This book is the collected images of Joanna Walitalo's first five years of woodburning artwork. Pyrography, the use of heat or fire to create an image, is an uncommon and sometimes under-appreciated media in the art world and commonly considered more of a craft. Joanna, like many other Midwest kids, was given a craft wood-burner when she was young, tried it once or twice, burnt herself and subsequently put it away. Many years later, she picked it up again, and this time stuck with it, pushing herself to create high detail, realistic artwork. Her professional background in biology, environmental policies and forestry led her to the idea of incorporating what she had learned about wood products into this unique art form, using her skills as an artist to spread the message of love, beauty and respect for the environment and our natural resources. The concept that all of her work is done on scrap wood builds an ethic of recycling into each piece of art.
The name J. Walitalo was chosen because it covers both James and Joanna, a husband and wife team. The Walitalos enjoyed this hobby, where they could work together, James preparing and finishing the wood on which Joanna does her artwork. "It is very satisfying to work together to create something unique and special, especially when I can do it with my best friend," Joanna reflects, referring to her husband James. No two pieces are the same because of the wood--each piece is a different size, species and grain. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right piece of wood for a particular image or to find the right image to fit a particular piece of wood. Each piece of art is done freehand, either drawing from life or from looking at reference photos.
"Joanna's vision is honest and straightforward. Walitalo loves wood, and she thoughtfully integrates the natural design of the various wood grains and knots within her rendering. Under Joanna's experienced craftsmanship, scraps of basswood, pine, curly maple, etc. become her partners in the creative process. Walitalo's drawings are a wonderful example of the artist uniting her life's passions with her perfect expressive medium." --Michael Volker, Assistant Professor (Lecturer III) Painting and Drawing, CMU
"An extraordinary convergence of art, personal experience, growth and utilization of a renewable resource as a canvas. The narrative depicts and shares with the reader the thinking of the artist, her experiences in life and in her work. Joanna Walitalo has created a collection of artwork that utilizes pyrography to recognize people, nature and landscapes, and brought it to a single work that shares wood, nature and life." --Andrew J. Storer, Dean, College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, MTU
"Joanna Walitalo has an amazing capacity to recognize the personality of her subjects-both animal and human-and infuse that element into the finished piece. Using fine lines in either ink or pyrography, she brings forth the character of the time and place in her art. Her ethics of recycling wood that has either been rejected or has passed its time of usefulness as a product, lends heart and value to her work. This is an artist who loves, understands and values the natural world and can bring nature right into your home. Incredible!" --Barb Rogers, Manager, Wildlife Recovery Association, and retired art instructor