Not everything needs to be planned ahead of time. Sometimes beautiful artwork can arise by following inspiration. In this article I will share with you my own journey into inspiration and play and the design that resulted from it.
While cleaning up recently I came upon a cutout of a reindeer, I nearly placed it in the giveaway pile but something caught my imagination. I had recently been flipping through a book showing illustrations by Kay Nielsen and a number of other late 19th century fairytale illustrators and an idea popped into my mind.
I grabbed the cutout and ran up to my burning table. That’s when the fun began. Swirls, lines, webs, dots, and geometrics emerged from my pen. I switched tips playing with the movements and creating abstract shapes to create a patchwork of pattern on the deer.
Here are the results of my 15 minutes of play.
I was on a roll, I dug through the giveaway pile and found a little wooden box constructed from cheap wood (too soft to produce any good detail). I pulled it out figuring that I didn’t need detail if I stuck to geometrics and loose design.
I traced the outline of the cutout on the lid of the box and began a simple design around the shape. My idea is that I will mount the cutout over the shape with a spacer to keep it from laying on the lid. This will give the design an added dimension. By this time I ransacked the basement because I remembered having butterfly and dragonfly cutouts at one time. My search proved fruitless except for about half a dozen Christmas tree and football cutout shapes. I laid them aside for another day.
Then the wooden eggs caught my eye. I was feeling particularly creative and not in much of a cleaning house mood so I grabbed the bag and pulled out a large egg. I bounded back upstairs to my worktable.
I had been thinking of the Mayan calendar and my son had done a project at school where he created his own calendar so I thought something like that might be fun to try. I pulled up some images on my computer and noticed that they were very simple in design. But now I faced a particular challenge, how would I design something around a somewhat spherical object.
So I took a pencil and began by bisecting the egg. First marking it into quarters on the bottom then bringing the pencil marks up to the top so that I would have 4 workable image sides roughly the same size.
I decided I wanted the sun at the top, trees representing the four seasons in the middle, and water teaming with fish at the bottom. Working with my pencil I marked out a circle lightly at the top trying to keep it even on all four quarters. (Yes this can be done freehand, no one will know.)
Then looking at my references I added eyes, nose, and mouth. I didn’t worry too much about all the detail since I have very little room to work with anyway. One important thing to note, don’t become obsessed with measurements. Use a critical eye and make sure the image looks good without measuring. Remember that you are working on a distorted surface, so the image may not conform to any standard of measurement.
I now divide the egg into 3 sections horizontally. I need to know where my trees will go and where the water will be. I decide to leave a larger area for the trees since they will be the main area of interest.
Now the fun begins, I add in my elements. Penciling in guidelines and then having fun with the burner adding in details and patterns. I don’t use too many pencil lines since I want to enjoy the burning for its own sake and not get overly concerned or attached to any particular look or outcome.
Here are images of the final burning showing how the sides meet and match.
The most enjoyable part of the project was the sea. Weaving together the waves and fish were very relaxing and fun. So I decided to design some for you!
Select any piece of wood you want to play with. This repetitive and somewhat abstract pattern is good for three dimensional objects. Anything from boxes, turned bowls, eggs, or basic roughouts are a great place to begin.
To begin with you will have Primary components – the fish, Secondary component – the wave, Filler components – water and bubbles.
Resize your pattern components so they fit on to the surface. Now divide your surface into sections, these sections should be small enough to allow for curvature so that any component can fit into this section and be recognizable. In other words you don’t want it so large that a major part of the image disappears around the bend and no one knows what they are looking at. When placing the Primary and Secondary components tape them down on one end only.
If you are working with a curved surface you will notice that the pattern will not lay flat. In this case take your scissors and slit the design in one or two spots as shown. Don’t make this too complicated, keep the cuts to one or two. The purpose is not to custom fit the paper to the curve of the shape, but to allow for an easing of the design into either a convex or concave surface. If you need to make a lot of cuts, your curve is too drastic and your design will end up with too much distortion. In this case try using a filler component for this area.
Slide your transfer paper between the paper and pattern and trace one of the sections folding down one of the flaps while doing this. Then trace the next section. DO NOT tape everything down!
When you have finished the tracing, evaluate it and see if you will need to adjust anything to complete your design. If you are working on a convex surface the flaps will overlap slightly making the design narrower in parts. If the surface is concave the flaps will spread making the design wider. This is the time to make any adjustments. If two lines are offset you may wish to divide the difference in half to match them on the wood. If the lines don’t connect simply draw in a connection lightly with a pencil.
At this time you can proceed to burn in your Primary and Secondary designs. Unless you have already worked out a connection, I usually leave room between them so that I can add the fillers and balance out the design.
I don’t recommend trying to custom fit the Filler components to your design. Instead use them as guidelines to help connect the other elements. These Fillers are simple to burn and other than perhaps penciling in the outline to the waves or the bubbles, I suggest just burning them freehand.
Remember to keep your speed consistent in order to get nice clean lines. If you mess up on a certain area you can always burn it in solid or look to see if you have just created a “new” pattern. One of the greatest joys in this process is following inspiration and allowing the design to “happen”.
Here are some of the components I used in this project. Feel free to copy the designs (they are copyrighted by me but you are free to use them in your handmade projects).
Here is an example of how you can put them together. I hope you enjoy this fun little project.
If you would like to learn more about pyrography be sure to check out my FREE Burning Basics Video Series.