This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
After overcoming most of the difficulties explained, the novice may attempt some decoration which will give him confidence for work requiring greater skill.
A chess-board offers excellent practice, both for outline and background. The lines forming the squares should be first burnt in with the point kept at a moderate heat. The dark squares can then be treated by burning the wood in any of the styles of background illustrated last month; but they must not be burned below the level of the lighter ones, for that would impede the movement of the chessmen.
Before the tracing of a design on to any article to be decorated, the wood must be well sandpapered. Care must be taken to place the design exactly in the right position. It can be fastened by a little gum or stamp edging in three places along the top, so that the lower part is left free to be lifted if desired. The reason for recommending three points of adhesion is that one may give way, and the design, unless held in two other places would be displaced and the work probably spoilt.
Beneath the design place a piece of black lead transfer-paper, and, with a hard pencil, or agate point, go over the lines of the drawing as accurately as possible; for the success of the finished work will largely depend upon the degree of care shown at this preliminary stage. Always use a small piece of transfer-paper, so that it can be moved about as required. Before detaching the design, lift it and carefully examine the work to see that all lines have been reproduced.
In floral designs, large, decorative subjects should be selected, such as sunflowers, lilies, irises, and daffodils. For foliage the leaves of the oak, laurel, and Virginia creeper are very suitable. A close, niggling imitation of nature must be avoided. Broad treatment will be found to be the most effective; the character of flowers and foliage, however, must be preserved as much as possible. The shading will necessitate the greatest care in the management of the point, as a mistake in burning will seriously mar the effect of such delicate work.
All poker work should be confined to subjects admitting of decorative treatment. To attempt the naturalistic representation of nature would be to ignore the limitations of the medium, and this no true artist would do. By this, it is not intended by any means to restrict the pyrographer to conventional ornament, barring landscape and figure subjects. On the contrary, much beautiful work eminently suitable to pyrogravure is done in these. But the subject must be treated broadly and decora-tively, as the medium demands - not in the finnicky manner of copying the lines of an engraving, which is the way of many amateurs. The general effect aimed at should rather be that of the artistic "poster," with firm outlines, i.e., broad masses of "colour" and but little detail. The equivalent of the flat tint of the poster may be obtained by means of the metal strip shading attachment illustrated in Fig. 4. Two varieties of this useful tool are provided - one broad and the other narrow; they can be fixed to all straight points. For the gradations of masses of cloud, water or distance they are excellent. The pressure on the bellows must be strong and continuous to keep the point at full red heat - this will impart to the metal strips just the right heat for shading. It is important to keep them quite clean by rubbing them occasionally with sandpaper. With the shading attachment, light or dark shades of a very soft tint may be produced. The point must not touch the wood, it being so constructed that it blows hot benzoline gas upon it, more or less dark, according to the slower or more, rapid pressure of the bellows.
I have suggested the importance of economy of line in landscape work. In the treatment of flesh in figure work it is even more important. Indeed, there should be hardly such a thing as a distinct line in the representation of the features. Their form must be suggested by the proper rendering of the shadows. The design, of course, should, be first drawn on to the wood, and, where possible, the darkest edge of the shaded parts suggested; the artist will then be able to get the formation of the head and features drawn in correctly. By putting in the masses of shadow at first, the character of the face will soon show itself, and should continue to do so as the work progresses. The darkest touches should be left until the last. The finishing of the eyes and mouth will require the utmost care, as a false touch, especially in the curves of the mouth, would entirely alter the expression. The hair should be treated simply in masses; too much detail will make it look stringy or wiry.
Slight errors in burning may easily be erased by means of fine glass-paper; but mistakes of a more serious character can only be corrected by scraping out with a sharp tool or a piece of glass. If a serious mishap occurs in the early stages of the work, it is best to have the wood re-planed, or rubbed down, until the error is obliterated, and then make a fresh start.