Pyrography – Happy Angel’s Snowlady Christmas Postcard wood burning tutorial

In this blog I’m going to explain how to create the Happy Angel Snowlady artwork that I did.  The artwork is based on a drawing by Happy Angels Drawings.  I loved the cute and whimsical nature of the drawing, so I wanted it to be a part of my Christmas Postcard series.  In this blog I will explain both how to do the pyrography portion of the artwork, but also walk you through the coloring process.

Happy Angel had entered my 2019 Draw It / Win it contest.  Her drawing wasn’t the winning drawing, but I loved it so much I incorporated it into the series anyway.    What’s the difference between the winner and this drawing?   I finished and shipped out the artwork on the winning drawing in 2019.  With this project I didn’t even start working on until sometime in 2020.  Other than the timeframe that I got the work done there isn’t a difference between the official winner and this one.

Here is the drawing by Happy Angel.   Be aware that this is the pattern for the artwork.  I didn’t see the point in printing out the drawing and scanning it to create a pdf file when the photo works just as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch a video version of this tutorial by clicking on the image to the left.

 

 

 

 

Click on the image to the left to watch a time lapse video of the artwork being created.

 

 

 

 

Happy Angel has a youtube channel.  Click on the image to the left to check out her channel.   

 Now, let’s get burning.

SKILL LEVEL: 2

MATERIALS NEEDED:  

  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • 4 x 6 inch (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of wood
  • Embossing Tool
  • Pattern – note that the pattern is the photograph of the drawing. It is near the top of this blog.
  • Colored Pencils (optional)

Embossing tools are also called ball stylus tools.  They have a grip with metal prongs at either end and they come in an assortment of sizes.   Here’s a link to a set on Amazon:  Embossing  

 

Colored Pencils

Polychromos:

  •   Light Yellow Glaze – 9201

Primsacolor:

  •  Black Cherry – pc1078 (optional)
  •  Greyed Lavender – pc1026
  •  Lilac – pc956
  •  Process Red – pc994
  •  White – pc938
  •  Yellow Ochre – pc942

Pearl Ex metallic pigments:

  •  Pearl White
  •  Sparkle Gold

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

The board should be damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.

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 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 – BACKGROUND

Let’s start with the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First off I’m burning on a piece of die-cut or more likely laser cut birch plywood.   I burned a dark line along the edges near the ornate border to create a frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I burned over the ornate border.

 

 

 

 

 

After I got some of the background done I felt that more contrast was needed.   I used a mini torch and a drywall knife as a shield to really darken up the ornate border.  

Using a torch creates a lot of carbon!  It is similar to having a layer of charcoal on the wood.  It will transfer to your fingers and easily smear around.   

To clean it just rub over the wood numerous times with a clean paper towel. 

Next use metal picker or a small embossing tool to poke deep small holes or divots into the wood.  These holes will become falling snow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then use a writer pen tip and burn over the trace lines.  Make sure to rub an eraser over the area once you are done to remove any residual graphite.   Yes, you could have done the previous step after this one was done.

 

 

 

 

 

Now use the flat of a shader and fill the background with uniform color.  I chose to make mine a dark tan color, so that the pale snowlady wouldn’t get washed out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first burn a thick band of color along the edges of the snowlady.  This creates a buffer zone and allows me to burn the background faster because I don’t have to burn right up to the edge of the snowlady.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m using uniform strokes as my burn method.  I work small sections at a time and overlap the strokes to get smoother looking burn results.  Keep in mind it can be difficult to get smooth burn results, so don’t get stressed out if your background is a bit blotchy.   If you are burning on plywood, like I am, I think it is even harder to get smooth uniform burn results.

 

 

 

 

 

If you have more than one size of shader, it can be handy to use a smaller one when burning in areas with little room.  This makes it easier to avoid accidentally burning over the lines on the branches.

 

 

 

 

 

In the really small areas I used a writer pen tip to burn in the background.  It is not as smooth looking as what I shader produces, but there is so much going on where I’m burning that no one will notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly I re-burned the sky next to the snowy hills just to help the snowy hills stand out more.

STEP 3 – THE FACE and HAT

Now let’s work on the face and hat of the snowlady.    

 

 

 

 

 

Use a writer pen tip and darkly burn around the edges of the eye and around the highlights on the eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn in the nose.  Make it the same color as the eyes and avoid the highlight on the nose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn the right eye in a similar fashion as the left one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next burn around the edges of the eyebrows, and fill them in with a brown color. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that burn a very dark line under the hat.  This will form a small cast shadow from the hat onto the head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also burn around the tag or label on the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then switch to a shader and burn the top portion of the eye to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat the same process on the right eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If needed, use the edge of a sharp knife to scrape away any over burn on the highlights.  When scraping, I like to place a finger on the non cutting edge to help keep the blade from flexing.  This gives me a bit more control with the scraping.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a composite photo showing how the highlights looked before and after I scraped the over burn away.

 

 

 

 

Next burn the underside of the hat, but leave the outer edge pale.  Something I didn’t do with the left side and had to later fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn a dark thick line along the outer edge of the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I burn the dark thick line, I often just press the pen tip to the hat and hold it in place for a brief moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board and burn a dark thick line next to the white fluff trim on the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then use the razor edge of the shader and re-burn over the lines on the hat to darken them up.   Note that a writer pen tip would work well for this too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, burn short pull-away strokes along the lower edge of the hat.  Start the stroke on the dark line and pull it towards the opposite side of the hat.  Stop the stroke a short distance from its starting point.

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board so you are pulling the pen tip towards yourself.  I did not do this because the board I’m burning on has a high rounded point making it hard to keep vertical when rotated in that direction.

 

Then burn pull-away strokes along the upper edge of the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use either longer pull-away strokes or uniform strokes to fill in the area between the two edges of the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

Start at the outer corner of the right eye and burn to the edge of the face.  Work your way up to the forehead following the edges of the hat. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use circular motion and continue until you reach the outer edge of the left eye.  Keep the color in the tan range as we are working on snow.

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn the area around the upper eyelid.  Lightly burn over the eyelid, but make the color several shades lighter in value. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extend the color down to the corner of the inner eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next burn along the lower edge of the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn up to the nose when you get closer to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue along the bottom of the face until you reach the left edge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now burn from the inner eye towards the side or bottom of the nose.  Leave the area above the nose unburned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightly burn over the forehead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the face looked once I was done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I switched to a writer pen tip and re-burned over the eye crease.

 

 

 

 

 

I also made the left eyebrow a bit bigger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a shader and burn a wide band of color above each curving line on the puffball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the burn stroke of your choice for this.  I used a combination of circular motion and uniform strokes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat the process on the right puffball.

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn a much thinner darker line on or adjacent to the lines.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course do the same thing on the right puffball.

 

 

 

 

 

Lightly burn over the little puff balls dangling from the hat using circular motion.   I tried to create a much lighter colored version of the larger puff balls.

 

 

 

I decided to re-burn the area under the nose on the face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also re-burned a few of the other shadows to darken them up slightly.

STEP 4 – THE BODY, MITTENS, and SCARF    

In this step we will take care of the body, mittens, and scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begin by burning in the thumb and palm area of on the mittens to a dark brown color, but leave the upper edge a shade or two lighter.

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn over the finger area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t need to fill the entire area with color; instead just concentrate the color along the seam where it touches the palm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board so your pen tip stays in optimal position and burn along the lower edge of the mittens.  Burn the color so it is similar to the thumb / palm area.

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn pull-away strokes that start on the outer edge of the fingers and pull then pen towards the face.  Stop the stroke a short distance before reaching the seam.  This will leave a small area of lighter color to help differentiate between the fingers and palm.

 

 

 

 

Next burn a dark thick line along the upper edge of the scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards re-burn over all of the vertical lines on the scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn short pull-away strokes along the upper edge of the scarf.  This is the same process we used on the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

Burn pull-away strokes along the lower edge of the scarf. 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn longer pull-away strokes or uniform strokes to fill the area between the upper and lower edge of the scarf.  Avoid burning over the little label on the lower right side of the scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up the scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn a dark tan band of color under the snowlady.  Yes, technically this is the snow, but it’s such a short section that I didn’t see the point in moving it. 

 

 

 

 

Then burn along the bottom edge of her body and finish up with the snow on the right side of her body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board and fill in the area between the arms and the scarf with a dark tan color.   An arrow is pointing to one of the spots I’m referring to.

 

 

 

 

Next burn under the arms.  We are darkening up the area around the arms to help the arms stand out.

 

 

 

 

Now burn over the arms, but leave the upper edge unburned or very light in color.  With the bottom edge burn it so that it is much lighter in color than the shadow under the arm.   

I am using a combination of circular motion and uniform strokes as my burn methods.   Circular motion is my primary burn method.

 

 

 

Work your way down the side of the body.  I left the right edge very pale in color to help it stand out from the background and the little star.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat the process with the left arm.

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn in the lower portion of the body using circular motion.  In fact I used circular motion for the majority of the snow.  Occasionally I used uniform strokes, but usually just in areas next to a clearly defined line.

 

 

 

 

I decided to darken up the lower half of the arms, but make sure to leave the bottom edge much paler in color than the shadow below it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switch to a writer pen tip and burn a thin dark line under the arm to help define it.

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn in the tiny decorative dots on the left side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also burn in the tiny decorations on the right side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing up.

STEP 5 – THE STARS          

Now let’s burn in the four stars.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start with the little star clinging to the left puffball.  Begin by burning in the nose and irises to a dark brown or black color.  Also, if needed, re-burn the line around the eyes to make sure they show up well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn in the decorative dots to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards add a layer of tiny tan colored dots over the surface of the star.

 

 

 

 

 

I concentrated the dots along the side touching the puffball to give it a shadowed appearance.   I burned fewer dots along the upper and right edges to help with contrast. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the held star burn the decorative dots to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then add a layer of tiny dots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I burned more dots along the bottom and outer edges.  The closer to the center of the star I got the few dots I burned.   I also burned fewer dots along the top portion of the star.

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat the same basic steps with the star peeking out from right side.  Darken the facial features, burn in the decorative dots, and then add a layer of tan colored tiny dots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget the star that had a crash landing.  Happy Angel’s whimsical creativity is just wonderful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 6 – THE SNOW

In this quick step, we’ll burn the snow covered ground.

 

 

 

Burn a dark tan thick band of color next to the curved lines.  Rotate the board as you work so the top of the hills will have crisp clean lines.

 

 

 

 

Then extend the color a ways from the line using circular motion.  The color should get lighter in value the further from the line you get.

 

 

 

 

Repeat this process along the other lines.   Again let the color fade out as you get a little distance from the line.

 

 

 

 

Quite truthfully, how far you extend the color is your choice.   I did not extend the color very far.   Looking back I probably should have burned over most of the snow to help the snowlady stand out.

 

 

 

 

 

Burn the snow in front of the crashed star to make it appear shadowed.

 

 

 

 

Lastly, use the razor edge of the shader and burn a thin dark tan line between the star and the snow.

 

It would look good to burn along the bottom of the board.   I did not do this, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t.   It would also look good to burn over all of the snow so that it is slightly darker than the snowlady.  This would help keep the focus on her.

 

 

STEP 7 – THE BRANCHES

Now let’s work on the branches in the upper corners.    

 

 

Use a writer pen tip and burn darkly around the edges of each pine needle on the branches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fill the pine needles with a dark color.  I tried to vary the color a little so that individual pine needles could be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat the process on the right branches.

 

 

 

 

 

The branches are an accent and I doubt anyone pays that much attention to them, so don’t spend a lot of time trying to make them perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

Switch to a shader and burn along the bottom edges of the snow.  Also, burn along the crease or depression line located on the far right section of snow.

 

 

 

 

 

Do the same thing with the left branches.

 

 

 

 

Finishing up.

STEP 8 – ADDING COLOR

Lastly, let’s add some color to the artwork.   Keep in mind that you do not have to add color.  Also I will point out that while I used colored pencils, you can use watercolors, markers, or the coloring medium of your choice.  I feel more comfortable with pencils than I do paint brushes, so I tend to avoid anything that requires using a paint brush.

COLORED PENCIL

Be aware that after applying color to an area, I rub over the color with a blending stump or tortillion to smooth out the color.  You can also use a clean paper towel for this.   I don’t show photos of this step, but it is something you should do to get smoother looking color.

 

 

 

 

Start out with light yellow glaze and apply a thin layer over the entire surface of the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

The color is subtle which is how I prefer it.  If you like a bolder color then either apply more or chose a different yellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then apply yellow ochre along the shadowed areas on the stars.  This would be the same areas we burned more tiny tan dots on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow ochre helps build up the shadows on the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then use white and color in the whites of the eyes on the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also apply a layer of white to the highlights on the snowlady’s eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also applied some white to a few areas along the top of the puffballs.  In retrospect, I think I should have left the puffballs completely alone!

 

 

 

 

Apply lilac over the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the same color on the scarf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then apply a layer of greyed lavender on the hat.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course the scarf gets the same application of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to apply a thin layer of lilac on the gloves to give them a hint of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also applied lilac to the fluffy trim and the small hanging puff balls on the hat.  Looking back I think it looks better without color and wish I hadn’t done this step.   Or at the very least I wish I had erased the color from the board.

As you can see I also colored the puffballs, but I’ll discuss that ugly mess at the end of this step.

 

 

 

 

Next I applied process red on the cheeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards I used a blending stump to smooth out the color. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The red did not blend well and was way too dark for my preferences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To fix this I used a kneadable eraser and blotted it on the cheeks to remove some of the color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kneadable eraser wasn’t strong enough, so I switched to a stronger or more abrasive eraser and very gently rubbed over the area to remove most of the color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the snowlady looked once I was done with the colored pencil work.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eraser I used is called Vanish.  It is a bit more abrasive than a standard pencil eraser, but nowhere near as gritty or abrasive as an ink pen or sand eraser.  I’ve found that this eraser works very well for removing colored pencil and stubborn pencil marks from wood.

Here’s a link to the eraser on Amazon:  Vanish  

I will tell you right now that the eraser is much cheaper on Jerry’s Artarama;   especially if you buy the 4 pack:   Jerry’s Vanish    

THE UGLY MESS 

Now let’s talk about the ugly mess I made of my puffballs.  I started out using the lilac color over the puffballs.  I concentrated the color in the same areas as the wide tan band of color, but most of the puffballs got a layer of color.    I immediately disliked the addition of color.  The reason is that I thought it made the puffballs look dingy.  The lilac made it look like a layer of grey had been applied to the puffballs.

 

 

 

To fix this I decided to apply some white along the outer edges and over a couple of the lilac spots to blend and brighten the color.  It didn’t really do either.

 

 

 

 

Since I was on a roll of bad ideas, I went in with black cherry and colored over the dark lines. 

 

 

 

 

I hated how the puffballs looked, so I erased the color.  I preferred the how the puffballs looked with just pyrography on them.

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the puffballs looked once I erased the color from them.  There are still a couple of small areas that have color, but overall I think it looks better without the color.

 

 

 

PEARL EX

The very last thing I did was add a touch of pearlescent glaze to the stars and snowlady.   I have the board angled so you can see the iridescent glow it has when the light strikes it at the right angle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started out with Pearl Ex’s sparkle gold pigment and mixed small amount into a dab of Pearl Ex high gloss varnish. 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I painted on a thin layer of the glaze over the entire surface of all of the stars.  The large green-yellow arrow is pointing to where I’m working.   

The orange arrow is pointing to the small amount of glaze that I mixed up.  Even though that is a very small amount I still tossed most of it as it doesn’t take much.

 

 

 

Afterwards I mixed up a small batch of pearl white.  The amount was probably the same quantity of gold that I mixed up for the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

Then I applied a thin layer over the snowlady’s face and body, but I avoided her eyes and clothing.

IN CONCLUSION

This blog is coming to an end.  I hope you liked the artwork, and will try it for yourself.   Happy Angel’s drawing was just adorable and I had so much fun creating a pyrography version of her drawing.    I really think that Happy Angel creates such cute whimsical drawings that radiate happiness. 

To answer some common questions I get.  The scene was burned on birch plywood that measures 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm).  It took me 4 ½ hours to create the artwork.

Until the next blog,

Brenda

Dec 1, 2020

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4 thoughts on “Pyrography – Happy Angel’s Snowlady Christmas Postcard wood burning tutorial

  1. Hi brenda I have just started to learn how to wood burn and I find your tutorials fantastic love your work hoping that as we have the same surname I will become as good as you xx kate wilkie England

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