by Ger Cawdell, Victoria, BC, Canada

GerCawdell1a 500With a university degree in biology, Ger Cawdell finds inspiration for most of his artwork in nature and its inherent treasures, with a desire for the preservation of natural phenomena. Primarily a visual artist, Ger’s art extends through several disciplines including drawing, painting, haiku poetry, photography, solar pyrography and wood carving. A resident of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, Ger can frequently be found hiking with his sketchbook and binoculars or examining the night sky with his binoculars and bird spotting scope (which doubles as his telescope). Currently working on his first book of haiku and drawings, his visual art can be viewed at

My love of drawing dictates the style that many of my artworks are created with. Finding that the process of wood burning suits my vision for many images, I use magnifying glasses to focus the light of our closest star, the sun, onto the surface of wood in order to burn an image. The resulting process is called solar pyrography (some artists prefer to call it heliography but I eschew that name for fear that it may be confused with a photographic technique). I first discovered this technique in 2014 in an old art book, the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten. The earliest online reference I have found dates to 1979 in an article entitled “Sun Art” in Mother Earth News, viewable at this link:

My burned images are based on my own photographs and sketches. The first image I created using solar pyrography was the following likeness of a silhouetted Anna’s Hummingbird. The blue background wash, acrylic paint mixed with water, was applied following completion of the wood burning. The same technique of colour application is used for all my wood burnings which have been enhanced by colour.

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Hummingbird Silhouette 2015
10” x 10”

I have yet to discover a technique to consistently create shades of grey with a magnifying glass. Without colour my wood burnings are composed of lines, dots and solid shading, as seen in this image of a Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), based on one of my underwater photographs.

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Chinook Salmon in Nitinat River, BC 2016
7 1/8” x 11 ¾”

Knots provide a perfect representation of the sun or moon, as seen in these images of a Great Blue Heron and a Madrone (Arbutus menzeisii). I rarely indicate whether the knot depicts the sun or moon, leaving this open to the viewer’s interpretation.

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Great Blue Heron Behind Rocks 2016
6” x 9 ½”

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Twisted Arbutus Tree 2016
14 7/16” x 5 ½”

In my second post I will discuss the types of magnifying glasses I use.

*For safety, for those wishing to try solar pyrography, please wear sunglasses in order to protect your eyes, as the resulting focused light is extremely bright. Though I have yet to use them, welders goggles and solar eclipse glasses may work. Occasionally I wear two pairs of sunglasses simultaneously.*

I wish to thank Astronomers Without Borders for inviting me to share my solar pyrography art.
Since this is an astronomy website I shall end this first post with a few more landscapes containing a knot depicting the sun or moon.

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Garibaldi Lake, BC 2016
5 7/8” x 14 ½”

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A View Across Buttle Lake, Strathcona Park, BC 2016
7 3/8” x 11 11/16”

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West Coast View 2016
7 9/16” x 14”


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