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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 31, Page One of Two


Page One:
- Brian Warburton: Drawing with Fire
- Sue Burne: A Life Filled with Art

Page Two:
- "carbón's" New Website of PyroSculpture on Leather
- Abby Levine's Latest Project
- From St. Petersburg, Update on Michael Janson
- Celtic Harps of Old--and New!

Brian Warburton: Drawing with Fire

by Brian Warburton, 2004

Pyrography on sycamore wood

Image courtesy of the artist

A talent for drawing like Brian Warburton's does not come along often. What is even more unusual is that he did not discover it himself until he was 42 years old! British artist Brian Warburton from S. Wales, who is another friendly face on our IAPA message board, loves realistic art. Soon after his first pencil drawing at age 42, he enrolled in a painting class. When, to his dismay, his work was criticized as being "too realistic," he realized his personal goals were not being served and struck out on his own to develop his technique. He continued as an autodidactic amateur painter for the next ten years, until illness put a halt to his artwork.

Thanks to an encouraging e-mail from artist Denton Lund, Brian started doing art again, for which he expresses eternal gratitude to his friend. It wasn't until the first of May 2003 that Brian decided to try pyrography--with a portrait of the famous Native American warrior Sitting Bull rendered on plywood. He began studying the work of pyrographers that he admired--"no one more than Dino Muradian," he says--and then he found a mentor.

Patricia Decorus
by Brian Warburton, 2004

Pyrography on sycamore wood

Image courtesy of the artist

A Mentor

"Dino has been a major influence in my work," Brian says, "and has been kind enough to give me guidance in my art. I was once told that my work was 'very reminiscent of Dino's style' which I regard as the greatest compliment. I hope that eventually my own style will evolve in this fascinating art technique."

Within the realm of realism, Brian's favorite kind is portraiture. He says he loves doing faces that "have a story to tell." And he sees stories in the "wrinkles of a worn face or the eyes of a child." Through the eyes of Rahul, the slum child pictured at the top, you see the story of a youngster who knows hardship. With a bicycle rickshaw, his father makes a living for Rahul's mother, Rahul, and his six brothers and sisters. Brian also did a portrait of Rahul's brother Shiv Kumar, which you can see on Brian's own internet photo album site at www.picturetrail.com/brianart.

Apache Tsahizn Tseh
by Brian Warburton, 2004

Pyrography on sycamore wood

Image courtesy of the artist

Technical Aspects

Tool. At Dino Muradian's recommendation, Brian has switched to using a Weller solid tip tool for his work. He has found that he can work much faster and more fluently with this type.
Wood. Brian has also stopped using plywood panels and started using solid sycamore plaques, which he feels bring out the best in his technique. He notes that, because it is difficult to get sycamore plaques wider than 7 inches, he is confined to working in a small format (approximately A4 or letter size).
On the Subject of Subjects. In addition to mentioning that portraits are his favorite, Brian notes that what is important to him is having a certain feeling for a subject before he can burn it. He says, "If I don't have this feeling, the dissinterest shows up in my work. This is one of the reasons that I don't do commissions." All that being said, however, he ends that thought by declaring, "Also, I have an untold number of works planned in my head already."
Technique. Brian reminds us that portraiture, too, is nothing more than line and shade. When people write to him expressing their difficulty with portraits, Brian looks at their work and sees wonderful examples of line and shade in other subjects. He says, "Basically, that's all any monochrome painting is, line and shade. Once you have mastered that, you can paint or draw any subject. That's all we are doing really--painting or drawing with heat."
"When I'm doing my work," he continues, "I turn the plaque in all directions to make the burn go on more fluently. Perhaps that is what people who say they can't do faces should do: turn the work upside down. It might not be so inhibiting for them that way."

by Brian Warburton, 2004

Pyrography on sycamore wood

Image courtesy of the artist

Closing Thoughts

In his original composition of a pair of wolves above, Brian once more shows his expertise in portraiture, even when it comes to animals. Like many pyrographic artists, Brian expresses his annoyance with an art world that would call his drawing in pencil or charcoal 'art' yet refer to the same subject done in pyrography as 'craftwork'. (The words he used: "ridiculous hypocrisy!")

His advice to any beginners is: "Find the burner that suits you and practice shading on a scrap piece of timber until you get from the bare wood at one end to pitch black at the other, blending the different shades together as you go."

As for the future, Brian says, "When I look at my first burn Sitting Bull, and Crying Petals done 12 months later, I can see how far I've come in a year. I hope that I can continue to progress until I reach the standard I want, whatever that is."

He offers to all of us a lesson learned and tells this story: "When I had finished Crying Petals, I'll admit that I was vainly feeling very confident of praise from someone whose pyro artistic opinion I value the most. The E-mail arrived with the simple message 'Petals is nice, but you can do better.' After the initial disappointment and my vanity well and truly put in its place, I understood the meaning in the message, which has become the best advice that I've ever been given for improving my art: 'Your last work is not your best...the next one is.' Thanks again, Dino. :-) "

See more examples of his work in the Brian Warburton Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

Sue Burne: A Life Filled with Art

Sue Burne
Posing with one of her engraved glass works

Image courtesy of Peter Burne

Studying and Teaching Art

British artist Sue Burne lives in a small village in Somerset in the Southwest of England. However, she grew up in Lyme Regis in Dorset and still feels the westcountry is very much her home.

Sue has always loved art. She says that it's in her blood. She says this because her great grandfather was from a family of ecclesiastical woodcarvers, and his daughter (Sue's grandmother) always told Sue that she took after him. While at school, Sue studied Theatrical design with the thought of one day becoming a set designer. She also learned calligraphy.

After leaving school, Sue studied for a BA Hons degree at Ealing College in Modern European Studies, then went on to St. Luke's College in Exeter for a postgraduate teaching certificate. She taught in a primary school for 7 years, where she says, "I met my fellow teacher and later my husband Pete. My classes were mainly 9- and 10-year-olds and we used to really enjoy doing very big artistic projects!"

Platter No. 2
by Sue Burne

Pyrography and acrylic inks on rubberwood platter

Image courtesy of Peter Burne

Inspiration from Land and Sea

"Wherever possible, Sue says, "my art reflects my love for the countryside and for the sea." Her clever contemporary platters like the one above are striking examples of that inspiration. Sue's elegant compositions are remarkable for their originality. Each platter's composition offers a spontaneous yet compatible blend of geometric and organic forms in fluid colors on the rim. Yet the rims are not like usual borders at all! The rim patterns are carefully integrated into the plate's composition using strands of pyroengraved lines that run through the central portion continuing the pattern while suggesting wood grain and water at the same time.

Sue explains how she does them: "I use acrylic inks for colour on the platters because the grain shows through. The designs are fairly loose doodles, but I love the sort of shapes and forms that appear in nature so they often resemble pebbles or waves or vaguely plant shapes. I follow the grain of the wood and add extra lines where I feel they are needed. Sometimes the grain of the wood suggests hills or the sea to me."

Sleeping Dragon, detail
by Sue Burne

Pyrography on wood slice

Image courtesy of Peter Burne

Arts, Crafts, and Dragons

Sue surrounds herself with decorative arts and crafts of various types, and, as you will see here, dragons are an oft recurring theme. She has become so familiar with this subject that her dragons become real characters. Not only can they be seen in typical dragon-like poses, but the one above, for example--her favorite pyrography dragon--is sleeping contentedly, enjoying sweet dreams. Her other favorite dragon is the glass Sea Dragon she is holding in the picture at the beginning of this segment.

Scottie's Book
by Sue Burne

Pyrography and acrylic color on a wood box

Image courtesy of Peter Burne

Technical Aspects

Tools. Sue works with two pyrotools. "My husband Pete," she explains, "has always encouraged me, and it was he who bought me my Janik G4 [solid tip] pyrography tool several years ago. This is still my preferred pyrography burner for many projects, because a lot of my work is deep pyroengraving. I also own a very good hotwire machine (a Davan from Wales), and this is especially useful if I am demonstrating at the occasional craft fairs, which I do."

Since Sue also does glass engraving, I asked her about that and whether she has ever tried pyroengraving on glass. "Three years ago, she said, "Pete gave me a glass engraving drill for my birthday because he thought glass engraving might require similar skills to calligraphy and pyrography, which is true. I haven't tried pyrography on glass; I suppose I hadn't realised it might even work, so I will have to experiment."

Woods. The grain in rubberwood is particularly pretty for the platters that Sue designs and it has a nice cream color as background for her colors. She buys her eco-friendly Rubberwood platters readymade. (Note that rubber trees only produce latex for about 30 years, at which time they are cut down and new ones planted.) Sue's boxes are generally of European sycamore, which is a wood considered ideal for pyrography in the U.K. She also did a fairy frame, which you can view on her own internet site at: tinyurl.co.uk/291b. (One of the myriad little people from her fairy frame can be seen at the bottom of this page, walking towards page 2.) Her frame was rendered in tulip wood, which is not only lovely for pyrography but which works particularly well for her husband Pete's wood turning, too.

Dragon Box, front view
by Sue Burne

Pyroengraving and acrylic color on wood box

Image courtesy of Peter Burne

Combining Techniques

"I particularly enjoy combining my various art forms, i.e., pyrography with calligraphy or engraving with calligraphy. I get commissions in all these, so this makes life varied. I am trying to make all my work more professional and do more that is applied art rather than basic craft items; however, I do a few craft fairs (usually at Christmas) when I sell inexpensive things."

"In the future I hope to improve my techniques and create more individual pieces of art like the platters and my glass engraving."

Platter No. 3
by Sue Burne

Pyrography and acrylic ink color on Rubberwood platter

Image courtesy of Peter Burne

Always the Artist and Teacher

Although she is not earning a living from her art work, Sue does make a supplemental income from selling her pieces on commission and doing craft items to sell at Christmas fairs. She often makes gifts for family and friends, as well.

Sue left full time teaching when her daughters were born but has been able to devote herself to her art ever since her younger daughter began school. That was when Sue took the opportunity to attend a full-time art course for a year, as well.

Her calligraphy she has taught to adult education classes and to children at an after school club. In pyrography, she still does demonstrations from time to time and is a familiar participant at the on-line IAPA message board and the UK Pyros mailing list where her friendly messages are always welcome. She was featured in the December 2003 issue of Craftsman Magazine. Sue still works in all the media she has always enjoyed: pyrography, painting, glass engraving, and calligraphy.

See more examples of her work in the Sue Burnes Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

Click here to go to page two>>>

2004, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.