In this blog I’m going to explain how to create the Tejaa’s Mandala Christmas artwork that I did. The artwork is based on a drawing by Tejaa Artists. Tejaa specializes in drawing mandalas and it’s an art form that I have really taken a liking to. The mandala style of this drawing is what attracted me to it. I think it makes a wonderfully unique addition to the Christmas postcard series.
The majority of the design work on the tree is accomplished by drawing lines with a writer pen tip. Because of this I’m rating this project as suitable for a beginner who has a little experience. Todd tells me that I am a horrible judge of difficulty levels, so you’ll have to let me know what you think.
Here is the drawing by Tejaa. 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.
The original drawing is a square and the board I was using is rectangular, so I elongated the photo to make it fit a rectangular board. As you can tell from the final artwork, I did more than elongate the original drawing. I scanned the pattern I created and that is available in the materials needed section.
Tejaa entered my 2019 Draw It / Win it contest, and even though her drawing wasn’t the winning drawing I liked it so much that I incorporated it into the series anyway. What’s the difference between the winner and this drawing? I finished and shipped out the artwork for the winning drawing in 2019. With this project I didn’t even start working on until August of 2020. Other than the timeframe that I got the artwork done there isn’t a difference.
Now, let’s get burning.
SKILL LEVEL: 2
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- Skew or rounded heel (optional as a writer pen tip can be used instead)
- Medium Ball tip (optional as a writer pen tip can be used instead)
- 4 x 6 inch (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of wood
- Embossing Tools
- Pattern – note that this is my modification of the original drawing Tejaa Tree pattern
- White Charcoal Pencil
The prongs have a rounded ball tip on them and they come in an assortment of sizes. Here’s a link to a set on Amazon: Embossing Tools
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
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
First off transfer the pattern to the board, paper, or whatever surface you’re burning on. To do this print out the pattern on regular copier paper, then coat the back of it with graphite. I like to use a pencil that is in the B range. Place the paper graphite side down onto the board, secure in place with two pieces of tape, and trace over the design.
I placed the board flat on the table so I could exert a lot more pressure with the embossing tool. Previous experience has shown that shallow divots disappear when burning darkly over them, so I strive to make really deep divots.
Next use the shader of your choice and burn the background to a dark brown or black color. When working along edges make sure to keep your pen tip in optimal position so your lines stay crisp and clean.
In larger more open areas I use a larger shader to get the burning done faster. I will also mention that burning with the grain line is easier than burning across it. The board I’m burning on has a horizontal grain line, so I’ve rotated the board to facilitate burning with the grain line.
Finishing the large open area on the background. Since I created deep divots I did not lose many of them when I burned over the background. Some aren’t as bright as others, but I like the variety. The less bright ones are shallower divots that had started to char.
I worked 1/4 of the ring at a time and then rotated the board to work on the next quarter. This allows me to work with the natural arc movement of my hand, and I think this produces better results when working on ovals and circles.
Also drawing or burn a really dark line along the outer edges of the Christmas tree. This will define its outer edges and combined with the unburned line next to it will help the tree stand out from the background.
Next fill the area between the design and the ring with dark lines. A reminder that I am explaining the steps I took to create the artwork. When you create your versions, feel free to experiment. You might prefer that this area be left unburned, so leave it unburned.
When I look at this image the first thing I notice is the bright unburned wood around the design. The unburned wood is not the focal point, so this is a problem to me.
In this photo I’m starting the process of re-burning along the edges of the board. The reason is that to me I still noticed the edges before I noticed the design. Again it just emphasizes the need to take the time to do a test burn. If nothing else just creating a pencil version would have solved a lot of the contrast issues
I really wish I had taken the time to darken up the edges a bit more! I do highly recommend burning the edges of the board much darker than what I did on the actual artwork.
STEP 3 – THE LEAFY TREE
STEP 4 – CHRISTMAS TREE
I’m going to group the burning into sections by the designs. We’ll start with the garland and trim, which is represented by the yellow color. Then we’ll work on tiers 1 and 5 (green), 2 and 4 (red), and lastly 3 and 6 (no color). As we progress you will see that items have been burned in that I haven’t discussed yet, but don’t worry as I will get to them when I cover that tier.
Next use a shader and burn pull-away strokes along the upper edges of the trim. Start the stroke on the upper edge and pull it down towards the bottom. Stop the stroke a short distance after starting it.
Lastly use the front edge of a shader or a writer pen tip and burn a dark line just under the garland. Also on the tiers that have the white band below the garland, burn a dark line along the lower edge of the white band. This will help the white band stand out.
I know I already said this, but I highly recommend doing a test burn. This is something I did not do. As a result I had to do a lot more re-burning to adjust contrast levels, scraping to remove burn strokes that got too dark, and fumble around as I tried to figure out what to do. With a test burn all of the technical aspects would have gotten worked out.
Now let’s work on tiers 1 and 5. These 2 tiers are filled with rings of concentric circles. I’m going to warn you that with the first tier I fumbled around, and this resulted in doing more steps than was necessary. Because of this I’m only going to explain tier 5.
Note that at some point I re-burned over all of the leaf borders making them dark brown color.
Burn the 3 left flowers identical to how we burned the one on the second tier. The center is burned to a dark brown or black color, the ring is lightly burned over, the inner petals are filled with lines that radiate outward from the base, and the outer petals are left unburned.
Be aware that tier 6 only exists on my modification of Tejaa’s drawing, and that version is the pdf file you can download. It’s found in the materials needed list.
If you haven’t noticed, I seldom do things in the exact same order. Most of the time the order in which things are burned does not matter.
STEP 5 – FLORAL ACCENTS
Begin with the leaves by filling them with tan strokes of color. Start each stroke at the base of the leaf and pull it out towards the ended of the leaf. Darken up the base and right side of each leaf to provide a little contrast with the adjacent leaf.
Start with the leaves. Burn them the same way we did the leaves to the left of the Christmas tree. Make the bottom of each leaf a bit darker than the top. I’m using uniform and pull-away strokes for this.
I had this idea of turning the dome into a snowglobe. My idea did not work out, and I eventually remove all evidence of the marks. Thus the reason I tell you not to bother with this step.
I did not leave anything unburned on the dome. The reason is that the dome is an accent piece, so I didn’t want to compete with the Christmas tree. By burning over everything it helps push the dome into the background.
Be aware that you can’t undo scraped in highlights. So if you are unsure if you like them, then leave them out. You could probably draw them in with a colored pencil and test it out, but I can’t promise the colored pencil will erase completely as there are too many factors involved.
That is it for this tutorial. I hope you liked the artwork, and will try it for yourself. This was a really fun and unique image. For those of you who love to add color, this project has unlimited possibilities for color schemes. I’d recommend taking a photo of your artwork, print it out, and test out color schemes on the paper.
I mentioned in one of my community posts on YouTube that mandala artwork is a great place to test out pen tips. I like to do test burns and during the test burn my goal is to create as many different textures as I can. This involved trying out different ways of using pen tips, layering burn strokes from different pen tips, layering different types of texture, etc. Tejaa has a lot of beautiful mandala designs on her channel. Plus she has a number of mandala design patterns and how to create your own mandalas, so I recommend checking out her channel.
To answer some common questions I get. The scene was burned on birch plywood that measures 5 x 7 inches (12.7 x 17.8 cm). It took me 8 ½ hours to create the artwork.
Until the next blog,
Dec 15, 2020
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