Recently, a friend posted a photo of Young Marilyn Monroe on their Facebook feed that I had never seen before. I loved the sweetness and subtle colorations in this photo, so commented that it inspired me to want to burn it. And another friend, seeing my comment, contacted me privately about hiring me to burn the image for them. I gladly accepted the challenge!
I DIDN’T KNOW JUST HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE
The wood plaques I use for most of my pyrography portraits I purchase from Walnut Hollow, a reputable supplier on Amazon. They are known for their quality products, and this client requested a ‘live-edge’ wood slice for the rustic look and feel that medium offers. Well, the piece arrived, and I was surprised to find several dark knots in the middle of the piece. This is part of the risk of working with natural products and not an acceptable reason for return to the manufacturer.
NORMALLY IT’S NOT A PROBLEM
Typically, I can work such defects into the piece I’m burning by carefully shading the area to blend into the rest of the image. But this particular project is a portrait, and Marilyn has very fair skin. So, the knots in the wood presented an especially difficult problem. But I have been doing this long enough that I believed I could resolve the issue. I did tell my client that I would happily start over again, fresh, on a new piece of wood. But he insisted he loved her the way she was and insisted I continue on using this piece. So, I persevered.
He wanted this portrait of young Marilyn to be colorized, just like she is in the photo. Which I felt was an advantage when it came to camouflaging the surface defects. When a client asks for the application of color in their commissioned piece, I use artist-grade colored pencils to hand-apply the desired shades, rubbing and blending the color into the surface of the wood with my fingertips. The warmth of my skin helps to soften the wax in the pencils, creating a subtle, life-like hue.
THE COLORED PENCILS DIDN’T COVER THE BLEMISHES
The colored pencils worked great for the rest of the portrait, but knots in wood have a different, harder texture, unlike the grain of the rest of the wood. They are hard, dense, and slick. And don’t allow the color to absorb or adhere to the surface. So, I had to get really creative.
MARILYN WEARS MAKEUP
After repeated attempts at shading, both with the burning tool, and the pencils, I sat staring at the partially completed portrait when a thought struck me “Marilyn Monroe wears makeup! Maybe I should try applying cosmetics, too!” So, that’s what I did. And I have to tell you; I’m pretty pleased with the results!
I’LL FINISH THIS PORTRAIT TODAY
I haven’t quite finished her. I still have to make some final adjustments to her hair and other final shading touch-ups before I burn my signature into the surface, then apply a light coat of spray lacquer to seal in the color. But she’s getting very close! I’ll post the completed Marilyn portrait on my Facebook page when she’s all done and ready to deliver.
HERE ARE SEQUENTIAL PHOTOS OF MY PROGRESS
If you enjoyed this post about adding color to a pyrography portrait of Marilyn Monroe, you might love this Portrait of Jesus I created a while back.