Incendiary Tactics

artist Eric Lee has a fiery visual technique

Theresa Schneider, photos by Andrea Paulseth

It’s pretty rare that an artist gets very far by setting his or her work on fire. That is, unless, the artist is local painter Eric Lee.

Lee uses a technique called oil with mixed processes to create his work, but the process isn’t as easy as it sounds. “It’s definitely a multi-step process,” Lee said.

He tries to incorporate household products, such as furniture stain, fire ash, and toilet paper to texture and color his canvases. After that, he adds a little fire.

Sprinkling his work with gunpowder and different dried plants, Lee ignites the gunpowder to create the backdrop for his oil painting. But instead of actually allowing his work to catch fire, Lee uses pressure to smother any flame – a technique he calls “blasting.”

“It really is just a big plume of smoke,” he said. “It’s a harmless, but effective way to make marks on a canvas. … I’m using it as a device to see where I’m going to paint. Sort of as a stain on a wall.”

While blasting itself doesn’t take long, Lee said some of his large pieces can have as many as 40 different blasts, all of which are done before Lee even begins painting.

The Dead and Dying of the Analogue World, a collection of oil paintings by Lee, are now on display at Infinitea Teahouse, 112 E. Grand Ave. Drew Seveland, co-owner of Infinitea, said the thing that captivates him most about the new art exhibition is the crispness of the painted lines. And he isn’t the only one noticing. Regular patrons of the teahouse are already responding positively, he said.

“Everybody appreciates the art ... they appreciate the different textures and how painstaking something like this is to make,” Seveland said.

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