thou art mum

The Art Form of Pyrography

Written By Maike Pritchard

Pyrography or pyrogravure is a free hand drawing art-form by the use of burning into wood or other materials such as leather. Decorating wood with burn marks using controlled application of heated pens. The heat directed to the pen nibs can be controlled with the burner unit. The number setting of 1-10 with the hottest being 10 will heat the nib, once applied to the wood with only slight pressure a burn mark will be the result.

I find this technique to be very versatile in developing both texture of fur, feather and smooth and subtle tones such as depicting skin. As you can appreciate the work is in monotone with highlights only being present if wood is left unburnt, the end result is a sepia finish that can be varnished or polished with wax that preserves the burning marks. The use of outlines around the subject or the shading of a background defines the image, with the additional properties of wood and wood grain patterns. Wood grain patterns in the background of the image is enhanced by the flow of the direction of the grains running through the wood, much like the flow of water, sky and landscape. Obtaining the right kind of wood with the grain flow either horizontal or vertical can be the deciding factor of the final image.

To better understand the process, I have included some of the many different forms of pen nibs available and a corresponding example of the effects produced. The art is produced by firstly picking a suitable piece of timber, I used birch ply as it can be sanded with 800 grit sandpaper. On that smooth surface a light pencil sketch is drawn then
the burning can commence. The pen used and the heat applied can determine the outcome. Once the wood is burnt it cannot be erased. In some instances, colour with pencil or paint can be added later. This technique is not confined to flat boards as wood can be sculptured and then pyrography applied.

Maike The Art Form of Pyrography

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