Painting with Fire
Fire paintings begin with markings that can
range from precise hard-edged shapes to range from
precise hard-edged shapes to spontaneous and
gestural brush work. I paint with slips, engobes, stains
and glazes. Each is formulated for their color, texture
and responsiveness to the ash deposit and flame
marking produced in a wood-firing. By careful
placement in the kiln and a diligent attention to the
firing, the remarkable surfaces that only occur in wood-
fire atmospheres add dimension and richness to the
paintings. Informed human intention collaborating with
near cataclysmic natural forces. These paintings are
what remain after seven days of immersion in an
environment that ranges between molten volcanic and
the voids of deep space.  

After several years of wood-firing I began to make
connection between the shapes and movements of color
that were possible in the wood-kiln and the work of
contemporary painters. I write about this in “Japanese
Wood-fired Ceramics.”

Rothko, de Kooning, Kline and Irwin by Firelight
Wood-fired surfaces are equally rewarding to a modern art sensibility.
Natural ash glaze deposits often occur with the subtle soft edged color
shapes reminiscent of Mark Rothko. Flame may leave a mark as
serendipitous as a gesture from William de Kooning or Franz Kline. A wood-
fired form may exhibit a minimal austerity worthy of Robert Irwin. The
integrity of the materials vital to wood-fired ceramics is comparable with the
work of Martin Pruyear, David Nash, David Ireland or Andy Goldsworthy.
These connections are not unprecedented. The principles of wabi and sabi
that inform wood-fired ceramics have long inspired Western artists.

Fire paintings grew from my years of wood-firing. I
became inspired by the beauty of the wood-fired
surfaces I was creating on my tea bowls and vases. I
wanted to experience the beauty of the wood-fired
ceramic surfaces in a way that would allow me ongoing
appreciation and contemplation, just as I experienced a
good painting. I began to paint with fire.

Wood turns to ash and vapors composed of calcium,
potassium, soda, iron and manganese. These, at
temperatures in excess of 2300 degrees, undulating
through the kiln, carried by flame, combine chemically
with the silica of the clay “canvases” to create marks,
shapes, colors, and textures of infinite variety and
subtlety. These are the surfaces I seek. My paintings
begin blind at room temperature. I work with slips,
stains, engobes and glazes whose potential I
understand. I remember the range of colors and
textures they are capable of producing. And as I paint, I
must imagine them. For at room temperature, what will
be golden is dull white, turquoise is grey,  reds and
browns are pale tan. My best painting is done at 2300
degrees and above.
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About Fire Paintings