I think that if you had told me when I was five years old that I would one day work with flamethrowers and blow torches to create my portraits, I would have thought you were crazy. I’m not sure what my family would have thought. The closest I had gotten to fire at that age was when I sat in front of the fireplace during the wintertime and drew pictures of Santa Claus. It never occurred to me that one day I would be using fire instead of pencils to immortalize people in hardwoods, but I have never regretted changing mediums.
At this point in my career, after a decade as a fire artist, I am still scratching the surface of what’s possible with fire as my medium. It’s still new and exciting to me with every portrait I create. Just when I think I understand how to work with fire to create effects, it teaches me a new technique, and I marvel at how something so destructive can be used to create beauty. Sometimes I experiment and try an idea, as I did when I set fire to the wood the other day and made it crackle. Sometimes the flame shows me a different way to create texture in the wood, and I realize that I have gone a step deeper into the mysteries of fire and art.
While that continues to happen, I want to continue pushing this medium as far as it can go. I am not sure when I will hit that wall, the point at which I will have learned everything that fire can do. It raises the question, though, if such a thing even exists. What will really be the limiting factor: fire or my imagination? Fire has been around for several million years and is an age-old force on this planet. I, on the other hand, will only be here a century at most, so perhaps I will never live long enough to truly understand how fire can create art. Maybe, in the end, I will simply give the reins to the next generation of artists so that they, too, can explore fire painting and take it even further than I have done.
Regardless, if I ever get bored with painting portraits with fire, if I ever feel that I am not improving or innovating, that’s when I will likely move on. I don’t, though, see myself fully stopping working with fire. I think that it will always be an important part of my body of work and that I will go back to it at times. It’s become too much of who I am and of my life’s story for me to ever truly leave it behind me.
Innovation is so important to me and will always be a core part of my work. I want to continue to push outside the box until I create new forms of art. What if I set fire to dead trees? What could that create? Will there be a day when I can make entire landscapes? With enough space and resources, the possibilities are endless.
Will I ever reach the day when I move beyond painting with fire? Probably, be it in one year or twenty years. I will cross my bridge when I get to it. I will push past exclusively working with fire someday, but first, I really want to develop this medium as far as I can, as much as I can, so long as I am still excited by it.
That means, then, that fire and I still have plenty of time together. I cannot wait to see what it teaches me next and what that will mean for my art.