Burned Illustrations

Seeing Nature in Fifty Shades of Brown



A burned wood image created by illustrator Jessie O’Brien.

Courtesy photo

Illustrator Jessie O’Brien fell in love with the smell of burning wood. “The curl of smoke wafting through the air is very cozy — and it smells like a nice wood fire.” Using only two wood-burning tools, a “skew” and a “shader,” the Londonderry artist is able to create a life-like illustration on a flat piece of maple, plywood or a slice of burl in a medium called pyrography.

The drawing tools are temperature-controlled and she can inscribe a range of shades of brown. “They are like a sepia drawing,” she says, though her work is so realistic you could almost say a sepia photograph.

Her favorite wood surface is maple burl, a kind of crazy mass that can grow on old trees. She is able to purchase slices about one inch thick and then works with the irregular shape, grain and pattern, adding her rendering of a howling wolf, wise owl, raging tiger or just intense animal eyes in painstaking realism.
Although the purists in pyrography just use burning tools, O’Brien, as a trained portrait artist and art teacher, is comfortable with brushwork and adds white or a few colors in gouache to build more realism.

She has already taken first place honors in a couple of national competitions after first discovering the medium in a book about seven years ago. Her work can be found at League of New Hampshire Craftsmen shops in North Conway, Meredith (where she also teaches), Nashua and Concord.

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

  1. Guide to the best sledding hills in NH
    We have tips on finding the best hills, great sleds from the plastic to the high-tech, tubing...
  2. Cabonnay's Culinary Promise
    A new dining experience is almost here.
  3. The Art of Stone Walls
    Stone walls are iconic markers of New Hampshire’s past, but the art of stacking stone is far...
  4. Pets Are People Too
    Maybe pets aren’t actually people, but they can become beloved members of the family — and...
  5. New Hampshire's Winter Greens
    A Loudon farm is leading a farming revolution.
  6. Crafting a Future
    One way to escape from prison is to dig a tunnel through rock and soil with a purloined kitchen...
  7. Blind Ambition
    Three colleges commission their troupes this month to stage an epic trilogy.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags