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Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land: Fire

November 17, 2020

Flame
Watercolour and gouache on burgundy pastel paper

Fire is natural light. We can cause fire to happen but it is a natural phenomenon and unpredictable in its shape and form which is as flickering and fluid as water. There are some similarities with the way fire and water behave visually; the explosive bursts of fire from natural causes or rockets exploding in the sky are not so different from fountains spraying water as pressure is released by a valve; fire can also pour down volcanic mountains. A difference is that we see water because it reflects light but fire is the light source. Visually it is the difference between the sun and the moon. In our thought processes when we depict fire we depict power and potential danger, even when this is in the form of a humble candle.

Burning off the Stubble
Watercolour; flames masked and rest worked wet in wet

Perhaps the disconnect between the power of fire which we harness domestically and its destructive nature, whether natural or harnessed for war is why we find the flickering flame so exciting.

Twin Vulcanism
Gouache

That’s the philosophy bit done! Now for a look at the candle;

Candle
Photograph:

The “halo” is not necessarily the sphere as seen in so many Christmas greetings cards. Note the blue at the base of the flame and bands of orange and yellow. Look at the soft glow of the top of the candle itself and tiny subdued highlights in the molten wax. The wick is barely discernible against the dark background here.

Lastly note how the reddish halo gradually merges with the dark ground; colours from dark orange to deep red before becoming indistinguishable from the red/black darks.

If you wish to make a candle study you may like to light a candle, taking sensible safety precautions and observe the colours you see. Your colours and tones may be very different from those in the photograph above so observation is the key to developing a realistic painting.

In 1982 to 1983 Gerhardt Richter made some very beautiful and photo-realistic oil paintings of candles, closely observed against different backgrounds. These look deceptively simple but are carefully painted with huge skill in handling the paint where gradual transitions from light to dark occur. References to these can be found on this week’s Pinterest board at:

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/jhall1282/lights-in-art/fires-candles-fireworks-bonfires/

Alongside works by;

Georges de la Tour: more candles and candle light; look at how faces reflect the candle light in his works

Joseph Wright of Derby: volcanic eruptions and a fire burning a cottage down at night

And Bonfires by the contemporary artist Brent Cotton.

This should supply you with plenty of ideas for next week’s painting. I would like to see work either from your imagination or a fire situation you have experienced; from an erupting volcano to a child’s birthday celebration or Christmas candle.

Looking forward to seeing

Your paintings;

Candle
Pastel by Heather
Match
Pastel by Heather
Fire: after Brent Cotton
Pastel by Shane
A Fire in the Forest: inspired by Brent Cotton
Pastel by Barbara
Candle in Cupped Hands by Jane
Pastel pencil on pastel paper
Christmas Candles by Ann
Watercolour
Candle by Ann
Charcoal and coloured pencil
Bonfire Night
Watercolour by Sarah
Bonfire from Imagination: Watercolour
Painted with brush and finger by Sarah
Candle in a Glass
Watercolour and pastel by Sarah
Candle and Reflection
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Toasting Marshmallows at Night
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Dwali Light
Pastel by John
Remembering the Fire at Windsor
pastel by Shirley
In Case the Power Fails
Watercolour by Shirley
Bonfire on the Beach
Watercolour by Liz
Forge
Pastel by Liz
Silver Cow
Pastel by Jan
Candle
Acrylic by Malcolm
Candle: see how a closer crop evokes a different response
Acrylic by Malcolm
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