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Burn Wood, Baby, Burn. The Incredible Pyrographic Art of Julie Bender.

When I first came across these, I found it so hard to believe they were actually wood burnings. The intricate rendering of texture, the detail and the overall appearance seems as though it'd be virtually impossible to create with a pyrographic tool. Julie Bender has shown me otherwise.

NOTE: all the images in this post are copyrighted by the artist and may not be reproduced or used without express written permission from Julie Bender.

Wood burning (aka Pyrography) is an old-fashioned art and nowadays often reserved for camp arts and crafts projects. Artist Julie Bender elevates the centuries old tradition and depicts animals and birds with an incredibly deft hand - bringing hair, fur and feathers to life on a piece of maple wood.

Inspired by animals and nature – and her Canon EOS Rebel T1i digital camera – Bender's process begins by compiling inspiring photographs and penciling in her subjects on a well-sanded maple surface with a keen sense of composition and attention to wood grain.

Light-handed strokes and smooth, subtle shading using very tiny tips characterizes her technique. She finds her personality well-suited for the challenge of this exigent art form as well as the extreme patience and considerable time that is required of her work.

Julie, pictured above, states: “This unusual medium still has me marveling over the fact that my subjects may be brought to life solely by applying heat to wood.”

Below are a selection of some of my favorite pieces of hers. Many still available for purchase.

Wild Animals:

Her work consists of pyrographic renderings of wild animals, birds, dogs and horses. Each work is produced on grade A northern maple veneer, sealed with protective finish, signed on front and back and individually numbered and dated on back.

Equine / Horses:

Avian / Birds:

Canine / Dogs:

A background of Pyrography from Julie:
Pyrography, the art of burning or scorching on a natural surface was an art form practiced since the dawn of recorded time by Egyptian and African tribesmen fascinated by the mysterious beauty and power of fire. Defined in traditional terms, pyrography is the art of drawing with fire; using a heated tip or wire to burn or scorch designs onto natural surfaces such as wood and leather.

In the late 19th Century, Melbourne architect Alfred Smart discovered a way to pump benzoline fumes through a heated hollow platinum pencil in order to improve upon the pokerwork process and allowing the addition of tinting and shading that previously were impossible. In the early 20th century, the development of the electric pyrographic hot wire wood etching machine further automated the pokerwork process.

Modern day pyrography is typically done with solid-point tools, which resemble but are more sophisticated than soldering irons or hot wire tools. These tools are electrically heated by equipment that may allow temperatures to be adjusted, thereby producing a great range of natural tones and shades. Subtle or bold effects may be achieved, depending on many factors, including heat, pressure, type of wood or surface, and tool tips used.

Julie's technique is to use tools that allow her flexibility to develop her unique style. Light, gradual strokes and smooth, subtle shading are her hallmark in attaining fine detail in each work of art. When it comes to pyrography, Julie considers herself a purist. The wood and grain she uses is selected carefully for best composition and aesthetics.

"Borrowing from the ancient craft of wood-burning, I attempt to portray the natural world in fresh ways to express my profound appreciation of animals and nature. I am moved by the graceful synthesis of a smooth wooden surface and the heat infused within to create rich sepia. As I ‘paint with heat,’ I feel a certain parallel between the wild and natural spirits that embody my subjects and the organic and distinctively unforgiving nature of my medium." - Julie Bender

NOTE: all the images in this post are copyrighted by the artist and may not be reproduced or used without express written permission from Julie Bender.

See (and purchase) all of Julie Bender's beautiful work here.

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