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Do you take commission work? Yes. See my “for sale” page about commission information and items I currently have for sale. That page also has my email address if you have questions.
What do I burn with? Colwood Super Pro II with replaceable pen tips and adjustable heat control. I’ve tried a fixed heat craft burner, but absolutely hated it!
What is my favorite burner tip? J rounded shader. I find that I use it 80% of the time if not more.
I have both the standard shader and the micro shader. I only use the micro when working in small areas.
What other tips would I recommend? A writing tip, a medium ball tip, and a knife tip. The shader and writing tip are my workhorses that I use to create most of my pyrography art. The knife tip is a more recent discovery and I love it for drawing super straight lines. The knife tip I use is called a “rounded heel” tip by Colwood. Note that while I list a ball tip and I do use it on a semi-regular basis, the writing tip can accomplish most of what I do with the ball tip. The only real difference being the size of the dots.
How long have I been burning? Started in the summer of 2014. I have accumulated over 1300 hours of burning time during that time.
What sorts of woods have I burned on? Basswood, Birch Plywood (both Baltic & Russian), Maple, Oak, Pine, and Poplar to name some of them. For more detailed information on the woods I’ve burned on please read my blog Wood Types. In it I discuss the different types of wood and how best to prep the wood for optimal burning.
Have you burned on anything besides wood? Yes. I’ve burned on leather. I have not burned on paper and it doesn’t really interest me. If paper is involved I’m going to be using pencils to create the art.
What is my favorite wood to burn on? In order of favorite: Basswood, Maple, and poplar. They are pale in color, non-resinous, and have minimal grain. Basswood is the cheapest, but it’s also the softest. To me basswood is perfect for wall art, but I wouldn’t want to use it for anything that gets handled like trivets, cribbage boards, cutting boards, etc.
How long does it take you to wood burn? So far the longest has been 52 3/4 hours (Nevsky Cathedral) and the shortest 2 hours (pheasant). I put how long it takes me into the blog about that particular piece of artwork.
How can I become a better artist? Besides the obvious answer of practice, I would recommend learning the basics of drawing. Almost anything you do with a pencil you can replicated with a woodburner. One book that I found especially informative was ‘Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil’ by J.D. Hillberry. There are a lot of phenomenal pencil artist in the world, but not many teach and even fewer teach well. It was from Hillberry’s book that I became truly aware of how much artwork needs contrast.
Where do you get the wood you burn on? Sometimes from the local craft store, but mostly my husband makes them from boards he buys. We purchase basswood from an exotic wood store. He also does the prepping (sanding) and finishing work on the boards. Yes, I’m very fortunate.
How get your patterns on the wood? I use the tracing method. I coat the back of the pattern with graphite and then trace over the pattern transferring it to the word. For more information please read my blog Transferring Patterns as I discuss the pros and cons of several transfer methods including using an iron and ink stamps.
Do you seal the wood after you burn on it? Yes. Through trial and error we have discovered that several coats lacquer work best for my art. For more information about sealing your project read the blog Wood Finishing
How did I get started in pyrography? My husband, Todd, is a woodworker and people always seem to come to him with projects they want done. In the summer of 2014 a co-worker asked him to make tongue drums for his grandchildren. Todd made a demo drum to test out the pattern and came up with the idea of wood burning a design on the drum. He had bought a wood burner a few years ago and was now going to learn how to use it. So he sat down and started practicing on some scrap wood, but it was a frustrating experience for him and at one point he asked me for some advice. I told him how I’d handle it, sketched it out for him, and eventually tried to wood burn what I was failing to explain. It felt natural. I won’t say it wasn’t challenging because that would be a lie, but it didn’t seem completely foreign either. You see, I’ve been drawing since the 4th grade and I found pyrography to be very similar to drawing in many aspects. In the end Todd made the drums, I did the wood burning on them and that was the start of my pyrography journey.
Why do I love drawing? Drawing is like magic to me. I really enjoy how you can take a featureless, flat, unremarkable piece of paper and turn it into something that can look three-dimensional. I love the process of seeing the outline morph into a realistic looking rendition of the subject matter at hand. Ok, that is my goal with my artwork and I have varying degrees of success accomplishing that goal, but even the ones that don’t turn out, I’ve enjoyed working on. The ones that turn out so badly they end up in the trash are definitely less enjoyable, but they also tend to be the ones I learn a lot from.
What attracts me to pyrography? I’ve always been jealous of my woodworking husband because people always want him to make something for them. It’s not uncommon for him to have several projects that he has agreed to do. I’ve been drawing for years and while people find it interesting, very few have ever expressed a desire for the stuff I’ve done – not counting family. And with family I’m never sure if they just aren’t trying to make me feel better about my art. When I started doing pyrography, people seemed absolutely enthralled instead of casually interested. I’ve been asked to show them how I wood burn which is funny to me since pyrography is not much different from drawing. And yet I’ve never had someone ask to watch me draw! So pyrography allows me to create magic, if you will, like I did on paper, but now it’s on wood and people want it. Probably not as much as they want something my husband creates in his shop, but I’ll take what I can get.
How did I get my start drawing? As I already mentioned I’ve been drawing since the 4th grade and I’ve long since graduated from high school, so I’ve been drawing for a very long time. As a kid I can remember begging my mother to get me this drawing kit I saw on TV for Christmas; The Walter Foster Learn to Draw, or something like that. I was so excited when I ripped open that package and there was my beloved drawing kit. It had everything I needed to get started, pencils, charcoal, instruction book, blending stumps, erasers, and even some paper. I was in heaven and I drew every single project that the instruction book had. I didn’t rush to do them all as some I didn’t like, but over the course of the next year or so I did each one. I don’t have any of those old drawings, but each lesson from the book taught me a little more about how to draw, shade, and create more realistic looking art.
What mediums have you worked in? Pencil (my first), charcoal, colored pencil, pen & ink, airbrushing, oil painting, watercolors, acrylic painting, and my latest is pyrography. The only mediums I continue to work in are pyrography, pencil/charcoal, colored pencil, and airbrushing.
Which is better: drawing or pyrography? They are very similar and each has its own pros and cons. Drawing is more forgiving and much easier to fix mistakes. You don’t have to deal with wood grain or smoke. Plus at this point I can still do much finer detail with pencil. Pyrography doesn’t smudge, so I don’t have to worry about resting my hand on the piece while working. Also pyrography produces a more durable piece of art and I don’t have to worry about it ripping.
Am I self-taught? I find this an interesting question and statement many make. You can have the best teacher in the world, but if you don’t practice (learn) what they are teaching it doesn’t really matter how good that teacher is. Did I take art in college? No, but I took an art class each quarter in high school. I learned some very valuable techniques during those years that have formed a foundation for me to grow on. As an adult I’ve bought books, instructional DVD’s, and I’ve watched how-to videos online (the internet is an amazing thing) to learn more about different artistic approaches. Does it make someone less of an artistic because they didn’t go to college for it? Would someone’s artistic ability improve with college level training? I don’t have an answer to either question. My own meaning of self-taught is that without any outside influence you discover how to do something. With that definition I would not consider myself as being self-taught.
I think anyone can learn to draw, but it’s a matter of being willing to practice….like most skills/hobbies in life. We all have different journeys through life to get where we are and the most important part is to learn and enjoy your journey.
Where do you get your reference photos? Mostly from photographs that either Todd or I take. We go to zoos, nature preserves, national parks, etc., and take lots of photos. I also take a lot of photos of the critters that visit my backyard. Most commissioned projects the customer supplies the photo that they want rendered on their project.
Why do a blog? My goal with this website is to provide projects that a person can follow along with as they gain skills and confidence to venture out on their own. To accomplish this goal I try to provide a variety of projects at different skill levels and subject matters to help challenge a person and keep them interested in continuing to learn the art of pyrography.
My husband had a huge impact on my creating this site. He thinks that I have talent and that I can share my knowledge gained over the years to help others learn or just to provide viewing enjoyment. Time will tell how successful I am with either.
I hope that you come along with me as I discover what I can and can’t do with pyrography and during that journey I hope I can inspire you to try creating some artwork yourself. It really is like magic.
Last updated May 2018