for me to incorporate on the cathedral.







Accurate shadows are what make the windows look recessed and the columns rounded.






Just above the raised arches was a raised horizontal piece of molding that ran the length of the building.  In fact, there were two of them with the second one being a few inches above the first.  It reminded me of wallpaper border that was popular in home decoration a few years back.  There was some sort of pattern on the wall between the two horizontal lines, but I was never really sure what the pattern was.  I burned in some cross hatch lines to give the area a little texture.



After I block in an area with basic color and/or texture, I go over it with a writer pen tip to add the finer detail.







One of the things I liked about the particular angle from the picture was taken are all of the cast shadows on the building, like the one I’m working on.  They really help give the building shape.






All of the roof lines extended past the top of the building, so they cast shadows onto the building just below the roof.





It wasn’t until I starting burning in everything that I really became aware of the number of roof lines the cathedral has.






This area I’m working on is one of my favorites as it is one of the more ornate areas on the cathedral.







Like the scrolling design above the arched windows.






And the crosses on either side of the window bay.





I also like how the windows are different lengths.





Plus there is a lot of decorative molding accents above the window bay.







Another feature of the cathedral I liked are the rounded dome roofs.  Part of the appeal is that they are so different from a lot of building architecture I see in the united states.





The higher levels of the cathedral have lots of windows with clusters of pillars or columns between each window.





Plus each cluster of pillars had a decorative top with a small ledge on them.  My writer pen tip got quite the workout on this project.





As I was burning on a cradle or panel board, I had problems burning vertical lines because of the slivering direction on the board.  Slivering is what I call the texture on all plywood; it is small pieces or thin slivers of missing wood.  The red arrow in the photo points to an example of slivering.  Like I said, it is a feature that all plywoods share, but the amount of slivering does vary between brands.




Slivering runs the same direction as the wood grain and on this board the grain was mostly vertical in direction.   My shader had a tendency to dip down into the slivered lines making it tough to keep the burn line straight.  Part way through this project I discovered a writer pen tip was better for burning the vertical lines as its rounded edge was able to glide over the slivers.   




In this progress photo it is easier to see the magnitude of the building and how much detail is incorporated on each floor or room of the building.






By the time I started working on the top most layer of the cathedral I figured I was at the halfway mark.  It had taken me a little over 30 hours to get to this point.





One good thing is that I had gotten a process down for working on the arches and pillars around each window. 






This made burning them go quicker as I was repeating the steps I had found worked well to replicate them.






Even then, working on the window areas was tough due to the amount of detail in the small area.  To ease eye fatigue, I would switch to other areas, like this roof line, that didn’t have quite so much minute detail.





After giving myself a break I’d return to work on a few more windows.






In fact, on this particular day of burning I decided my goal was to get the top dome done.






So I powered through the windows and got it done.







This building has so many levels and angles on it; and it makes me love it even more because of the visual interest that provided.






I will have to admit that a small part of me was getting tired of working on window arches and pillars. 






In the end, though, I really liked how the window arches and pillars turned out. 





Here is another progress photo.






Each level on the cathedral has its own unique features.  A lot of the features are repeated for harmony, but there was still a lot of variety.






One example is the scalloped roof on this area I’m working near. 






Most of the roof lines followed the curves of the windows, but this area the windows are narrow and there are quite a few of them.  It really made the roof look more like a scallop shell to me.   





This area with the scalloped roof is my other favorite spot on the cathedral. One reason besides the roof are how the windows alternated on being solid plaster or having dark metal shutters on them.  I like that change and variety.




Plus I really liked the split curving roof line above the scalloped roof.






Of course the windows wouldn’t be complete without pillars between them.






In this photo I’m working on the last room on the upper levels of the cathedral.  All of the remaining rooms are at ground level.  This was another sign for me that I was getting closer to finishing my project.





This room was one of the few that didn’t have pillars between the windows.  Instead it had a raised ornate swirling design, but it was too small of an area for me to replicate it.  I gave it a shot, but settled on a circular design.   





Here’s another progress photo.  I only have ground flour rooms to work on and the ground in front of the cathedral.  






Here I’m working on the road by the cathedral.  I didn’t want to replicate the road, so I burned a lot of crosshatch lines that varied a little in color.  My goal was to give a little texture and eliminate the appearance of the cathedral floating in air.





After I burned in the crosshatch lines I then burned over them with a shader to darken up the ground. 





Below is a before and after picture of the ground being completed.


To me it looks a lot better with the foreground burned in.


In this photo I’m working on the rightmost room; I only have one room left to do after this.







This is the last room I have to burn in.  It is another entrance into the building and I’m working on the right side of that entrance.





The doors on this side were deeply shadowed, so I don’t know if they had the raised paneling on them.





Above the door was a small bay of windows with a decorative panel.





I stippled over the area to give it a little texture and visual interest as I wasn’t sure what was really there.





Finishing up the last of the details around the window.






Below is a photo comparing my final artwork with the photo of the cathedral.

I did deviate from the reference photo in that I omitted the street lamps, garbage cans, the blue bus, and the person walking along.  Also my green and gold domes are similar in tonal color.  I darkened up the gold toned domes so they would stand out against the unburned background.  Looking at this comparison photo I think the gold dome in the lower left corner should have been a touch darker as you barely notice it.

The more I compare the more I see little things I could have or should have done differently, so I’ll quit comparing and just enjoy the art.



I really enjoyed working on this project and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.  While I enjoyed working on it, it was also very exacting work, so I could only burn for an hour or so before my eyes would start bugging me.   I started working on the Cathedral in beginning of April 2018 and I didn’t finish it until December of 2018.  Needless to say, I didn’t push myself to get this done in a short amount of time.       

As I worked on the Cathedral I just kept thinking about how beautiful the building is and how impressive it must look in person.  While I pondered this, another thought entered my mind.  If you were to live nearby and could see it everyday how long would it take for the awe of the Cathedral’s beauty to fade and it would become just another building.  

Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently.  This artwork was burned on artist cradle board (or wood panel) that measures 12 x 16 inches (30.5 x 40.6 cm).  It took me 52 3/4 hours to complete the artwork which is the longest amount of time I have spent on any pyrography project thus far.

Until the next blog,


Feb 15, 2019

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