Few painting techniques are as impressive as fumage or smoking. If using a pencil, a pen or a brush requires a certain mastery, fumage requires a higher level of skill. Today we present this technique, which was practiced by Salvador Dalí himself. From abstract allegories to realistic portraits, the forms obtained with fumage are a radical vindication of the ancestral and the natural.
What is fumage?
This is a pictorial technique that uses soot stains on paper as the basis of the work. This soot acts as pigment, which is born from the combustion of a flame located under the paper, which forces the artist to work face up or inclined in order to see and correct the outline of the flame.
For the development of this technique, the materials are basic and affordable. To generate the fire, the most common is to use a candle (it weighs little and it is easy to drive it), although it is also possible to use small blowtorches, lighters, carbides or even a cigarette.
Regarding the support, it can be thick paper (to prevent the flame from igniting), canvas, tinted paper, wood or plaster… In any case, the support must be fixed upside down, while the artist traces the drawing with the flame on the lower part. Subsequently, the support should be able to be moved to make the final details and finishes that the author considers, now, in a more comfortable position.
The surrealist origins of fumage
In the surrealism current of the 20th century, Wolfgang Paalen was one of the artists who claimed this technique, in order to connect with the most ancestral and natural part. Dalí also used it, under the name of sfumato. In his case, he used soot as a base for his oil paintings.
It should be noted that fumage is a technique that offers a background of chiaroscuro and tanned tones where the artist can later develop, with other paints and techniques, finer figures. In this way, the sinuous shapes with fire can be transformed into hyper-realistic elements in black and white, or combined with other oils or inks to trace elaborate details, always painted on the same support.
Sometimes, fire -that wild and uncontrollable element- traces unplanned shapes, small “accidents”. It is in these situations where the artist must creatively show mastery of technique. From these unexpected forms may emerge portraits, flowers, landscapes or metaphysical scenes inspired by a dream. The limit, once again, is set by the originality and skill of the author.
Today – and for some years now – one of the most renowned artists in the technique of fumage is Steven Punk, a true master of fire. His works are a delicate dialogue between flame, paper and brush. Here we share with you some of his impressive works, where you can see the combination of several techniques:
What do you think about fumage, did you know about this technique and would you dare to try it? Don’t forget to leave us your comment.
See you in the next post 🙂