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May 22, 2015

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Doodle: Burn & Scorch, an art experiment

03-06-10_1537 Here’s a snapshot of a doodle I did clear back in freshman year of high school. The entire thing was a spontaneous experiment, an exercise in artistic exploration. I took this here doodle of mine then burned and scorched it to come out with this. It’s an experiment I enjoyed and occasionally revisit every few years.

  • Be extremely careful if you try this, you do so at your own risk. Paper is highly flammable, as I’m sure you know.
  • The way I do the burning and scorching is via an extremely controlled environment and manner with safety being the top priority, paying full attention to it.
  • Most people should probably never even attempt this.
  • I don’t recommend doing this often. People tend to get complacent and casual in habitual practices. Lighting stuff on fire is not a casual thing and should never be taken lightly or abused.
Here’s How I did this experiment:
  • I started with pen and doodled during class while the teacher was discussing something.
  • When I began to see shapes taking place I strengthened and enhanced those impressions and lines with my pen.
  • I sketched in the letters for the words I had chosen to compliment the image that had emerged - “Evil Dwells in the Hearts of Men”
  • Next I enhanced the shape and style of the lettering.
  • Then I thought I was done, put it in one of my school folders and randomly glanced at it during normal school activities. There it remained until one night of too much homework.
  • I pulled it out and stared, thinking this isn’t done yet huh… needs fire.
  • So I went to the kitchen got a mixing bowl, swiped one of my parents lighters and took them and the drawing to the bathroom.
  • I set the drawing aside away from the water, and filled the bowl most of the way full with water and placed it on the counter next to the sink in case the controlled burning of the paper got out of control. I also made sure no towels or other flammable items were anywhere near the sink. Also I left the door open and ensured that my two youngest sisters (who at the time were very young but old enough to attempt monkey-see monkey-do, and run in and jostle me), volatile step-dad and anxious mother weren’t around or wouldn’t be underfoot, my sis AJ appreciated art experiments and didn’t need to be avoided.
  • I brought the drawing closer then proceeded to spend about 10 minutes igniting the lighter. I suck at starting lighters.
  • Once I had a long flame going from it I picked up the drawing and carefully brushed it up against the paper, while holding it directly over the sink (in case the flames got larger than anticipated so I could drop the paper into the sink immediately and to catch any pieces that burned off).
  • I burned the edges all around and in further some places than others very slowly and only a small section at a time, this is where the flame gets it’s largest & has to be monitored very carefully and blown out once it reaches the desired point on the paper. At times I needed to slightly wet my fingers in the bowl of water and snuff out the still slightly smoldering edge.
  • I scorched parts of the interior image by holding the lit lighter below the underside of the paper not touching it with the flame. This typically took only a few seconds and I pulled the paper away from the flame quickly before it could do much to it beyond that, though the first scorch I did was too close to the paper and held there too long, I’m sure you can tell which one that was.
  • I made sure the artwork had cooled before I was done. When using matches rather than lighters be sure to wet the match thoroughly before throwing away, though I recommend lighters over matches for this. Lighters are easier to control, matches have that sulphur smell that could be a costly distraction (the burning paper smells like cooking flour tortillas I thought, which made me hungry), also having to light new matches through out could cause a grave error.
  • Luckily I have never needed to use the bowl of water beyond wetting my fingers to extinguish slight smoldering. But it’s the time that one forgets to have the bowl of water that it’ll be needed most.
  • I put away the supplies and kept the lighter. This experiment also kept my urge to play with fire safely in check, by busting it out every few years, well that and burning things like sprite boxes at campfires to see pretty colored flames. Fire pretty, it’s a thing I have to face. Yep, fire like shiny is compelling to me. Better to tame the beast than for the beast to tame me. At least for me anyhow, I imagine others with stronger compulsions for fire and less discipline would not be able to tame it this way.
Remember this is an experiment that must be done very carefully in a controlled environment or not at all.
Anyhoo, hope you found that brief artistic foray into mild pyromania an interesting diversion.

Who has ever tried using controlled fire as an art supply before? What safety precautions do you use? What types of effects have you developed?

Who has a workshop set-up for art or making that incorporates fire or burning, scorching and melting, or even kilns in someway? Who uses Photoshop (etc) to develop effects like this in digital art? How’s that going?



Be safe artists.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I can see me burning down the whole house...

Christina Nabity said...

Best not attempt it then. I think most people shouldn't. Usually I'm an uncoordinated chickadee, with a capital klutz. For some reason though not with this type of experiment.