The Technique of Using Pencil Guidelines for Pysanky

Pysanka Power Podcast

Pysanka Power Podcast by Joan Brander of
Saving the world one pysanka at a time . . . . ™

Listen to Pysanka Power Podcast on BabasBeeswax.comListen to Episode 5 released April 6, 2019 – The Technique of Using Pencil Guidelines for Pysanky

Pysanka Power Podcast by Joan Brander of BabasBeeswax.comTranscript of Episode 5

Hi, I'm Joan Brander and you're listening to my Pysanka Power Podcast. I love Ukrainian egg decorating! I've been doing it for several decades since I was a child. I've amassed so much knowledge and experience over those years, I thought that podcasting would be a great way to share my passion with you. I'll be telling you about their history, legends, and symbols. On the practical side, there's tools and techniques used in making them, hints, tips and do it yourself projects to talk about. Did you know that the fate of the world depends on pysanky? There's an ancient Ukrainian legend that says as long as pysanky are being made, evil will not prevail over good in the world". They're one of the greatest traditions of all time. So I hope that my Podcast will inspire you.

Welcome to Episode 5 of my Podcast. In my previous Episode, I talked about geometric patterns on traditional pysanky. It was such a long-winded podcast-I hope you didn't tune out. Today I'd like to keep it short and simple. Let's detract from the serious stuff for a minute and focus on technique.

Even the most experienced egg artists use pencil lines as a framework to maintain geometric balance. I'd like to give you a few pointers on this such as what type of pencil to use, how much of the design to pencil out, how to remove unwanted or unsightly pencil marks, and troubleshooting problems and solutions. For some people it's not that easy to eyeball proportion and dimension on the curved surface of an egg. Others can do it quite easily free hand. My husband Tom teases that I can make a star rosette perfectly balanced on an egg with my eyes closed! But that's only because I've done it so many times. One thing you can do to help distribute repetitive patterns on an egg evenly is to use pencil guidelines. When writing pysanky you should strive for balance and symmetry as much as possible. Did you notice that I used the term "writing pysanky"? I did this in other Episodes too. That's because we say we write pysanky. They're not painted, stenciled, nor drawn. They're written. So let's get into the content of this Episode on pencil guidelines, and start with the basics.

I'm often asked "What type of pencil do you use?" My answer is that I use one with a very hard lead. Most office supply and art stores carry different grades of both hard and soft pencils. A very hard lead works best. I usually use a #2 or #3. I find that anything softer will smudge or rub off. Keep your pencil sharpened to a fine point. I like to use a lead pencil for this. It should go without saying that you should not use a ballpoint pen or marker! As for how much of the design to pencil out, don't pencil the entire design. Remember that the title of this podcast is "Pencil Guidelines", and that is what you want-just a few visible marks to help balance the distribution of your symbols and designs. You should use very little pressure. And make long, smooth lines, rather than short sketchy lines. Make your pencil guidelines only on the white eggshell. It's very seldom that I add pencil to any parts of the coloured egg. Most of all, avoid erasing. Because erasing can make your eggshell non-receptive to the dyes, and when all is said and done you'll have a blotchy area that can't be fixed. If you haven't pressed too hard with your pencil, the marks should come off when you remove the beeswax. Most beginners will learn to make pysanky with a dark background colour. In that case, if the pencil doesn't come off with the beeswax, it will be covered up by darker dye colours.

Let's say you've done everything I've suggested, and the pencil lines are still showing. Here's a couple of troubleshooting problems and things you can do to fix them. If you have pencil marks showing through the lighter dyes, especially white areas of your egg, use a white eraser to remove them. You can purchase a white eraser at most stationery stores. In later Episodes I'll be talking about a technique called bleaching. These types of pysanky have large areas of white on them, so they may be more vulnerable to unwanted pencil lines showing up. On background colours other than white, I've used paint thinner on a q-tip quite successfully. I gently wipe off the pencil marks. Again, a very light touch is important to prevent the dye from rubbing off. I've even used certain types of nail polish remover and spot remover to get rid of pencil marks that I don't want to show.

Let me wrap up this Episode on the importance and technique of using pencil guidelines with one more tip. Add a small jar of paint thinner to your kit of pysanky supplies. You never know when it might come in handy. For example, after you've melted off the beeswax from your pysanka there might be small traces of beeswax clinging to the pores of the egg. You can use a small amount of paint thinner on a tissue or cotton ball to gently wipe your pysanka. The colours will appear much brighter because they won't have the residue of dark beeswax distorting the colours. As you research more about pysanky, whether from this podcast, from my website or from other resources, you'll learn many techniques to nurture your interest and desire to write a perfect pysanka for you.

That's it for the main part of this Episode. Now let's move on to talk about my recommendations for Books 'n' Bits. In each Episode of this Podcast I've been commenting on resources to support the topics covered, including various techniques that can be used. They're also on my website There's no shortage of books dealing with the technique of pysanky, with many of them showing diagrams and pictures. I've found that the best resource books include basic division marks to make with a pencil. There's a family of authors in Minneapolis who have done a fabulous job of writing a series of numbered books just like this. I've used them for years and have them all in my personal collection! I highly recommend ordering one for yourself to enrich your library on the topic of pysanky. I think it's best to start with Book 1, and go from there. Maybe request one as a gift from a loved one for your birthday or a special day. They're available for purchase, along with supplies, kits and other books from my store, Baba's Beeswax. Right next to the books listing on the Baba's Beeswax online store is an icon which links you directly to our YouTube channel. There's several playlists to watch. But the one I want to lead you to is the Book Preview video clips. You will see me flip through the pages to see the format, colourful covers, and contents of featured pysanka designs.

Well, that's all for today. Join me again for the next Episode just in time for Easter. In case you're still not sure if pysanky are right for you, or if you're just running out of time before Easter, I'll be talking about other types of Ukrainian decorated eggs that are quick and easy.

Before I go, allow me to tell you about Baba's Beeswax and how you can get in touch with me. We're located in Richmond, British Columbia. Our studio comes alive with workshops and demonstrations. We write books, pamphlets, teaching aids, and videos. We have a library for all the publications we produce and collect. Not only that, we have a gallery of all the pysanky we've made and collected. For shopping on the internet you can visit our online store at We've had it since 1997. We're doing our best to keep up with technology, so we're connecting with you on YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. Now, we're podcasting and we're very excited to be doing that. You, too, can follow the buzz… by giving us your comments or a thumbs up.

We're here to help you choose kits and supplies like the beeswax, kistka and dyes you'll need. You can get everything you need all year round, not only at Easter. In case you missed anything, you can listen to my Podcast again. We've put the audio file on our website Or you might like reading along, so we've put the Transcript there too.

That's it for me, Joan Brander of Baba's Beeswax. Thanks for listening-and have a great day!

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