Pyrography Art RASPBERRY BANDIT RACCOON wood burning

Raccoons are a pretty common site around my house as there are a number of large evergreen trees that they like to hang out in.  Every year there is a female raccoon that raises young in a few of the trees.  I think raccoons are cute and their babies are just adorable.  As the babies get older, the female raccoon gets a lot bolder in her search for food.  One year I caught her in the raspberry patch raiding the berries she could reach.  The photo became the subject of my Raspberry Bandit artwork I created. 

To watch a time lapse video of the artwork being created, click on the image to the left.

Every so often I like to pick a challenging subject to work on because it forces me out of my comfort zone.  Plus I almost always learn a lot when working on something I find challenging.   This project presented the challenge of longer fur length.   All of the animal fur I had created before this project had short fur which is easy to replicate with my zigzag burn stroke method.  Not only did the raccoon have areas with long fur, but she also had some areas that were hairy looking.  By that I mean it looked like lots of individual strands of hair going in all sorts of different directions.  

Here’s the photo I took.  What the photo doesn’t show is the fenced in area that the raspberries are in. 

 

 

 

 

This photo shows my fenced in berry patch.  It has contains three varieties of raspberries, and several blueberry plants.    We have a LOT of deer that love to eat the leaves off of both the raspberries and blueberries, so we needed a fenced in area to keep the deer out.  Since I feed the birds, we had to run the fencing along top of the pen to keep them out.  An added benefit to the roof is that it keeps the raccoons out too as they can easily climb the fence.   The raccoon in the previous photo had climbed to the top of the pen and was eating the raspberries from the canes that stuck out above the top of the pen.   It was cute, but annoying at the same time. 

 

My backyard is pretty much a playground for the raccoons.   When the babies get older the mama raccoon takes them around with her and one of their favorite things to do is take a swim in my small pond.  Numerous plants have been knocked of their ledges, and I have to retrieve them from the bottom of the pond.  Like I said, they are both cute and annoying.  

 

 

 

It took me a number of hours to trace all of the leaves and the raccoon onto the board I was using.  As you can see, I drew a border around the edge of the board and this allowed me to have leaves overlap onto the border.  

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing I did was I burned in the traced lines so I wouldn’t have to worry about my hand smearing them as I worked.  

 

 

 

 

 

Then I started burning in the fur on the face using zigzag strokes.   If you look close you might be able to see the white charcoal pencil lines that I drew for the whiskers.  My goal is to burn around those charcoal lines, and once I’m done burning I’ll erase the charcoal and have white whiskers.  

 

 

 

I like to block in areas and then I’ll re-burn over them to darken, further define, and increase the overall tonal variety.   In this photo you can see that I am managing to avoid the white charcoal whiskers.

 

 

 

Now I’m applying another layer of zigzags along the sides of the nose bridge to darken the area up.  To make a nose look raises or elevated from the surface, the sides have to be darker than the top or center.   Since I haven’t created a transition from the center to the dark side yet, the nose looks like a skunk stripe.   For the record, the word transition is just another way of say gradient shading.

 

After reburning over most of the area, the nose looks more rounded and less like a skunk stripe.

 

 

 

 

 

With the eyes and nose looking pretty good, I’ve started blocking in the fur along the top of the head.   You can see that I haven’t applied a uniform layer of zigzags over the area.  Instead I use a combination of tight and loose zigzags.  Tight zigzags are burned with the lines very close together and this produces a darker look.  Loose zigzags have larger gaps between the lines, so they look much lighter in color.

 

 

Another factor in the darkness level is how closely I burn the zigzag bursts to each other.  Most of the time the bursts touch and often overlap to produce dark fur, but leaving little gaps between them gives the impression of pale or white fur.   

I did write a blog about how I use and modify zigzags when creating short fur.   If you’re interested in reading it here is a link to that article.  Also that article has a link to the corresponding youtube video:  Zigzag Demo

 

One of the most challenging areas on this artwork was the fur on the neck and down the front legs.  The left side had less going on, so I used that side to experiment.

 

 

 

 

 

This fur was long and had a combination of clumps and individual hairs.  This is the hairy area I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t have any experience with this type of fur yet, so I started out burning in the dark shadowed area between the legs.  I used pull-away strokes that started in the shadows and pulled the stroke up into the fur.  My goal was to create the wispy hairs that showed against the dark shadows.  This at least seemed a bit similar to burning in hairy animal ears.

 

 

 

When I’m confronted with a new challenge and I’m undecided on how to handle it, I will work on other areas of the artwork and let my brain ponder the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

As I pondered how to work on the challenging area, I worked on mostly mindless things like darkening up the area behind the leaves in front of the raccoon.

 

 

 

 

 

So I decided the wispy hair creation method was working decently along the edges of the shadows, so I burned in the area on the left above the leaves.  Like before the strokes started in the dark area next to the leaves and were pulled up into the fur.

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the raccoon looks so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wasn’t confident with what I was doing to start on the right leg, so instead I started working on the right side of the face and blocked in the fur along there.

 

 

 

 

I have mentioned before that my zigzag fur creation method relies on applying several layers of zigzags to give the fur a realistic look.  In this photo I’m applying another layer of zigzags to the face.  This would be the third or fourth layer to the area.

 

 

 

 

Another challenging area on the raccoon was the fur on the side of the body and the tail.  The fur is much longer than the face, but smoother or less ‘hairy’ looking than the legs.  Further complicating the area where the white charcoal whiskers that I was trying to avoid burning over.  I started out using a small shader to burn long gently curving lines of slightly different colors to represent the fur. 

 

 

I wasn’t super thrilled with how that was looking, so I switched back to the right side of the raccoon and I applied another layer of zigzags over the fur.   

 

 

 

 

Then I worked on the fur along the top of the body.  This fur looked pretty short in the picture, so I used my standard zigzag stroke for this area too.   I like to work on areas that don’t require as much brain thought, so I can ponder ideas to help me with the problematic areas.   The board is rotated because I found it made working in this area more comfortable.

 

 

 

Here’s another photo of how the raccoon is looking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the hairy neck and legs on the raccoon.  To make the front of the face look elevated from the neck and legs, the face needs to be lighter in color.  Light areas appear closer to the viewer, and dark areas seem further away.  Applying that theory to the artwork means I need to darken up the fur under the jaw.   This will push the neck into the background a bit, and the white muzzle or jaw of the raccoon will seem closer.

 

 

 

 

 

As I work, I’m leaving strands or large clumps of hair lighter in color than others.  I won’t lie, this is slow work, and that is partly because I’m experimenting my way through this.   If I were to start another raccoon, it would go faster because I’ve figured out how to handle things while creating this artwork.

 

 

 

I decided that the strands or clumps of hair concept didn’t look too bad, so I applied the same technique to the other leg.   Does it match the photo?  No, but I do like to think that it is giving the impression as the same type of fur as the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another area I debated on was how dark to burn the leaves.   I wanted the focus to be on the raccoon, so I didn’t want the leaves to be too dark especially the leaves in the foreground.

 

 

 

 

For some reason I very seldom use black and white photos as reference when burning.  I prefer the color version because I think some details are easier to see.   As I was writing this blog I was curious as to how the reference photo would look without color.  It’s a very drab photo.  I have to admit that it doesn’t inspire me want to use it.  The face of the raccoon really stands out because of the white markings, but the body isn’t that noticeable to me.  The white rings on the tail look to be similar in color as the fur along the top of the body.   Obviously, I didn’t replicate that in my artwork.

 

Back to the artwork.  As I pondered how dark to burn in the leaves, I started working on the side of the body.  Again I’m using a small shader to burn long thick lines or bands of color that varied a bit in tonal value.

 

 

 

 

Time for another layer of zigzags on the face.  This time I’m applying some loose zigzags over the white areas.   White fur should not be left as unburned areas on the wood.  That just looks like you forgot to burn over the area.  At the very least white patches of fur should have a few individual lines burned in the direction the fur grows to give the impression of fur.

 

 

 

I do have to admit that the leaves were a bit boring to work on.  After you burn in a few of them you quickly discover they are all pretty much alike.  This artwork has a LOT of leaves on it, so I was in for some monotonous burning sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work on some leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To break up the monotony of working on the leaves, I would switch to different areas and burn in a leaf or two there.  This tactic actually did help me get through the background.

 

 

 

Another thing I did to break up the monotony was work on the fur.  As you can see, I’ve been re-burning over the side as the area has gotten much darker.  With the current way I’m burning in the side, this too was a very tedious process.

 

 

Here’s how the raccoon looks at this point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I was working on the fur I had an epiphany; use a larger shader.  Why I didn’t think of this before I’m not sure, but at least the idea finally popped into my head.  In this photo I’m now using the largest shader I own which is Colwood’s E spade shader.

 

 

 

This was a game changer.  I discovered I was able to use the zigzag stroke I like to use, but I did have to modify the burn stroke it a bit.

 

 

 

 

I would burn very thin, but long zigzags.  This created large strands or clumps of hair.  Plus I didn’t vary the starting point of each zigzag burst as very much. 

 

 

 

 

I think I’ve mentioned before that I most of the time I pick my shader based on the size of the area I’m working in.  The larger area is, the larger the shader I use.  As this picture shows you can use large shaders in small areas, but you have to be very careful.  With the background I wasn’t too worried about any mistakes or over burns because there is so much foliage that I doubt anyone would notice.

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

My large shader worked so well on the longer fur that I used it to burn in the tail too.

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the tail.

 

 

 

 

 

I re-burned over the area I had done with the smaller shader to make sure the fur texture was similar to the rest of the body.

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the artwork looks so far.  You can see how I let the tip of the tail overlap onto the border I will be putting around the edges of the artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

Motivated by the success I had on the side of the body, I used the large shader on the front of the leg. 

 

 

 

 

I’m undecided it that was a good choice, but here’s how it looked after I was done.  Mostly I darkened up the area and really defined some individual strands or clumps of hair.

 

 

 

 

In areas where over burns would be very noticeable I used a much smaller shader to burn in the fur.

 

 

 

 

 

Now back to working on those exciting leaves.  You can also see that I started burning the border around the artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Applying another layer of zigzags to the face.

 

 

 

 

 

This photo shows the artwork thus far and the impact the dark border will have.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point the raccoon is done other than a bit of fine-tuning, so I’m left with the background and the dark border.  Both of which are a bit boring to work on.

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would often alternate working on leaves and the dark border.  It really did help moving around the art to relieve the monotony of it.  

 

 

 

 

This photo shows my set up.  I keep the reference photo nearby.  Since I’m left-handed, the reference photo is placed to the right of my work area.  I have a piece of scrap wood that I keep nearby.  Right now that scrap wood is being used to elevate the artwork so it is easier to work along the bottom edge.   To the left I have a piece of polishing cloth in case I need to clean the pen tip.  The back side of the cloth is visible.  I will use the back side of the cloth when the pen tip is warm.  The pen tip needs to be cold when using the front.

The large shader felt awkward and difficult to use on the legs, so I switched back to a smaller shader.  At this point I’m mostly working on darkening up the fur on the leg so it will appear to be in shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s another progress photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo you can see that a lot of the upper background has been burned in.  The distance or highly shadowed areas were purposely left vague or without a lot of detail. 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two things that you can do to help push things into the background.  1) Make the item darker than the foreground.  2) Don’t include a lot of detail on the time.  With the leaves, I did make the veins as defined or as noticeable.  Some of the leaves are mere blobs or vague leaf like shapes.

 

 

 

 

With the raspberries, I used a writer pen tip to burn around each nodule on the fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

Then I used a shader to burn over the entire fruit, but making sure to burn the edges a bit darker than the center.

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly I used the writer pen tip to further define each nodule on the fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo you can really see areas of the background that are vague.  Leaves have soft edges and some signs of veins, but the detail is kept to a minimum. 

 

 

 

 

Here’s another progress photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lower left corner is my last area to burn in on the background.

 

 

 

 

 

Now it’s time for the fine-tuning.  Mostly that meant fine-tuning the raccoon’s face.

 

 

 

 

 

The last thing I had to do was restore the whiskers.  When I was using the large shader I found it too difficult to try and avoid the white charcoal whiskers, so I erased the charcoal and concentrated on the fur.   Once the fur was done I use scrapers, like the sharp point of a knife, to scratch in the whiskers.   

 

 

 

 

 

I also brightened up the highlights in the eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the raccoon looked before I restored the whiskers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s how she looked after I scraped the whiskers back into existence.

 

 

Below is a composite photo showing my final artwork next to the reference photo.  My artwork is not a perfect replication of the photo, but that’s the beauty of art; it doesn’t have to be.   I actually prefer the contrast levels in my artwork and I like how some of the leaves extend onto the black border around the artwork.

CONCLUSION

This project was fun, but also presented a number of challenges for me.  I think everyone should occasionally push themselves to try harder or more complicated artwork as I think it really helps you grow as an artist.   Generally speaking, I learn a lot when I work on challenging projects like the Raspberry Bandit.

Now to answer some commonly asked questions.   The artwork was burned on basswood, which is also called linden, common linden, or common lime.  The board measures 10 1/2 inches tall by 13 1/4 inched wide (26.7 x 33.7 cm), and it took me 28 3/4 hours to complete the artwork.

Until the next blog,                                                           

Brenda

May 19, 2020

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6 thoughts on “Pyrography Art RASPBERRY BANDIT RACCOON wood burning

  1. Brenda,
    I continue to read and enjoy each and every one of your blogs and tutorials. Thanks for all that you do! I am very grateful.

    I have a couple of questions for you:
    1. How do you photograph your work? Would this be a good subject for a tutorial?
    2. I know nothing about framing. What has been your experience about when to put a frame around a picture? Again, maybe a good subject for a tutorial

    I hope you are doing well under the current conditions. My carving club of 75 people is on hold and we miss the fun and fellowship of course. Hopefully we will be able to return to form soon.

    Keith Kirkham

    1. Hi Keith,

      Thank you for the wonderful compliment and comment.

      Photographing artwork. First off let me tell you that I’m terrible at it. I have a painter’s easel that I place the artwork on and then I take numerous pictures hoping one will turn out that is straight. Usually what happens is I get tired of trying and just crop the picture enough so that you can’t tell. I allow the artwork to be lit by whatever light is coming in the window. This means on a bright day the art gets a bit washed out and on cloudy days it appears a bit dark.

      I believe the professionals or more serious people do the following: hang the picture on a wall, set up lighting (no window lights), put the camera on a tripod, and take pictures. I will admit that I’m just too lazy for that.

      Making a frame. I talked to Todd about this and got an earful that I will admit I didn’t understand. Todd will make a frame and I’ll videotape the process. So, yes, this would probably make a good tutorial. Guess we’ll find out.
      By the way, if the artwork is on thin plywood (up to 1/4 inch or so), you can buy almost any frame at the store and use that. I just remove the glass and I don’t bother with matting or a backer.

      We’re doing well and I’m glad to hear that you are too.
      Brenda

  2. I am a retired teacher and started pyrography and carving about 6 years ago. I really like pyrography better. I found your work on you tube and really enjoy it. Learning your technique on short hair has really helped. I m presently working on your tutorial of the bob cat. As a retired teacher I can tell you, that you did an excellent job on explaining and showing in detail on how to do this project. I am anxious to do more of your work. 😊

    1. Hi Keith,
      thank you so much for the fantastic comment! I’m glad to know that my website is helpful.
      Pyrography is a wonderful medium to work in, and it sounds like you enjoy it as much as I do.
      Brenda

  3. I really appreciate your willingness to help others like myself. I have been wood burning for a lot of years 30 plus,self taught and learned by mistakes. I happened to get on your web site and I have leaned a lot.Again that you for giving of your self and talents.
    God Bless

    1. Hi Rick,
      thank you so much for the wonderful comment. I’m glad my website is helpful.
      Pyrography is a wonderful artform, so it’s always exciting to learn of others who love it too!
      Brenda

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