Pyrography and Dragons

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Finally! I’ve managed to get my head back into art after far too long out of it. Impossible working conditions in the apartment and then the big move have stood in the way for most of this year, but now I have an amazing new studio with a wood stove, no distractions, and a gorgeous view. I also have a super awesome boyfriend who will sometimes randomly buy tools for hobbies that neither of us have ever tried before, which is how we ended up with a pyrography tool, aka a branding iron (but that makes it sound like a torture device). Well actually it is a torture device; I wasted no time burning my left middle finger with it. I tend to adjust my grip a lot when I’m absorbed in drawing and with pyrography that can have pretty terrible consequences. I think I’ll try using a glove next time. I also have a new respect for burns. I’ve been collecting all kinds of callouses, cuts, and scrapes since we moved out of the apartment and into the real world, and so far it’s been no big deal, but DAMN! Burns are a whole different world of pain! It was very minor this time but I definitely learned a lesson. Safety first!

That goes for the rest of our new toys too like axes, knives, and other dangerous gardening tools. I do not want to make mistakes with a wood splitting axe! We have a scythe too, by the way, which I think is pretty badass even though all it does is cut grass. I guess it’s the whole grim reaper thing. It is actually a very practical tool though, and surprisingly fun to use.

Here is my first little experiment with pyrography:

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I was at the viking ship museum in Oslo a couple of weeks ago, and bought a book with viking patterns and ornamental design. Viking art is awesome, and I left the museum feeling inspired to try some new things. I tried playing around with carving a bit, but I’ll leave that for img_0014another post as there isn’t much to show for that yet. I dulled my pocket knife in no time and haven’t quite mastered the art of knife sharpening yet.

I’m still pretty clumsy with the pyrography tool, but I love the visual effect that wood burning makes, and it smells like heaven. Actually the smell is exactly like a sauna, so working with pyrography really sort of feels like a relaxing visit to the spa, as long as you don’t accidentally touch the iron of course. I also found a very practical use for it and tried making an “all natural” garden marker that should last for several years before it rots away (and adds its nutrients into my garden soil) and I need to make a new one. This was super easy and I’ll definitely be making many more of these next year when we start up with the gardens for real. I especially like that the writing won’t fade away despite sun and rain, and it only took a few minutes to make it. I just wandered out into the backyard and found an appropriately sized stick, hacked one end into a point with a hatchet and then sliced off a section of bark with my carving knife. I’m not sure if leaving the rest of the bark on will make it rot faster or not, but I like how it looks with the bark on so we’ll just see how it goes. I didn’t use any treatment to preserve it because I don’t really care if it rots away, I’ll just make another one and be happy about feeding the soil a snack 😉

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“Hvitløk” means garlic in Norwegian in case you were wondering. I had some garlic getting old and sprouting on the counter so even though it’s a bit late and we’ve had frost already, I thought I’d try planting it and covering it with a heavy leaf mulch. If it works, great, if not.. well it was going to compost somewhere so it might as well be in the garden.

I used the viking design book to try another pyrography pattern on a flat piece I found outside. Above that you can see some of my attempts at carving a different pattern from the same book:

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It’ll take some practice to know which nibs are best for which effects, and it’s kind of hard to change the nib while the iron is hot so I tend to want to do as much as possible with the same one, but that can result in clumsy or sloppy work. I probably won’t dedicate much time to getting good at pyrography, mostly because I’m sure I’ll burn myself more with it and that really sucks, but I will definitely be using it now and then, if even just for practical things like garden markers.

As for the dragon at the start of the post, well that was kind of an accident. I sat down to work on drawing a rotifer, but I put the wrong kind of music on and was driven in a different direction. I find that music is like a kind of fuel for drawing, it can put me in the right state of mind to get absorbed and let instinct take over, resulting in a kind of trance where I just watch myself do the work without really thinking about it. I’m not sure what the right kind of music is for drawing illustrations of soil life, but it’s definitely not “Epic Legendary Intense Massive Heroic Vengeful Dramatic Music Mix“. Although, when you look at a rotifer’s mouth up close it could be considered pretty epic… maybe I should try designing a rotifer-inspired dragon with one foot and a spinning razor mouth!

I’m still finding that my drawings end up too dark and I really can’t figure out how to fix it once it’s reached that point. Adjusting the brightness at the end can cause some pretty horrible effects, and trying to draw over it doesn’t work well. It’s like curling your hair; there is a point where you have to just stop because you’re making things worse, not better. Perhaps it’s just laziness.. if something is in shadow I don’t have to add as much detail and the piece will be finished sooner, so I end up just making the whole thing shadow with a few highlighted parts. It can also be that I lack a good understanding of working with light and colour. I’m getting a bit better with light, but I find it difficult to know which colours to use when and as a result my work tends to not have a great variety of colours in it. I stick to what feels safe, but that’s not what makes good art!  There’s always so much to learn.

Oh and I drew a plant/soil life illustration too. Not very exciting, but it’s nice to share 🙂

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That’s all for now, hopefully I’ll be posting again soon with some new soil life drawings, and perhaps a crazy rotifer-dragon monster or some other random things. Thanks  for stopping by!

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3 thoughts on “Pyrography and Dragons

  1. Pingback: Rotifer Dragon | artborean

  2. Pingback: Gliding towards the sunrise | artborean

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