How to Draw Fire

April 1, 2009

The title phrase has shown up in my blog stats every day for about a year. 
What does fire look like?  Regardless of the art medium or style that you are using, you need to be familiar with what fire looks like and how it behaves.  Here’s the photo gallery at wildlandfire.com, the ultimate online resource for PICTURES OF FIRE.  Under the first heading, “Fire Photo Pages”, you’ll find 40 pages, each with several photos.  There are more photos at the bottom of the page under “Incidents by Name and Year”.
Symbols for Fire:  The Ironwing Tarot uses several symbolic techniques to represent fire in small ink drawings.  It shows fire, sparks, or smoke on 27 cards (Major Arcana and Spikes).  Many of these are rather subtle, since fire isn’t usually the main subject of the card.
Painting Fire:  Fire is surprisingly easy to render effectively in mineral pigments, especially against a dark background.   This egg tempera sketch shows a whitetail deer scapula painted in charred bone, with a smoky background painted with forest fire charcoal.  The fiery figure is painted in yellow ochre with red ochre accents.  Commercial transparent watercolor would offer more color options, but the idea is the same – keep it simple, with thin glazes of intense color against a darker, more neutral background.
Scapulimancy Fire

Scapulimancy Fire

Here is a rather stylized egg tempera painting of fire glowing in the earth, surrounded by charred thorns:

Fire and Thorns

Fire and Thorns

Previous posts on this blog that include fire paintings include a painting of an iron pomegranate with fire inside (rendered in realgar, not yellow ochre), and a painting of a pomegranate made of fire.
GREEN fire?  Yes, when copper ore is heated (or copper metal that has developed a green patina), it gives off green flames.  This watercolor miniature was painted in iron oxides and copper ores (red cuprite, green malachite, and blue azurite).
Copper Fire Bowl

Copper Fire Bowl

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