Burning water is about recognizing patterns. Many people get confused when they approach the prospect of burning water, especially when waves are involved. There appears to be a lot of information and it becomes difficult to understand exactly what to burn.
What often happens is that the water is reduced to a series of random marks that don’t resemble much of anything other than the confusion of the artist.
In this article I will detail a simple approach to burning waves and surf around a boat or ship. It is important to understand the patterns that exist in water so that you can easily identify the steps you need to take to burn realistic looking waves.
This particular image is of rough surf and contains whitecaps which are foamy caps that appear on rough water. In addition, I will show how to burn the foam on a larger wave as the bow of the ship cuts into the water. And finally, I will explain how to fade your water into the horizon. This will give you a good idea how to approach a few different elements.
We will begin burning the whitecap waves in the foreground. The pattern I created has captured a pattern of diamond shaped sections that contain hills, peaks (foam), and valleys and form a wave. This pattern, once it is broken down to its sub-components – hills, peaks, and valleys – becomes easier to burn.
To begin burning these waves turn up the heat on your pen and begin your stroke beneath the foam or peak area of the pattern (top of the diamond) pulling down and away in a curved manner as shown.
Make sure you begin just beneath the foam so that the darkest part of your burn occurs there then fades. Water foam casts a shadow so this is important.
As you pull further out you will come across the ‘valley’ area than gently curve toward a hill. The movement of your strokes will give these shapes the appearance of a wave. Continue using these techniques to define the darkest areas of the waves and pull out. These slow strokes when done properly will give you a natural looking blend with minimal effort.
Repeat this process identifying darker areas and blending out. The shapes will differ a bit but need to be treated in the same manner. Be sure and leave unburned areas also!
At this time turn down your heat and begin adding light shadows to the foam around the ship. You can also add a bit of definition where the foam overlaps the ship. The areas underneath this heavier foam are darker since the concave surface is more pronounced. They will however also fade into a valley and then a hill, just like your other waves.
Reduce the movement, size, and darkness of your burn as you move further into the horizon.
The waves will become less defined and smaller in size until they disappear into the flatter horizon. Be sure this change is scale is gradual to maintain a realistic appearance.
Although your actual pattern may differ, this article has given you a few ways to approach water so you can modify these techniques to your design and create a realistic image.
If you have enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about pyrography and how to burn I invite you to check out my FREE Burning Basics Video Series..