Tapping Into the Magic of Fire and Smoke to Make Marks

Today’s featured artist works with an element that I am forever in awe of: fire. Lawrence Terry has discovered a way to harness its power and predictable (if potentially dangerous) qualities. His mark making techniques involve manipulating fire and smoke to create abstract, mixed-media art that is “built.” Here’s a glimpse of a feature article on Lawrence and his work in the new issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.

Abstract mark making ideas
Where the Ocean Meets the Sky by Lawrence Terry. Photo by Timothy Hill.

Barb Delaney: I’m fascinated by the use of fire in your art. Was it a “happy accident” that led you to use it, and how did it change your art?
Lawrence: I was introduced to fire in a Raku ceramics class and a welding class during the same semester at Louisville School of Art in the 70s. A few years later I had a candle burning and started playing with the smoke and a piece of paper to explore the carbon effect. The rest is history.

Lawrence Terry, mixed-media artist
Lawrence Terry at work.

Barb: Tell us about some of your experimenting. Fire can sometime have a mind of its own . . .
Lawrence: Fire does have a mind of its own when it’s independent of someone working it and directing it. I think my greatest experience of pure discovery was working with a candle and the ranges of color smoke is capable of creating.

Paige Martin: Tell us more about your “burnt and smoked hues” and your technique for carving lines into paper.
Lawrence: The burning is mechanical. I use a torch, which produces hues in the sepia family. Smoking is more organic because I use a candle flame. The candle flame produces colors in the carbon family that range from deep black to whispers of grey, which is more cloud-like. Line carving is done with various tools, including a Dremel.

Paige: But paper seems so fragile for a Dremel.
Lawrence: The 300-lb. Arches paper I use is not fragile at all. It’s quite structural. Consequently, it will receive carving almost like a very thin layer of wood.

Read the full feature article about Lawrence, his techniques, and his artwork in the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. In it, you’ll also find a wide variety of mixed-media art techniques, including some that will surprise you. Editorial Director Jeannine Stein explains: “Tracy Verdugo, author of the book Paint Mojo, helms the new Art Mojo column, offering innovative approaches and techniques for painting. And in the new column Make Your Mark, artist Jennifer Coyne Qudeen shows you how to add mark making to your artwork with intriguing shapes, lines, and spots to make it even more unique.”

How exciting! Browsing this issue has me newly motivated to get out my sketchbook and start making marks! How about you? What are you going to work on next? Tell me in the comments below and inspire others as well.

Until next time,


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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