Fire is a natural element that pushes an artist to take on the qualities of the element: powerful unrestrained organic force. When painting fire, oils and colors take on a life of their own, as it is effective to paint quickly and without overthinking the thickness, direction, or shape of the wild paint streaks and dabs flying from the brush. When painting as if directed by the energy of flames, the illusion of fire naturally appears. The degree of realism varies, but fire is understood from the gradients of reds, yellows and blacks. Often, subtle and blended shapes create a more natural looking fire, such as in “Forest Fire“, a tribute to fire fighters.
Fire can also be depicted in a more symbolic way, such as in “Eagle takes down Owl“. Through exaggerated shapes and stark colors, rather than subtle tones and blending, the flames look almost as if cut from paper and pasted in. When producing a metaphorical or storytelling representation of fire, heavy lines and sharp angles bring drama to the piece. Action is loud, and when the colors and style are bold, action is conveyed. Also, bending the fire like waves mimics a second natural element of water. Combining the two elements creates an outer-worldly fantasy image.
Fire is recognized by the color scheme and energy that comes from gradients competing for space on the canvas. Colors jumping in and out of a block of dark reds and oranges create an illusion of fire. Whether the flames jump in wild, active, sharp lines and shapes, or if the darting of color is subtle, blended, and smooth, the energy of fire is what brings emotion to the piece. In this last example, “Guardian Angel“, fire may even convey profound sadness.
Fire may be depicted as a quiet (and strangely beautiful) danger like in “Forest Fire”, as frenzied action like in “Eagle takes down Owl”, or as a moving story like in “Guardian Angel”. The direction the fire takes is up to the artist, and how a person feels while viewing the art is up to that individual. Painting fire is an emotional artistic challenge, and viewing fire in art is an emotional human experience.