BY CARLA ALLEN The Coast Guard NovaNewsNow.com Over the past 60 years, Blair Brown of Barrington has pressed searing hot metal tips to wood in many different ways to create works of art that amaze and delight those who see them.
As a pyrographic artist or fire writer, he believes he’s chosen one of the most demanding forms of expression.
“You can’t make a mistake. You can’t paint over it,” he said.
“If you can’t sand it out you have to throw it out and start again,” he added.
To create his art he works almost in reverse, concentrating on dark areas first and leaving the light. He can only stand to do the burning in half hour spells because of the heat from the iron, the constant smoke coming off the wood and the intense concentration required.
Working mostly from photos he has taken, Brown enlarges a picture on the photocopier then uses carbon paper to trace an outline onto the wood. He prefers poplar but finds it hard to find, so he often uses Baltic birch. “The poplar is nice and white to give good contrast, it has no grain and no sap. When you do it on pine, the heat bubbles the sap out and you are always cleaning your tip,” he said.
He puts several coats of furniture oil on each piece to protect it when done and rubs it smooth with a fine steel wool.
Brown taught industrial arts at the Barrington High School and has spent time in Africa, Jamaica and the West Indies. Scenes from different countries are reflected in his art.
Over the years he’s been commissioned to capture many local fishing boats. His favorite work is a team of workhorses.
Up until a few years ago, Brown had never heard the term pyrography. When he discovered and joined the International Association of Pyrographic Artists (IAPA), the curator of the Pyrographic E-museum was so impressed with his work, she provided him with his own ‘salon’ online. “I love the way his works are a surprise,” said Kathleen Menendez, who also cofounded the IAPA. “He looks at things with an open mind and a fresh perspective. His works are luminous, yet nostalgic, too, as well as unpredictable. “Although you might describe them as photographic in type because of their accuracy and realism, they still convey something else that comes from the heart. “They still tell a story and evoke a deep feeling of connection to other people--no matter how different--and to times past,” she said.
Now that Blair is retired he says he has the time to work more on his pyrographic creations. “The detail doesn’t bother me. I can take as long as I want. My time is my own. I don’t do this for the money. I’ve done this at a time when it was not a hobby, it was a job and I have worked here Christmas Eve trying to get orders done for people. There’s no fun in that and I’ll never do it again. It’s for my own pleasure,” he said.