A month or so back I was asked by Keith to write a tutorial explaining how to create ocean waves in pyrography. I’ve never created an ocean scene before and have wanted to try it, so this blog is all about that attempt. This tutorial will cover the pyrography techniques I used to create the waves and give them a sense of movement. As an added bonus, I will also cover how I airbrushed the color onto the waves.
Keep in mind that this is my first attempt at creating an ocean scene and I’m going to admit that I’m not really pleased with the results. I’ve often said that pyrography and drawing have a lot of similarities; so if I can draw it, I can burn it. I’ve never drawn an ocean scene before, so I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. Because of that I ended up doing a lot of experimentation with this burning. At some point I will try an ocean scene again, but I will first draw the ocean to get a better understanding of the process.
Now, let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 2
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- 10 x 10 inch (25.4 x 25.4 cm) piece of wood
- Attached pattern (shrink or enlarge as needed) Crashing Ocean Waves pattern
- Liquid Frisket or Masking Fluid (only if you plan to add liquid color (watercolors, airbrushing, markers, etc.)
- Frisket film (only if you are airbrushing the color on)
STEP 1 – ANALYZE A WAVE
I used a reference photo to get the basic shape of the waves. I had started out trying to replicate the photo, but about halfway through decided that it would be better to simplify the process. If nothing else it would make it easier to explain. The reference photo is from Pixabay and was uploaded by user Enrique Lopezgarre. Here’s the link to the photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/sea-waves-sky-clouds-ocean-costa-4032471/
This is an important one. Compare the movement lines between the water when it’s on a crest versus under the wave. The opposite direction of curving streaks in the water is also what conveys movement.
Now look at the water that isn’t part of a wave. It is choppy looking, so there are a lot of short lines, if you will, of light and dark. Most of the lines curve or bow downward slightly. Visualize a someone who has a slight smile that is barely curving upward.
Lastly, notice how much darker the wave in the background is compared to the one in front. The red arrow is pointing to water that is still thick or building up as it is getting ready to crest. The yellow arrow is pointing to water that is cresting, so the water isn’t as thick. There are probably more factors to this, but we’ll go with that to keep things simple.
Let’s get burning.
STEP 2 – PREP THE WOOD
Then thoroughly wet the board by misting it with water or running it quickly under the sink faucet. Let the board dry and then sand again.
This will produce a super smooth surface, and the smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be.
STEP 3 – TRANSFER PATTERN TO WOOD
I use the tracing method to transfer all my patterns to my projects. It’s cheap, easy, and gives me control on what I want to include. Print off your pattern on lightweight paper (standard copier paper is perfect), coat the back of the pattern with a graphite pencil, position on the wood, and trace over the pattern. Make sure to check the trace results for accuracy before removing the pattern.
Then burn in the trace lines and rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.
STEP 4 – SKY
The first thing we need to do is burn in a little bit of the sky so the white foam of the waves will show up. The “white” foam is just unburned wood, so if it is the palest thing on the board it will look white.
Rotate the board so your pen tip is in optimal position and burn a medium tan color next to the edge of the top wave. The inset photo in the upper left corner is the entire artwork with an arrow pointing to the spot I’m working on.
STEP 5 – WAVE 1
Also, I want to point out that I quickly quit trying to use the reference photo. Instead I created more stylized waves following the items or guidelines I mentioned during the wave analysis.
Use the shader of your choice and begin burning pull-away strokes under the crested wave on the left side. Start each stroke on the crest edge and pull them down a short ways. Make sure to curve the lines as this gives movement to the water.
Repeatedly fill the area with pull-away strokes to build up the color and movement of the wave. Make sure to vary the color or darkness level of the strokes. You do NOT want uniform color. Note that I purposely didn’t show a lot of pictures for this section of the wave as I was experimenting on what to do. There really isn’t a point in detailing what I did since most of it isn’t how I preceded with the rest of the artwork.
Next burn pull-away strokes along the edge of the foam. Start the stroke on the edge of the foam and pull it upwards in a gentle curve towards the top of the crest. Again, burn the stroke in the direction of the water movement.
Continue to work in sections along the wave. The water right under the foam tends to be the darkest as it is in shadows. Plus, the dark burn will contrast nicely with the foam to make the foam look brighter or whiter.
Burn a dark line under the foam that follows the contour of the edge and then burn pull-away strokes that start on the dark line and get pulled downward. A quick reminder that you need to burn your strokes in the direction of the water movement.
Use circular motion to burn in pale blotches of color on the foam. I literally move my hand in a small circle, and I repeat the motion a couple of time before moving on. This ensures I end up with a roundish blotch and not a round line.
Now, if the dots were much paler in color and I kept them just on the edges of the foam it might have worked to make it look frothier.
STEP 6 – REMAINING WAVES
This is another wave on the right side. I would highly recommend not including it. Instead I would repeat what is on the left side for the entire length of this wave. The reason is that you have two separate white foam patches and it was tough to make them seem like separate waves.
Burn the tan blotches on the foam. The reason for burning in the foam now is that the choppy water needs to be dark enough to make the foam stand out easily. Until the foam has some color, you can’t determine how dark to make the choppy water.
Continued work on the choppy water. In this photo you can see that I’m approaching the second wave that starts in the middle of the board. I left this wave on the pattern, but if I were to do this again I’d leave the wave out.
Now burn in the second wave that starts near the center of the image. There isn’t a lot of the wave showing, so you don’t have a lot of room to curve the strokes. Instead burn them so that they start near the foam and angle downward to the left towards the spot where the wave begins to rise (marked with a yellow arrow).
Now we’ll burn in the last wave. The thing I want to point out with this wave are the two pale areas of thin water where the light is shining through. Those two spots need to be lighter than the rest of the wave.
I do recommend trying out different sized shaders to burn the horizontal zigzags when creating the choppy water. I’m using my largest shader in this photo and I really like the longer lines it creates.
STEP 7 – COLOR SKY
Then use a very sharp X-acto knife to cut the frisket along the top edge on the last wave (the first wave we burned in). This photo has black arrows pointing to the line I cut. The goal is just to score the frisket enough to remove it cleanly along the cut line, but not cut so deep that you cut into the underlying wood.
Thoroughly clean the airbrush and then add a couple drops of translucent Royal blue watered down with 3-5 drops of water. Spray that along the upper edge of the board. I left an area between the yellow and blue unsprayed as I figured the slight over spray from both would fill in the area without mixing to a green color.
STEP 8 – COLOR WAVES
I will be applying the frisket with a silicon taper point brush or tool. I use this instead of a regular paint brush because I can easily remove any dried frisket from the tool. The other reason is that I hate paintbrushes and avoid using them as much as possible.
Then I added phthalo blue to the airbrush and started spraying in the same direction we burned the pull-away strokes on the waves. I started spraying on the frisket covering the sky, and ended the spray on the liquid frisket covering the foam below the area I was working.
LET THE PAINT DRY COMPLETELY!!! Paint on liquid frisket takes longer to dry than it does on the board, or any surface for that matter. I’ve messed with a painting before the paint was dry on the frisket and the paint smeared over the paper and ruined the artwork.
It is super important to make sure the paint is completely dry on the liquid frisket. I’ve had times where the paint is dry on the board / paper, but was still wet in spots on the liquid frisket. When I removed the frisket I ended up smearing the wet paint on my artwork right in the area I was trying to protect.
That’s it for this tutorial. Keith, thank you for the suggestion and I hope I was able to provide some useful information to help you with your project. As I said, I’m not really thrilled with how the artwork turned out, but I got to try something new and different. Plus I learned some more about pyrography in general, so that’s always a good thing.
Lastly, to answer a couple of questions I always get. The artwork was burned on basswood and it took me 5 3/4 hours to create it, not counting the airbrushing.
Until the next blog,
June 7, 2019
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