Can you paint without colors? Yes, you can! This amazing artist has been doing it for the past 16 years! He’s Steven Spazuk and he creates delightfully delicate work on canvas using black carbon soot from a flame. No wonder he’s called the ‘fire artist’. He calls his technique ‘fumage’.
Spazuk’s technique involves trailing his tools over the remnants of a flame and creating his works with the resulting carbon soot. His pet subjects are birds, animals, insects, and various kinds of flora. Through his black soot impressions, he also tries to highlight the degradation being caused to our natural world. He shares on cbc.ca, “We need to go back to that idea that we’re part of a system and this ecosystem needs every part of it, so we cannot tolerate any extinction.”
This French -Canadian artist rightly claims he didn’t invent his signature technique, which has been around for centuries. In fact, the surrealist painter, Wolfgang Paalen, used it in the 1930s. Whereas this painter applied soot to oil-based paints in his works, Spazuk uses carbon soot directly from the flames. With the help of a candle or a burning torch, he singes the surface of paper or canvas and makes his art with the soot marks that are left behind.
If you think this process is easy, think again. It requires a trained hand to guide the flame on the surface of paper or canvas, lest it burns. After this, the soot is carefully scratched and removed to reveal the creation. For colored compositions, acrylic paint is applied to the canvas, before ‘smoking’ it with fire.
Spazuk was always interested in art since his childhood days. However, the idea of using carbon soot for art came to him in a dream and prompted him to develop his fumage technique. He honed his skill in creating art by means of smoke-like markings.
The uniqueness of this technique has certainly caught the imagination of the public. In fact, filmmaker Alexander Desouza has even made a short documentary about Spazuk’s fumage process. His works have been displayed in many solo and group exhibitions.