Samuel K. Anderson
A Second Ball Hughes Pyrograph
J. William Fosdick Bequeaths a Treasure
Pyros in the News
Sue Walters on Tagua Nuts and Her New Website
The Quintessential Trompe L'Oeil: Pyrography on Money
David Wickenden: Fighting Fire with Fire
Laughing Girl with
Ghanaian Samuel K. Anderson's artistic talents were discovered in 1989 when he was still in school. Born in Mankessim Nkusukum in the Central Region of Ghana, Samuel graduated in Cape Coast there from St. Augustine's College in 1995.
Samuel recounts that he was greatly interested in charcoal drawing, painting, and sculpture while at school, but always wanted to come up with a new and difficult art form--one which other artists would not even think of or attempt doing. He says,
"So, by applying my charcoal drawing techniques, I started drawing with hot nails on wood (plywood)."
Samuel's style of pyrography evolved into what he came
to call "scorchism."
He defines scorchism as "a style of art that
involves parching or
slight surface burning...a style of
Of his school days Samuel recounts that because of "the uniqueness of my paintings, collages, mosaics, charcoal drawings, and especially my fire drawing, I was the only one adjudged a four-time best artist in my alma mater since its establishment."
About his work today, he goes on to say, "I can now draw with any medium that produces fire on any wooden or burnable material. I am inspired mostly by what I witness and experience in my immediate environment. What I see makes an indelible mark on me, which in turn is reflected in my art works, especially life in and around 'Akan' land."
Boats on the
Every work Samuel does is his original design. A few
of his works are
abstract; however, almost all are a type he calls
depict "real life, facts with
idealization." Samuel's subject matter includes
seascapes, portraits, and especially people engaging
in their day-to-day
activities. Through his art work, Samuel shares with
the viewer the
rich physical and cultural beauty that is Ghana and
Africa. His sensitive choice of subject matter,
strong compositions, skilled drawing, and artistic
sense of capturing the moment make for highly
effective pyrographic paintings.
Samuel earns his living from his pyro art. His first outdoor exhibition was held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Accra, in November 1997. Other places where he has exhibited since include the Raybow International Hotel, Takoradi, Novotel, Shangri-La, and Tulip Hotels all in Accra, plus the National Art Centre, the National Theatre, and the Signature and Artist Alliance Art Galleries in Accra in addition to other art expositions and trade fairs within Ghana. He is also a registered member of Artist Alliance, headed by Prof. Ablade Oscar O. Glover based at Nungua.
See more fine examples of work by this leading contemporary pyrographic artist of Ghana in the Samuel K. Anderson Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.
Russian pyrographic artist Michael Janson lives with his wife, 17-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter, three cats, and a newfoundland hound in St. Petersburg. He got his degree as a thermophysicist and works as a teacher of computer graphics. That last word is the keyword to the rest of this story.
Michael always liked graphics (pencil, pen, India ink). When he started experimenting with a pyro tool ten years ago, he says "everything went right." The result was so good that his works were purchased by an art shop. He started making plaques and boxes for tourists. In the summertime he taught children at camp.
Recently Michael has tried pyrography on paper (Bristol cardboard) as evidenced in the examples shown here. He says it was a gradual process without any outside influence (much like how he started pyrography in the first place). He compares pyrography on paper to etching and sees a number of opportunities for himself connected with pyrography that he is now exploring.
Uzor Pyro Tool
Michael says that he woodburns as he would draw with a
pencil. He observes,
there are two important differences between pyrography
on paper and
traditional graphics techniques:
1) In monochrome pyrography, the colors of the lines and shadows are made by the paper itself so that uncolored pyrography possesses a unique color limitation--its color isn't the decision of the artist but rather the reaction of the material to the influence of the tool.
2) Pyrography is 3-dimensional and consequently depends on light; therefore, achieving high quality illustrations of pyrography on the internet is "not an easy task."
In Michael's opinion, for both of the reasons above, the sort of paper he uses makes for a significant difference in the end result. He says, for example, that the color of the picture depends on the paper. Ultimately, he believes, "Really EVERYTHING depends on it." We, on the other hand, would like to give the artist a little credit, too. The artistry in Michael's highly imaginative abstract compositions draws the viewer in to interpret the complexities and nuances to be found there.
Spiral of Crete
Michael is just now beginning to gather images of his works for the internet. He does not yet have a website nor has he published his works prior to this article; however, he and his son are working together to make a bilingual (Russian-English) pyrography website, so I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of his very original and creative works in the near future.
The Blind Beggar of
A year ago, I featured the first Ball Hughes' 1859 piece "Sleeping Knitting Girl" belonging to Lois Herna in a Woodcarvers Online Magazine article here. Recently, Michael Gildengorin sent me images of another piece by this artist, "The Blind Beggar of Gretna Green", shown above, and exhibited in greater detail in the E-Museum.
If you remember from that previous article, just as
with this one, we
knew the work was by Ball Hughes, since he had signed
and dated it. We
just weren't sure who Ball Hughes was. My research at
that time turned
up two possibilities--one Ball Hughes in England and
another in America,
a famous sculptor and engraver. The American one
seemed likelier; at
the same time I wondered if they could be one and the
IAPA European Director Richard Withers conjectured that the artist was perhaps a copyist who used famous paintings as models for his pyrographs. He thought he had seen the "Sleeping Knitting Girl" as a painting somewhere but wasn't sure. His observation seemed well taken then and even more so when this second example appeared and seemed equally well done yet totally different in look, suggesting a different design source.
The answers to these questions and more were revealed with the happy discovery of the J. William Fosdick article that is the subject of the following segment.
Portrait of Louis XIV
It was with enormous excitement that the Research
Department of the
E-Museum of Pyrographic Art unearthed a wonderful
book containing an illustrated article entitled "Burnt
Wood in Decoration: With Ancient and Modern
in 1896 by the famous pyrographer J. William Fosdick.
This article has
been published on the internet by Cornell
University in their
As the title indicates, in his article Fosdick wrote about and illustrated not only 'modern' pyrography from his era including his own (all now, of course, more than 100 years old), but he also wrote about and illustrated then 'antique' works thereby adding significantly to our documentation on much older works.
The Witches from
Fosdick's article proved once more to be invaluable. As it turns out, Fosdick set the record straight on various questions raised with the discovery of the first two Ball Hughes works plus gave us another clue in the history of the medium itself when he wrote:
"The art first made its appearance in this country nearly fifty years ago, when Ball Hughes, the English sculptor, residing in Dorchester, Massachusetts, became well known as a burner of 'poker pictures.' As copies of old English and Italian masters, they possessed merit, being executed with marvelous deftness. They were not decorative, nor were they intended to be such."
It is surprising that Fosdick, being the recognized
and talented artist
that he was, would end the above paragraph with the
opinion: "Only recently has this medium been
used in decoration,
which is its only legitimate field."
It is hard to imagine that he wouldn't find a lively discussion among artists today--or even then--about that topic. At the very least, it seems Ball Hughes more than 35 years before most certainly disagreed.
It also seems an odd pronouncement considering Fosdick's article itself illustrated two 16th century pieces--both decorative: "Panel from Italian side-board. Owned by H. G. Watson." and "Medieval chest in burnt wood. English workmanship... Owned by Henry Cabot Lodge."
The Witches from
Besides the two 16th century pieces just mentioned
above, there were four
pieces illustrated in Fosdick's article that are by
him (including the
one shown at the beginning of this segment), the piece
by Ball Hughes
(shown twice above), plus a work by A. F. S. Kirby and
Aldam Heaton. These last two artists are presumably
Keep in mind that since the article is over a hundred years old, the illustrations you are seeing are (unfortunately) NOT from photographs of the pyrographs but rather drawings of the pyrographs for the purpose of illustrating the article.
To view not a drawing but an actual image of a work by Fosdick, you can see his "Joan of Arc" at the Smithsonian's website in their special Treasures To Go series. Some of Fosdick's works are in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery collection in Washington D.C.; however, that institution's entire collection is either in storage or touring at present while the museum is under renovation.
Here again is the link to the J. William Fosdick article "Burnt Wood in Decoration: With Ancient and Modern Examples," (pages 495 to 500) on the Cornell University website. Don't miss it!
here for page two
2001, all rights reserved, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.