Quebec artist Steven Spazuk works with unusual media: He paints with fire and soot. Using a technique known as “fumage,” the artist uses open flames to create soot on paper, and then uses a variety of utensils, including knives, brushes, and feathers, to scrape away the black top layer, revealing the white underneath. The resulting images are ethereal and (literally) smoky, ranging from free flowing soot-sketches of the human body to surprisingly detailed portraits of birds. Spazuk has posted a number of videos of himself working online; they depict a mesmerizing process in which the flame seems to spontaneously reveal images on paper.
In an interview with Bored Panda, Spazuk explained how he began using his distinctive technique, saying,
The truth is that I dreamt of it. I was in a gallery (in my dream) and was looking at that black and white landscape and I knew that it was done with fire and completely understood the technique. In the morning when I woke up I remembered that dream and started to experiment. The first attempt at drawing with fire that I made did not work out very well. Sure enough the first paper I put the flame on caught fire. I soon realized I had to use a cardboard paper, one that was thicker and more coated than mat paper.
Spazuk also discussed how he deals with some of the practical complications that arise from working with fire and soot:
The biggest challenge in the beginning was to keep the drawings intact. It took me lot of testing with fixatives and spray varnish. Now I can say that I am mastering the spray varnish. You need a really fine spray and you need to shoot at a certain distance.
Although the Spazuk’s finished work is beautiful, the videos of him “painting” are lovely and hypnotic in their own right.
Watch full videos below, and check out Spazuk’s YouTube channel for more.
Images: YouTube (8)