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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 22, Page Three of Three


Page One:
- Irene Corgiat and the Shroud of Turin

Page Two:
- Michael Janson on Pyro and Computer Graphics

Page Three:
- Jim Hicks--Portraiture in Pyrography and Chalk
- Michael Mabbott--Solar Pyroengraving
- Home

Jim Hicks--Portraiture in Pyrography and Chalk

by Jim Hicks

Image courtesy of the artist

Imagination Sparked

American pyrographic artist Jim Hicks says he has drawn off and on for many years; however, it was about 1996 when he started practicing woodburning because of a huge oval woodburning of James Dean he saw on a visit to Arizona.

"It impressed me so much that I knew that was what I wanted to learn to do."

Above is a recent work by Jim Hicks, who has his own webpage Wood Art 211 which he dedicated to our own Sue Walters "who took the time to encourage me to keep burning." Sue Walters encouraged me a lot." he explained, "She responded to an entry I put in her guestbook....I felt much better about my woodburning after that."

His work is now also being displayed in the Jim Hicks Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

by Jim Hicks

Image courtesy of the artist

Jim's Start in Pyrography

The Elvis portrait above is surely one of Jim's earlier woodburnings. His ability in portraiture is excellent, evident as well in his fine drawings, which are also displayed on his website (by removing the suffix 'pyro' from the end of the web address). But the piece of laminated wood he used was not the best choice for this type of work, which he no doubt realized and rectified for his future projects.

Jim's style is fresh and appealing. He captures the spirit of his subjects when he works in portraiture. Even with animals, like the pup in the following image, there is an expression that comes from within that he portrays for us.

Husky Pup
by Jim Hicks

Image courtesy of the artist

Jim's Tool and Technique

Tool. Jim has always used a simple woodburner with a single tip for all of his work.

Wood. His wood of choice is Basswood.

Technique. Jim's unusual and very effective technique consists of (a lot of natural talent and) using white chalk to highlight his pyrographic works. "The range of tones in pyrography seems to be endless, " Jim says, "from the lightest brown to the darkest black, and with white chalk and colored pencil, the sky is the limit."

by Jim Hicks

Image courtesy of the artist

Closing Thoughts

Jim says that his favorite subjects are animals and women who are "bigger than life" like Reba McIntyre and Marilyn Monroe."

When looking at Jim Hick's work, one is immediately drawn to his use of light and shadow. His unique use of pyrography and chalk together allows him to give his figures a life that is often missing in portraiture. He describes his technique as quite simple and yet his final products are far from amateur. After observing a fair amount of portrait artists, I am always surprised to see the ingenuity each artist is able to bring to the genre.

Michael Mabbott--Solar Pyroengraving

Michael Mabbott at Work in Kelowna Park

Solar pyroengraving of Celtic knot on 3/4-inch, knotty pine wood panel

Image courtesy of the artist

New IAPA member from Kelowna, B.C., Canada is pyrographic artist Michael Mabbott, who says, "I began this unusual skill in 1983 in the city park here in Kelowna, British Columbia where most of us grew up. It is the very place where I saw my friend Brian Schank burning a piece of walnut to attach to the front of a cash register drawer. When I asked Brian to teach me, he replied, 'I can teach you nothing. I can show you, and you must teach yourself.' So..."

In the past 20 years, Michael has spent a lot of time in that park, where he can usually count on finding his friend Brian, too. Michael has been photographed there on four occasions for the local newspaper. And tourists and other visitors to the park have taken his picture there on countless occasions as well.

During all that time, at home and on travel, Michael has only come across a few other solar burners like himself.

Celtic Knot
by Michael Mabbott

Solar pyroengraving on knotty pine panel, 3/4-in. thick

Image courtesy of the artist

Technical Aspects

Tool. Michael Mabbott's tool is a large magnifying glass and sunlight. Because of the climate in Canada, naturally his art work is only a summer endeavor for him. Michael says that from his friend Brian he learned that the discovery of curved glass goes back to somewhere around 6000 to 5000 B.C. and is attributed to the nomadic tribes of the Sahara who used it as a way to make fire thereby eliminating the necessity of carrying live embers from one camp site to the next. From his own research Michael learned that around 4000 B.C., it was the Egyptians who refined the process that is the model for today's magnifying glass.
Woods. Brian started Michael off with scrap soft woods like cedar and pine. Later Michael worked with laminated knotty pine and red oak until 1999, when he started using the 1-inch-thick white oak he now prefers.
Painting and Finishing. After burning his art work onto the wood panel, Michael handpainted his last three (Celtic) works with three coats of high gloss enamel, and finished them with five coats of varathane front and back, a 600-grit wet sanding, and a wax polish.

Special Safety Issues

According to Michael, the technique of solar burning presents inherent threats to safety, for which it is essential to take precautions. Besides packing your project and magnifying glass when you go out to do solar burning, be sure and take along your SP40 or above sunblock lotion and sunglasses offering 100% UV protection.

He related an incident from his personal experience when he was using "a pair of glasses that 'said' they were 100% UV protected. Within twenty minutes, I was flat on my back out on my mom's driveway, blind as a bat. It's called eyeburn, it's extremely dangerous, and can cause temporary or permanent blindness."

Michael says that most people do not realize that sunlight and a magnifying glass together are a tool. He says that it's in "looking at the bead these two produce that does the harm." He cautions that when looking for appropriate sunglasses, to consult a professional welder if you have any doubt about the effectiveness of the product. He recently located some #3 amber welder's glasses, which he recommends.

"It took twenty minutes to cause eyeburn," Michael warns, "and cost me four days of exceptionally ugly pain between my temples that was unlike anything that could be described in words; as well as wondering whether I'd ever see the blue sky again since the doctor had to come to the house cause any light was detrimental to my healing, and movement was not fun."

Michael Mabbott at Work in Kelowna Park

Intricate solar pyroengraving on wood panel
from original design by Courtney Davis, Dorset, England,
Celtic Ornament, Art of the Scribe, Blandford Publishing, 1998

Image courtesy of the artist

Closing Thoughts

Until now, showing his work has always been from the city park in Kelowna for Michael Mabbott. His work in the park has always attracted tourists and provided a means for him to sell his work at the same time. Like many artists, Michael has come to that point in his life and his art when he would like to explore other options and actually make a successful living doing what he loves to do.

Near term plans include putting his art work in a photo album on line and developing an idea he has to produce a video aimed primarily at 6th and 7th grade children to teach them this work and a host of life skills at the same time.


The Cozy Hearth
by unknown Polish folk artist

Traditional pyrography on wood shadow box
3-dimensional Polish folk scene, 15.5 in. by 8.5 in.

Image courtesy of
Polish Treasures, Inc.

Home is where the heart is...

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The Author

Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez learned her pyrography techniques in Guatemala in 1975-1977. Her sister, Artist Sharon H. Garvey, later joined her there to collaborate on a pyrography project designed to promote this art form in the United States by means of a didactic book and a pyrography tool made by Navarro of Mexico.

Thanks to the internet, this is the seventh year of articles on pyrography for the Woodcarver Online Magazine (WOM), started January 1997, and the sixth year of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, which opened its virtual doors January 1998. In March of that year, the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA) was formed and members began meeting on line. Linked from the E-Museum's Café Flambé, which hosts the IAPA meetings, is the Yahoo Groups uniting_pyrographers mailing list, member list, and chat forum set up by IAPA Co-founder Mixo Sydenham of Australia for IAPA members.

2003, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.