A CONVERSATION ABOUT FEBO, SOLAR PYROGRAPHY AND ITS RELAXING EFFECTS
Sometimes the Internet can be a place of amazing discoveries. That’s where we first came across Ryan Reeves and his works as a solar pyrography artist. We were astonished by the wonders he’s able to create, simply by borrowing the energy of the sun to burn drawings on wood and other natural materials. From our studio in Milan to his apartment in Ventura, California, we had an interesting chat about his art, solar pyrography and how using Febo, the solar engraver, impacted his process.
"I love how Febo feels, it's like drawing with a pencil"
Hi Ryan, nice to meet you! We saw your amazing works with Febo! Please, tell us how you discovered it.
Well, it’s kind of a long story. I used to be a graphic artist, and then I went into doing editing, post-production, and films. After a while, our house went into foreclosure. So we stayed at my parents’ house, my mom had one of those big magnifying glasses to read fine print. After that I went to a workshop where a guy was teaching kids to do solar art. I got involved, and I really started loving it. But then being back at my parents’ house, my computer was locked away and I didn’t know what to do creatively. So, I borrowed her magnifying glass and went out to town and I used it a lot.
After a while, my mom bought me one Febo for Christmas as a gift. I started using the old magnifying lens lot less because Febo is so much easier to hold. I love the way it feels, it creates such a fine line, it’s like drawing with a pencil or pen. It just really feels natural.
"When did you start practicing with solar engraving?"
I’d say 2014. But I’ve always drawn, I’ve always painted, I’ve always, you know, tried to use my hands to create.
We could tell as what you do is wonderful! So, whenever you start a piece, what kind of tools do you use? Do you only use Febo ?
I sometimes use sandpaper or a Dremel to shake the wood and get it prepped. That’s part of the process too. It’s kind of getting to know the wood before I even start. A lot of times in the grain of the wood, there are images that just start popping out and influence what I do with the piece.
For example, I started with this (first picture above), which was really planned out. I drew it with the pencil. It’s really great when you use the pencil how quickly it ignites. But within this piece (second picture above), it was more like going with the grain of the wood, and it just popped out. So, back and forth is how it works for me. Usually, if I do a piece that’s planned out, I’ll immediately go to the back and start doing freehand just to help my soul.
I totally get that. Whenever I use Febo, I mostly do line drawings at the beginning. Do you have any advice for people that aren't as good as you? For example, how about shading?
For shading I draw dots and lines. Then I scrub the wood out with a brush on the water as almost like sandpaper. This brings levels of darkness. So that’s another tip on on doing that. I love the stencils too. They’re great if you’re without an idea, and you want to start something. I got that and then it kind of grew from there when I used it. The stencil itself was cool, but then it just expanded!
That's the whole point of the stencils. Bridging the gap between hardcore artists and people that are just more casual with it. Where do you see yourself going with your art? Do you want to make some huge sort of masterpiece?
I love going back and forth between doing a small piece and then going on to do a huge piece. I haven’t done too many. But that’s my passion to do something like “ Oh, wow, that’s something else!”. Because every time I look at it, I do that to it “Wow, I can’t believe I did that!
One of the things that a few people ask is why would use Febo if I can just use a soldering iron. What would you say to people like that?
Well, I have a background in permaculture and it’s just special to be able to just sit in the sun and use the power of the sun to create. And here and then I use natural materials like reeds. You can find those all around the river bottoms and the beaches here. It’s a perfect medium. For example, I burn the holes first and then I burn the design. And that worked. It’s a flute.
Oh, that's so cool! How do you find it on round surfaces?
Awesome! It works perfectly!
I had actually burnt a kendama with Febo and it was super smooth to use. What kind of canvases do you see yourself working on in the future? What's the dream material you would want to engrave?
Wood it’s really my favorite. Every piece has a different smell. It’s like incense burning, it’s just something special. Moreover, the wood grain is different. And when you get on a knot, it has little oils coming to the surface and they bubble.
You know, I went to a boarding school out in the Alps. One of its core philosophies is to be in nature and appreciate living a simpler life. I brought some Febos there and they were gone within an instant. We had woodworking shops where people have made ukuleles and they were drawing their own ukuleles. It was so cool to see that once people get a hold of it, it's so fun to play with as well. Nowadays everything’s super fast-paced, so it's nice to see people taking their time and being a little bit more cautious.
I shared it with my nieces and nephews. They were jumping from one thing to another, and I sat with them. Once they get it, they just get going and they just sat there. They have a project and it’s amazing what they can do. It’s like magic.
It does bring out this sort of relaxation and peace with nature. It gets you in the zone, which is difficult nowadays.
Yeah, it’s definitely a therapeutic meditation.
I think that's the biggest difference between Febo and an electric pyrographer. Solar pyrography focuses the sunlight but also lets you concentrate while being outdoors. I don't know, what's your experience within this term.
Well, someone offered to give me an electric one. I made him a piece and he was like “Oh, that’s great. I have this soldering iron, do you want it?”. But I’m like “Actually, I don’t”, because I used to be on an electric computer all the time, I’d work through the night never sleep. This way I go out during the day in the set time and it’s like the natural rhythm.
Thank you Ryan for sharing with us your art! Of course, we hope your talent will inspire others to create with the sun in a completely natural way. You can support Ryan by following his work here. If you want to start engraving with Febo, you can read our step-by-step tutorial. Let your creativity shine and share your results with us, using the hashtag #madewithfebo.