Pyrography Techniques – The Horse wood burning tutorial

In this tutorial I’m going to explain how to create the Horse pyrography artwork. The horse was created by breaking down sections into small workable areas.  Each area is evaluated, assigned a tonal value, and burned in.  Most of the time gradient shading is needed to smooth the transition between areas.  This approach is the same method I use with human portraits, and most of my artwork.  I refer to this approach as constant comparison.  My goal is to try and help you understand and use constant comparison to create the horse artwork.

Now, let’s get to work.

I have a YouTube tutorial version of this artwork available.  The tutorial is broken up into chapters to allow you to quickly navigate to the area of interest.   Click on the image to the left to watch the video.

SKILL LEVEL: 3

MATERIALS NEEDED:  

  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • 14 x 14 inch (35.6 x 35.6 cm) piece of wood
  • Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed)  Horse pattern*
  • White Charcoal Pencil (optional)

*Please try to ignore the white ink lines on the pattern.  Normally I make my patterns on regular copier paper, but I needed larger paper for the horse and it had a slight tan hue to it.  Unfortunately the white ink that I use to “erase” black ink marks showed on this paper.

STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD

Wood burning is much easier if you take the time to prepare the wood surface.  Always smooth the wood surface by sanding it with at least 220 grit sandpaper. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 piece of plywood board is broken up into three sections.  The far left section is how the board looks without any prep work.  The board has a rough texture.   The middle section of the board shows how it looks after it was sanded, and the surface is a lot smoother.   The right section of the board shows it after it was lightly misted with water and allowed to dry.  Notice how rough the board looks, but a quick sanding will remove that and leave an ultra-smooth board.

Doing the 4-step prep process (sand, mist, dry, sand) produces a super smooth surface, and the smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be. 

 

STEP 2 – 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.   

 

STEP 3 – BURN THE OUTLINE

The pattern for the horse is made up of solid and dashed lines.  The solid lines represent areas that have hard or clearly defined edges like the eyes.  The dashed lines represent places where the tonal value changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the writing pen tip on medium low, lightly burn in the trace lines.  I highly recommend burning the dashed lines as tiny dashes or dots. 

I cannot emphasize enough the need to burn the trace lines as light as possible.  The lines need to disappear or blend into the artwork and light colored lines will be easier to accomplish that with.

After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite. 

 

 

 

CONSTANT COMPARISON

Before you begin burning you should always critically evaluate the reference photo.   There are two things I determine immediately; the lightest and the darkest areas on the subject.  I will be using two places are found on the horse’s face. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow arrow (top) is pointing to the lightest area which is the white marking on the forehead.   The purple arrows are pointing to the darkest areas which are the eyes and nostril openings.   The white marking is white and white is represented by unburned wood.   The eyes and nostrils will get assigned to black. 

On a side note the lightest area on the horse might actually be the backlit fur on the back of the front legs.  We will keep things easy and use the white marking on the face.

 

 

 

 

Examine the top of the muzzle which is circled in yellow.  First off compare it to values we’ve already assigned.   How does the area compare?  

It’s much darker than the white marking, and it is considerably lighter than the eyes and nostrils.  

So what value would you assign it?  To me this area is halfway in value between the lightest and darkest areas, so I would make this a mid-tone value of brown.

 

 

 

 

How about the ear openings?   Use the same steps of comparison that we did with the muzzle. 

First off we know the ears are much darker than the white marking.  While the ear openings are really dark, they don’t seem as dark as the eyes/nostril openings.  Now compare the ear openings against any other tonal values that have been determined, and right now that is just the muzzle.  What do you think?  

To me the ear openings are much darker than the muzzle.   So the tonal value has to be somewhere between black and brown.  To me the ear openings are much closer in value to the eyes than the muzzle, so I’d burn the ear openings a several shades lighter than the eyes and/or nostril openings.

 

 

What color would you assign the lower lip on the horse?   Again you need to compare the lip against all of the areas that have been assigned a tonal value.  Go through the exact process we did with the ear openings, but now you can include the ear openings as a known value.  

After doing the comparisons, I think the lip is darker than the ear openings, but not as dark as the eyes/nostrils.  Again I think the low lip is closer to the nostril openings than the ears.  With that in mind I’d burn it 1-2 shades lighter than the eyes/nostril openings.

 

 

 

Assign a color to this patch.  Just like before compare the color of this patch against the patches that have known values.  Obviously this patch is darker than the white marking and much lighter than the eyes.  How does it compare to the muzzle that we said was a middle tone of brown?   

It’s lighter, but how much lighter?   To me it’s considerably lighter than the muzzle too, so I’d put this area a few shades darker than the white marking.

 

 

 

 

Assign a color to this last example.  Go through the steps of constant comparison.  What do you think?  

It’s darker than the last patch, but lighter than the muzzle.  I’d burn it a couple of shades lighter than the muzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you start blocking in the shapes created by the dashed lines you need to match the shape up with the reference photo and determine its tonal value before you start burning.  We just went through a number of example to show how to do this, so hopefully you understand what needs to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you burn in shapes make sure they are tonally correct for your artwork.

What do I mean by tonally correct?

The color you burn the top of the muzzle is your middle value.  The eyes are your darkest and the white marking the lightest.  Any new patch burned in should be burned in relationship to existing values on your artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

Pick a patch, I’m going to use the one circled in yellow.  First compare the patch with the reference photo to determine its tonal value.  We already did that and determined this patch should be a couple of shades lighter than the muzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now examine the color you burned the muzzle.  When you start burning in the patch on the side of the muzzle, make sure it is lighter in color than what you’ve burned the muzzle.  As you burn, constantly compare the patch with the muzzle to make sure you are keeping the color accurate for your artwork.  Hopefully this paragraph explains the concept of tonally correct well enough for you to understand what I mean by it. 

 

 

 

 

 

You can make the subject of your art lighter or darker than it really is just by altering the tonal values.  This horse is brown in color, to make it a tan colored horse, just reduce the all of the tonal values by half.  White obviously can’t be reduced, but everything else can be.   The opposite is also true.  If you want a black horse increase the tonal values by double.  The brown muzzle would become a medium brown muzzle, and so on.

STEP 4 – FACE

Here’s the reference photo for the horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the photo cropped to show just the face which is what we’ll be working on first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a writer pen tip and burn in the eyes.  I recommend burning them in lightly at first.  Once you’re happy with the shape re-burn over the eyes to darken them up to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switch to a shader pen tip of your choice and start blocking in the different shapes created by the dashed lines.  I am using either circular motion or uniform strokes as my burn method.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are not familiar with my terminology, I have a blog that discusses them:  Using a shader pen tip

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shapes do not need to be burned to their final darkness levels, but make sure that you can tell the shapes apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the blocking in stage I am consulting the reference photo a lot, and I’m using the constant comparison method I explained before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given the complexity of the face, I probably spend almost equal time consulting and burning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The face has a lot of shapes on it, so take your time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ears are dark, but the edges of the ears are a touch lighter in color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure you keep your pen tip in optimal position when burning along edges.  This will keep the edges crisp and clean.

 

 

 

 

To make the clumps of hair stand out, burn on either side of a clump.  If needed rotate the board to make sure the edges of the ears stay crisp and clean.  This photo shows a stray clump against the dark ear opening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This photo shows how I burn along the edges of hair clumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have switched to a larger shader pen tip.  Most of the shader pen tips all work the same, so I pick my shader based on the area I’m working in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m burning on a fairly large board, so the different patches created by the dashed lines are larger enough that I could easily fit a bigger shader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I bounce around the artwork burning in different areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There isn’t an absolute way that things must be done or a specific order they must be done in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best advice I can give you is to work slow, consult with the reference photo often, and use constant comparison to get your tonal values correct for your artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once everything has been blocked in, then it’s time to start re-burning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the re-burning process is when you get the different areas to their final darkness levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use the constant comparison method during the re-burning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Constant comparison means I’m consulting with the reference photo often to double check the tonal value for the patch I’m re-burning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus it means I’m comparing the area I’m burning with adjacent areas to make sure it is tonally correct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dark area on the muzzle is my mid-tone value of brown.  When I determine the tonal value for a patch I then burn it in relationship to my mid-tone value.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, the upper lip is several shade darker than the white patch, but a number of shade lighter than the muzzle.  When I burn the upper lip I have to make sure that the color is lighter than what I burned the muzzle and darker than the white patch on my artwork.

 

 

 

 

As you can see I burned over the white marking on the horse.  I decided to simplify the face.  This artwork isn’t a commissioned piece or something that the owner of the horse will get, so no one will know that I left the white marking out; except you.  I assume I can trust you not to tell anyone.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

I had mentioned that during the blocking in stage that I spend equal amounts of time checking with the reference photo and burning.   During the re-burning that is no longer true.  Now I double check with the reference photo before starting to remind myself of the tonal value it needs.  After that I concentrate on re-burning, but I frequently compare my progress against adjacent areas until the tonal value is correct for the artwork.

 

 

 

 

I made the mistake of using a small print out when I initially blocked in the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the re-burning I used a large print out of just the face and discovered I had made some mistakes.  I fixed the mistakes I could during the re-burning process, but if I had started with a large print out I could have avoided making most, if not all, of the mistakes I made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I highly recommend using a printout that is large enough to see the details easily.  This will save you some time and hassles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but I often re-burn over areas numerous times.  I really prefer to work slow as I tend to make fewer mistakes that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the clumps of hair, place the shader on the start of a clump and pull it down towards the end of the hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat until the hair is the color you want it to be. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up.  When working on the hair, use the razor edge of the shader to burn thin dark lines between clumps of hair to define them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding a shadow to the right side of the upper eyelid.  This is to help it look curved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing a little fine tuning to the eye and darkening up the area below the eye to make it appear shadowed.

STEP 5 – NECK, CHEST, and MANE

Now we will work on the neck, chest, and the mane on the horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I approach the neck just like I did the face. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This means I pick a patch created by the dashed lines, find the corresponding patch on the reference photo, determine its tonal value, and then start blocking in the patch on the artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Constant comparison might seem a bit difficult at first, but like all things it gets easier with time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly it is a matter of training your eye to really notice the details of the subject matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, on the upper right side of the neck is a small spot where the color is a touch lighter.   Will your artwork be ruined if you didn’t include this small detail?  Heck no!  Will this small detail improve your artwork?  It won’t hurt it, but it’s doubtful that most people will even notice it.   Instead this is just an example of the small details that I observe, and one that you may or may not have noticed.

 

 

 

 

 

Burn around the clumps of hair on the mane.  This is the same thing we did on the forehead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The goal is to create a tapered point at the each of each hair clump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the hair is burned around then resume blocking in the neck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front of the chest is lighter in color than the adjacent areas, so make sure to block it in that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now you can see lines on either side of the light area on the chest.  At some point those lines need to get blended out. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice how the lines are mostly gone now that I’ve re-burned over the area.  It still needs some work, but it’s a lot better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now burn around the remaining clumps of hair on the mane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extend the color down a ways from the mane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begin the re-burning process on the neck and chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The board I was burning on was terrible quality and I was constantly fighting it.  In some areas it darkened up very quickly and other areas stubbornly resisted my efforts to darken it up.  Here I’m using the edge of a knife to gently scrape away some burn marks that got too dark.

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t remove all of the excess color, but I managed to get it mostly evened out.  I really did hate burning on this piece of plywood.  I’ve had the board for a bit, so I can’t begin to tell you what type or grade of plywood it is.

 

 

 

 

 

As I finish up the neck, it’s becoming very obvious that the front of the chest is an area on my artwork that needs a lot of re-burning as there is little gradient shading along the transition.

 

 

 

 

 

Already the transition between the neck and chest is looking better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn over the mane hairs using the flat of the shader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vary the color of the burn strokes to give the impression of different clumps of hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get darker clumps re-burn over the clump a number of times.  Or slow down you hand speed to get darker burn results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the razor edge of the shader to define the edges of the hairs and create dark shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress photo.

 

 

 

 

 

I re-burned over the mane several times to slowly bring emphasis to a few of the hair clumps.

 

 

 

 

 

After the upper part of the mane is done then finish up the lower section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work on the mane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darkening up the body just under the mane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the mane.

STEP 6 – BODY and FRONT LEGS

Now let’s work on the body and the front legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The body of the horse does not have many patches or shapes created by dashed lines.  Plus it is a large area, so I switched to a larger shader to get the job done a bit quicker.

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve rotated the board so I can easily burn with the grain line.  Pulling the pen tip towards you produces more consistent burn results.  The rotated board allowed me to pull the pen towards myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom of the belly is pretty dark, so while the board is rotated burn darkly along the edge.  This will keep the pen tip in optimal position so the line is crisp and clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the body I primarily used uniform strokes as my burn method. Also I do try to burn the strokes in the direction that the hair is growing to help with the realism of the art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few small spots on the lower belly that are slightly lighter in color.  Checking with the reference photo will help you see the spots I’m referring too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I started on the leg I switched back to a smaller shader because there are a lot of small areas to work on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always it’s important to check with the reference photo to determine the tonal value of each area before you burn it in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take your time.  Nothing is gained by rushing to finish the job quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This project took me almost 24 hours to create and most of that time was spent working on the horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a dark area on the knee.  I will have to admit that I’m not sure what the proper terms are for the different areas on the horse, so you’re stuck with what I’m calling them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back of the legs have some backlit fur.  Make a point to keep the left edges of the fur jagged as that will help convey the look of fur sticking out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave the backlit fur unburn or a very light tan color.  I’m burning pull-away strokes that start on the leg bone and get pulled towards the backlit fur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a progress photo on the legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board and burn along the edge of the legs.  Since I’m left-handed I can’t keep the pen in optimal position when burning along the left edge, but a right-handed person will have the opposite problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Notice how the pull-away strokes are not uniform in color.  You want tonal variety.  Also burn some curving lines that follow the contours of the ankles.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me the ankles look to be covered with long hairs.  Probably the remnants of winter coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ankle on the front leg has some dark areas on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn a slight shadow at the top of the hoof just under the line where the hair ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then use the razor edge of the shader to burn some thin lines to represent grass.    Yes, I know there is a step devoted to burning the grass.  At first I wasn’t planning on putting a background into the artwork, and this small amount of grass was all I planned to do.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the leg and chest blocked in, we’ll now block in the belly.   Begin with the darker area at the bottom of the belly rotating the board if necessary to make burning easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now use fill the belly with long gently curving burn strokes that follow the contours of the belly.  If you have a large shader I recommend using it on the belly.

 

 

 

 

 

There is an area that is lighter along the horse’s back.  Fill this area with uniform color that is a couple shades lighter than the belly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This line I’m burning on the photo is the start of the rump.  The belly will cover everything to the right of this line.

 

 

 

 

 

Finish blocking in the back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then block in the area on the belly between the two paler lines found in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn around the pale lines as you block in this area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, lightly burn over the two pale lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to start the re-burning process on the legs and body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often use circular motion along the edges of shapes to help smooth out the transitions between the difference areas on the leg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work your way down the leg checking with the reference photo often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the re-burning on my artwork I ended up darkening up the horse a lot.  Mostly to help cover up the blotchy areas that darkened quickly and resisted my attempts to lighten the color.  I really did hate this board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you re-burn over areas make sure to match textures.  For example, curving lines were burned on the ankles to represent long fur or hair, so when re-burning the ankles use the same type of burn stroke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darkening up the hooves.  I kept the hooves very basic as they are obscured by the grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The body of the horse is an area where the problem areas of the board are most visible.  The belly is very blotchy, and I was only marginally successful at trying to fix it.

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of times the re-burning process will smooth out and cover blotchy areas, but it didn’t work on this board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can tell I literally re-burned over every area on the horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice how the two pale lines stand out now that the area around them has been darkened up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lines are visible, but they are subtle.  The second line looks much better now that the contrast has been reduced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 7 – RUMP and BACK LEGS

In this step we’ll burn in the rump and the back legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve seen this picture before.  This shows the line that I’m using to separate the rump from the rest of the body.  Now we’ll work on the left side of that line.

 

 

 

 

There is a really dark patch on the horse’s hip.  I think it is a shadow combined with the hair changing direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rump has a number of shapes or patches created by the dashed lines. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the same steps of constant comparison that we’ve been using all along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examine the patch on the reference photo and determine its tonal value.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn in the patch making sure to constantly compare your burn marks with existing value to ensure you keep the area tonally correct for your artwork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the rump I used a lot more circular motion than I did uniform strokes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circular motion helps keep the edges of a patch soft or without crisp edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like usual I bounce all over the place as I work on different patches or areas on the rump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That does not mean you have to do the same.  You might feel more comfortable working left to right or from top to bottom.   Do what works for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again a reminder to take your time.  Your results are a direct reflection of the effort you put into it, and rushing to get the job done quickly will show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see I’m using a smaller shader as that feels more comfortable to me when burning in these numerous little patches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pay close attention to the reference photo as the numerous muscles and bones on the rump really alter how the light interacts on the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the initial blocking in of the rump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the back legs we see a lot more of both legs than we did with the front legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back legs also have a lot more little shapes to deal with.  I’m burning in some of the darker ones first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said before there isn’t a particular way that the horse has be to burned in.  Chances are you will approach the horse differently than I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thigh on the back leg is mostly in shadows, so it is considerably darker than the closer leg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure to keep your pen tip in optimal position when burning along the outer edges of the legs.

 

 

 

 

 

I went ahead and burned the curving lines on the ankles while the board was rotated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo you can see how I burn in the dark patches first.  I almost always work on the darker areas first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the darker areas are done then I’ll fill in the remaining areas. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, this approach ensures I can easily identify the different patches in the art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t get fancy with the hooves since they are mostly obscured by the grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the razor edge of the shade to burn a few thin lines that represent blades of grass.  Start the burn stroke at the base of the grass and pull the pen tip up to get a tapered end.

 

 

 

 

Finishing the ankle.

 

 

 

 

 

This shouldn’t be a surprise that once the blocking in is done, it is then time to re-burn over the rump and back legs.

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In larger areas I use uniform strokes as my main burn method.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m still using a lot of circular motion to transitions between areas and darken up spots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work your way down the leg checking with the reference photo to make sure you know the tonal value the area should be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind that the process I use is something that has evolved as I’ve gotten more experience with pyrography.   As you gain experience you will develop a process that works best for you.  Hopefully you share any time saving tips you discover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make sure to burn some single lines along the back of the legs to represent the fur like the front legs have.  For some reason the fur on the back legs is not backlit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working on the other leg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the leg.

STEP 8 – TAIL

The last thing to do is burn in the tail.  For this step I recommend the use of a white charcoal pencil.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The brand of white charcoal I’m using is General’s.  There are other brands available, but I think General’s is one of the most readily available; at least in the USA.   Plus they aren’t very expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a white charcoal pencil to draw along the pattern lines on the tail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These lines will become the lighter hairs on the tail.  

 

Do not use a colored pencil!  Colored pencils contain wax that will melt and char under the heat of the pen tip. 

 

 

 

 

 

Now use a shader to burn around the charcoal lines.  I’m using the razor edge of the shader to burn thin semi-dark lines on either side of the charcoal lines.  I use the flat of the shader to fill in the area between the lines.   The tail needs to be dark enough in color so that the lines created by charcoal are will still be visible once the charcoal is erased.

 

 

 

 

 

Try to avoid burning over the charcoal.   The charcoal will resist the heat of the pen tip, but it won’t completely block it.  The higher the heat you use the less it blocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the charcoal lines are burned around, then erase them using a standard pencil eraser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the tail looks at this point.  Rather ugly wouldn’t you say?  Art often goes through several ugly stages before it looks good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now start re-burning over the tail.  Concentrate the color on the area between the pale hairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am burning long lines that vary in width and color. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the color is built up around the pale hairs, then burn over the pale hairs as they aren’t white in color.  At the most the pale hairs are 3-4 shades lighter than the rest of the tail, but that depends on where you’re looking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lower portion of the tail is darker than the top of it.  I choose to make my tail much lighter than the reference photo shows.   The reason I did this was to make the tail less noticeable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near the top of the tail individual hairs or clumps of hairs aren’t as noticeable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can use the sharp point of a knife to scrape away any lines that got too dark.  You can also use the knife to scrape in pale hairs or add some highlights.

FINE TUNE

This isn’t a separate step per se, but is something you should do with all of your artwork.   Step back from the artwork as see if any areas stand out.  I generally place the artwork across the room and view it from 10-15 feet away (3 – 4.6 m).    I had several areas that were too light in color and stood out in a bad way.  To fix the problem I just I re-burned over the pale areas.  

 

 

 

 

I highly recommend placing the artwork on a shelf for a couple of days.  Don’t look at it while it’s on the shelf as the point is to lose familiarity with the artwork.   After a few days have gone by look at the art and pay attention to your first impressions.   I often notice problem areas this way.

 

STEP 9 – GRASS

Here’s how my artwork looks at this point.  I had original planned to leave it this way, but Todd thought it needed something in the background.  I did a post on YouTube and got several suggestions:  meadow, lots of grass, trees, and a fence.    Thank you to everyone who provided a suggestion!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I printed out the artwork and started sketching out ideas.  At one point I had hay bales in the background, but ended up with a distant fence and part of a tree. Plus I planned to burn grass around the horse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the grass around the hooves currently looks on my artwork.  The white charcoal in the foreground is my idea to have some really close blades of grass.

 

 

 

First off I erased the grass area to lighten it a bit and then started expanding the grass.  Erased means I used the flat of a knife to scrape over the burn marks, and sometimes I use an ink pen eraser.   I’m using the razor edge of the shader to burn single lines.

 

 

 

I switched to a wire tip to burn the grass.  This didn’t require me to hold a shader at a steep angle and the wire tip doesn’t cut into the board like the shader did.

 

 

 

I burned around the white charcoal marks and erased the charcoal.  I quickly decided that it looked terrible. 

 

 

 

 

Eventually I completely fill in the area, but I left it for a while as I contemplated different ways to execute my idea.

 

 

 

 

At this point I’m using zigzags and some single lines to burn in the grass.  To me zigzags are a much fast way to fill in the area.

 

 

 

I decided to darken up the hooves so they would be visible.

 

 

 

 

 

Then I used the sharp point of a knife to scrape in a couple blades of grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the artwork looks so far.  I didn’t enjoy the monotony of burning in grass, but it looked unfinished the way it was.  In the background I drew in the fence and a very rough sketch of a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I extended the grass by a few inches using the same method I had been using.

 

 

 

 

After that I switched to a large shader.  I used the flat of the shader to burn zigzags.  This gave me grass like texture with very few clearly defined blades of grass.

STEP 10 – FENCE

I altered the photo to show the fence lines better.  I wasn’t sure I liked the fence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I erased the fence and redrew it.  I drew the boards closer together and moved it a bit further into the background.   Again I altered the photo so my pencil marks would be easy to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare the fence in this composite photo.  Notice how much smaller and further in the background the fence on the right appears.  I liked the distance that conveyed, so now I’m ready to burn in my fence.

 

 

The posts on the fence are ½ inch apart (1.27 cm), and the boards are 1/16 inch wide (0.158 cm).  The gap between the horizontal boards is the same width as one board.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m using a writer pen tip to burn in the fence.  In this photo I’ve erased the pencil marks and I’m filling in a couple of missing burn spots.

 

 

 

 

 

I did not worry about keeping the fence posts the same height.  I figure they are close and that’s good enough.  My vision is a rustic fence, so variations just add to that rustic feel.

 

 

 

Then I added a slight shadow at the base of each fence post.

 

 

 

 

 

I decided my fence wasn’t dark enough, so I re-burned over it to darken it up a bit.

STEP 11 – TREE

In this photo you can see the rough sketch I made for the tree.  I’m using circular motion to fill in each oblong shape on the tree.   Each shape represents a cluster of leaf covered branches.

 

 

 

 

 

The tree is too distant to see bark detail, so the truck was burned to a fairly uniform brown color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The method that I used for the tree is the exact same method that I used in the maple tree tutorial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a link to that article if you need more information on creating distant maple trees.   Maple Trees

 

 

 

Burn past the boundaries of the oblong shapes here and there.  This will represent leaf covered branches that stick out here and there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is important to incorporate a fair amount of tonal variety into your burn marks.  This will create light and dark areas that give the impression leaves and shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When re-burning over the tree use circular motion.  I didn’t use any other burn stroke on the leafy section of the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add a shadow under the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how my tree ended up looking.  I added a few really dark areas to represent openings in the branches where the shadowed interior shows.  I also removed the branch as I figured at the distant the tree was at a detail like that wouldn’t be visible.

COMPARISON

Below is a composite photo comparing my artwork with the reference photo.

My artwork is not perfect by any means, and as I look I see areas I should have fine-tuned a bit more.  Bottom line it looks like a horse, so I can’t complain.  Especially given the amount of troubles I had with this particular piece of plywood.   Another thing, when you hang artwork in your house you don’t place the reference photo adjacent to it, so the viewer will not be comparing the two.

ART PROGRESS PHOTOS

Below are the photos I take at the end of each burn session.  They show how the overall artwork progressed as I worked on it.  I’m never too sure if these pictures are of any value, so let me know what you think.