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The Intricate Art of Painting with Fire

October 31, 2019

Here’s something you probably haven’t seen before! When you visit Morpeth Gallery over the weekend of 23 and 24 November you witness ‘Fire-Painting,’ when artist Maegan Oberhardt from Victoria will use candles, wood and a blow torch, dancing the flames across her drawing to put carbon soot onto her drawings and then using various instruments, brushes, stones, knives and steel objects to remove parts of the carbon. Eventually, a portrait emerges from the carbon footprint left behind from the flame.

The delicate and lengthy process of painting with fire results in unique artworks that feature birds, animals and insects such as butterflies.

This method, known as fumage, was created by cavemen and has since been used by Salvador Dali. The artist holds a flame close to the image drawn onto thick artist paper – and lets the fire blacken patterns onto the surface, before adding in extra details, using a paintbrush to create intricate portraits. 


“The soot lays on the surface of the thick paper. It is very fragile at that point in the process - so fragile that an insect could walk on the surface and it would leave their trace. I can then scratch the surface by just touching it with various types of tools. I like using real feathers to draw feathers when I am working on a bird,” said Maegan. 

Megan says that the process is only as dangerous as having a candle-lit dinner: “For me, spontaneity and chance are what make my creative process effective," she added. 

Thirteen other artists from around Australia will also be in the gallery painting in more traditional methods. These artists are the very best in their fields with some being world champions, like John McCartin who has just won another eight medals in the American Art Awards which is contested by tens of thousands of artists from 63 countries around the world. 

While he is best known for paintings of cows he has also picked up the quinella in still life painting –coming 1st and 2nd in America. James Hough, who after his win in Canada for best wildlife in the competition, has had his images displayed for every month on the 2020 Australian Geographic Calendar. Natalie Parker, John Bradley, Werner Filipich, Max Mannix and John Vander also have 2020 Calendars available for sale on the day. 


Find Morpeth Gallery at 175 Swan St, Morpeth. The gallery is open from 10am until 5pm, Thursdays through to Sundays. Entry is free. 


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