Hello, my name is Jeff. I’ve been dabbling in pyrography since 2012. When I started, I had a pretty simple goal: Make art to express myself and build my artistic skills using a positive, meditative like approach. Largely, these pieces were something I’d do in my spare time but overtime I’ve had some individuals commission me for projects.
I’m happy to take these projects and push myself to get better at “art.” For instance, I’ve recently started to add color to these projects. I have the stance that if I, a slightly average artist with shaky handwriting, can make such pieces, most others can as well. I’ve been asked over the years how I make these so I’ll try to show my process as best as I can as I had the idea in the middle of the creation.
For this post, I’m going to use my most recent piece which also doubles as artwork for my band REPS’s forthcoming album “Buzzing w/“. Here’s the finished piece:
REPS was a band from Richmond, VA. We relied heavily on bands like Superchunk and other poppy/indie rock bands over the years. When this record is release, people will offhandedly call it pop-punk but they are wrong. I like to think of it as “poppy angular fuzz rock” or “slightly more aggressive pop rock”. Anyways, you can be judge for yourself. Our old demo can be found here.
ANYWAYS, we recorded 8 songs and it will be presented as an album of sorts, whether digitally or physically. We chose the record title “Buzzing with” as kind of an homage to titles like “Swinging with Some Swinging Jazz Group” or “Screaming with the Deadguy Quintet.” Our sound incorporates a fair amount of feedback, thus the buzzing of amplifiers.
So we had a title. And then the idea came. One solitary bee burning into wood painted yellow and the title over our band name in big bold letters. That’s how it began.
I am not a good drawer. But I do have a steady hand and know how to trace. When I start these projects, I tend to Google image search. For this project, I searched “bees” and many came up. In this stage, I tend to have an open mind about where the project will take me so I search and save quite a bit of images to review. Once I find one or two images I like, I usually put them through the “Black and White” color grade in Microsoft Word and the image becomes two tone image that’s perfect for tracing and burning onto wood. This time was a bit different. This is the image I settled on and then it’s non-Microsoft Word black-and-white version:
I went with this picture for a couple of reasons. 1) A bunch of bees seemed a lot cooler to me than one bee and drove home the idea of “buzzing” in a hive to me. 2) I liked the hive effect and wanted to try to replicate that (I did not). 3) The layout of the bees was a perfect foil for where I envisioned the title and bandname would be placed.
The First Burn
The tool I have is a standard wood burning tool you can get from your average craft store. This also means there’s no variation in heat on the tool so what you get is what you get. Higher end tools (I guess they’re higher end, I’ve never checked truthfully) can control temperatures and the hotter the tool and the longer you you press the deeper the burn will be and vice versa with lighter temperatures. Eventually, I’ll attempt to switch up the temps but for now I’m trying to get the color incorporation down. So, I eventually threw out the photorealistic idea because it was beyond me. But I did use the print out and used contact paper to trace the images onto the wood.
It was after this point I thought it’d be interesting to show how it’s done. There’ll be more photos after this.
The Band Name
I wanted the fonts for “Buzzing w/ REPS” to look retro while also being slightly modern using the “w/” and lowercase “buzzing” with a bold uppercase stylized “REPS”. I searched for “retro fonts” and “vintage baseball t fonts” and the like but couldn’t find what I wanted which was something like iron-on lettering or the Pulp Fiction title card:
Knowing I wanted to paint within the letters, I went to Blick Art Supplies in DC where I usually get my wood blocks and bought various Blick Matte Acrylic paints and also hoped to find iron-on letters. They did not have them so I went to Target and while they did not have iron-on letters, they did have letter stickers that were perfect:
For the name “REPS”, I stuck the letters on the wood, traced them and burned them into the wood. I also added a similar accent to the letters a lot like the Pulp Fiction title card because I thought it was a good chance to use two tone colors.
Color Palettes May Vary
I’m a big fan of pastel colors as they are bold, bright but also subtle and give a sense of renewal/spring. When I first set out to do this project, I was debating to use a baby blue, bright yellow, pink color palette. During an off-hand conversation, one of my co-workers said those colors “reminds me too much of fucking Easter” while looking at a competitor’s website which made me rethink the color scheme. So I pre-burned “REP” on a spare wood block and painted different color variations and tested two different types of gloss sealants: Mod Podge and Golden Gel Mediums Soft Gel:
I ended up going with the green and pink color scheme for “REPS” because I thought it gave a “stately and regal” feel. I was hoping to add the yellow to one bee and use the color purple for “buzzing”.
Back to the actual piece, I burned the letters “REPS” in and painted in the letters. Then, I used my woodburning tool again to outline the letters and get rid of the excess paint and give the letters a cleaner look. This was the result:
Arguably, this could be done and it’d be a self titled record. However I wanted to try my original idea. I downloaded a retro font for the words “buzzing w/” and printed out variants of “buzzing with”, “buzzin’ with”, “buzzin’ w/” in italics, etc. I played around with different variants of “buzzing w/” before settling on slight off center to the right medium font.
I wanted to color in the words with the color purple as I liked how the green, pink and purple looked together in the color trials but I thought white would be better than purple to make it cleaner and have the green/pink pop. This is the result:
The Pink Bee
At first, I wanted to accent one or two bees with some yellow. Unfortunately, the yellows I had and a mixture of different yellows with a yellow orange color wasn’t “popping” and I wanted the accent to “pop” and be engaging. Luckily, my roommate and was very forthcoming about his opinions that I should use “that coral color” for the bees. While it was a slightly more aggressive art critique than I was used to because I never went to art school, I thought he may have had a point. Thus, I added a bit of an accent to one bee:
I then burned the outline and sealed up the piece with the Golden Gel Medium Soft Gel which ended up as the final product below. Hope that helps! If you would like your own woodburn, email me!