In this blog I will discuss different aspects of the Northern Shoveler Duck artwork that I created. This artwork is based on a photo that Todd took while visiting the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington. The artwork is one of the few pieces I’ve done where I planned from the beginning to add color to the work. Ducks can be very colorful and often their feathers are iridescent, and I thought it would be fun to try and replicate that.
I had this very figured piece of basswood that was waiting for just the right project to use it on. The figuring is very predominate, it’s near the middle of the board, and this limits what can be done with the board. At least it does for me.
The feathers on the back are black, and they are the darkest area on the duck. Since they were next to the head, I decided to burn them in where they touched the neck. This gave me my darkest value, so I could make sure to keep the feathers on the neck and head lighter than this.
I find that lightly blocking in areas works well for me. The blocked in areas allow me to evaluate the placement of lights and darks with the reference photo. If everything looks fairly accurate then I will re-burn over the areas to get them to their final darkness levels. If there is a problem, the light burn strokes are fairly easy to fix compared to dark burn strokes.
I did the same with the face. I do have to admit that I was testing out ideas on how to easily replicate the feathers in this area. There are a few pyrography artist who can create exact replicas of photos, but that takes a LOT of work. While I enjoy creating textures and details, I don’t enjoy trying to replicate each and every feature of a photograph.
When working on projects that I don’t intend to be a tutorial, I tend to bounce around the subject working on random areas like the back feathers. These feathers were fairly straightforward as they were black in color.
Another benefit of burning them in was I could use them for constant comparison purposes. I’ve discussed this concept in my last two portrait tutorials, so I won’t mention it again here. If you want to read about constant comparison here are links to the portrait tutorials that I talk about it in: Baby Face, Little Girl
The duck’s head took the longest time for me to burn in. I worked slow filling in new areas and re-burning over existing areas as I built up the color and texture in the area. Even though I planned to add color the color would be translucent so the underlying wood burning would show through.
I’ve said in numerous blogs that you really shouldn’t leave areas unburned even if they are white in color. In this photo I’m burning over the lower end of a white feather to help it look like it is bending downward.
The transition from the bill to the head feathers was one of the most interesting transition I’ve ever done on a bird. There didn’t seem to be a super clear line when the bill ended and the feathers began.
I actually enjoy working on reflections in the water. I use pull-away strokes for a lot of the work. I will start the stroke on the edge of the shape and let the stroke fade a short distance from the starting point.
Here’s another progress photo. Looking at the artwork I wish I had done created the same type of water movement in front of the boy like the girl has. I really do like that sense over movement it conveys.
In this photo I’m lightly misting the board with water. I’m check to see how dark the wood will turn once it is sealed and if I will lose any subtle detail. There were a few areas I had to darken up a touch more, but only after the board dried.
I must mention that you should NEVER do a finish test if you did not wet out the board before you started burning. The reason is that the water absorbs into the grain of the wood. When dry the grain sticks up from the board surface and gives it a very rough or fuzzy feel.
This board is divided into 3 sections. The left section is how the board looks before it was sanded. The middle section is how the board looked after it was sanded. And the right section shows the board after it was lightly misted with water and allowed to dry. Sanding over it will remove the roughness. If you should wet out the board again, the grain won’t raise. It only does that on the first wetting out.
Now it’s time to add color. I started out applying a sheet of airbrush frisket film over the entire board. As I pull the backing off of the film, I’m smoothing out the frisket with my left hand to remove air pockets as I work my way towards the right of the board.
Now I can spray the area with green and not worry about over spray. Over spray means you are spray beyond of the boundaries of the object you want to add color too. It’s similar to coloring past the lines in a coloring book.
In this photo I’m applying a layer of a different shade of green. Also, as you can see the colors are very translucent, so the wood burning is still very visible. Translucent airbrush colors are similar to watercolors, but I don’t have to use a paintbrush. I hate paintbrushes, so I tend to avoid using them.
In this photo I’m replacing the frisket over the small green feather. I didn’t use liquid masking fluid for this because that would remove a lot of the color. Frisket film is low tack, so won’t lift up color.
With the girl I planned to give her eye and bill color, so I’m applying liquid masking fluid around the areas as it needed to be more precise. On the body I wasn’t concerned with overspray as I wanted the water to have a touch of color.
Now I’m adding the color. The black arrow is pointing to the edge of the frisket film. I had cut a large square off of the board to expose the girl. I’m not the best frisket cutter in the world, so using the masking fluid was easier than cutting the film.
By the way, the application of water was EXTREMELY light, so I didn’t have to worry about the airbrush color bleeding.
Below is a comparison photo of my artwork and the reference photo for the male shoveler duck.
That is it for this blog. I enjoyed working on this project and I’m pleased with how it turned out. I thought that the figuring in the wood worked out quite well with the image to convey the impression of water.
Now to answer some commonly asked questions. The artwork was burned on basswood. Basswood is also called linden, European linden, and common lime. The board measured 9 3/4” tall x 14 3/4” wide (24.8 x 37.5 cm) and it took me 9 hours to do the pyrography portion of the artwork. I didn’t keep track of how long it took me to add color, but I would guess an hour or two at the very most.
Until the next blog,
June 23, 2020
Want to subscribe?
- Click on the “Leave a Comment” field at the end of any post (blog) and a subscribe option will appear.
- Put something in the comment field (if you put “test” or “just subscribing” I won’t make your comment public)
- Fill in the sections for your email address and name, and then click on the “notify me of new posts via email.”
- You will get a confirmation email from WordPress confirming you want to subscribe.
- Click on the confirm button in that email and you’re done.
Please note that I do not send out emails. If you have a WordPress account there is a way to subscribe within the WordPress system, but I cannot provide specifics on how it works as I don’t know.