Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drawing with Fire

lion drawing pyrography in progressPyrography, from the Greek for "fire writing," is the the process of burning material (such as paper, leather and gourds) to make art. The only material I have tried so far is flat wood (one could also used carved wood, bowls, etc.). Special pens are used that come a large variety of shapes and sizes for achieving different strokes. For example, the skew is great for straight lines, the flat shader is best for shading, and the ball is perfect for writing and scribbling. The pens are hooked onto a generator that heats up the point. The amount of heat is adjustable to achieve different shades of burn.

Drawing with these pens is like a combination of ink and graphite. You can get a wide variety of shades like graphite (by adjusting the heat), and you can make it so you can't see the individual strokes (like blending). But like ink, it is indelible, unblendable, and unforgiving. If you make a mistake, you can scrape the char off with a knife, but that usually leaves a deep scratch on the surface.

I was given the reference photos for these lions by an artist friend of mine (the same who gave me references for the warthog and Mexican wolves) who got them from a photographer at the Cincinnati Zoo. White lions are very rare, and like white tigers they are not albino, just very lightly colored. I thought they would make a perfect subject for a woodburning.

In this photo the male lion is mostly finished. I still have his forearms to do, but there will be grass partially obscuring them and I want to save that for later. I am working on the female to give you an idea of the process. I start with the eyes, nose and mouth using the ball pen on a medium heat setting. By turning the heat down, I can get the lighter brown for the irises of the eyes. In the next couple days, I'll work on the rest of the face and post another update.


Anonymous said...


Drawing is wonderful ART people who know to draw will really enjoy this. I thank you for posting such a great post.

Heather M. Ward said...

Thank you very much. Pyrography is a very enjoyable medium. I will write more about it in future posts.