Self-taught artist Julie Bender is a master of pyrography – the art of drawing with heat. She combines this artistic talent with her love for animals and nature to create incredibly detailed sepia works of art.
Pyrography, the art of burning or scorching a natural surface like wood or leather with a heated tip or wire was first practiced thousands of years ago by the Egyptians and African tribesmen attracted by the power of fire. Impressive as it was in its early days, pyrography has come a long way since then, especially since Melbourne architect Alfred Smart discovered a way to pump benzoline fumes through a heated hollow platinum pencil, thus creating an instrument that allowed artist to create tinting and shading, which were previously impossible. In the early 20th century, the invention of the electric pyrographic hot wire machine took the ancient art to a new level, and modern tools have become so advanced that they allow artists to modify burning temperatures and create a variety of tones and shades.
Julie Bender earned her degree in Fine Arts in 1980, but it wasn’t until 2002 that she discovered the art of pyrography and decided to dedicate herself to unraveling its secrets. The self-taught artist found inspiration in her love for animals and nature, and started creating incredibly detailed wildlife images in sepia color. She begins the artistic process by compiling photographs and penciling her subjects on a well sanded piece of wood hand-picked for a specific composition. Julie uses a small selection of burn tips, tiny enough to allow her to burn through her artworks with precision. It’s a slow process that requires slow burning while building layers gradually, but she embraces the challenges of this difficult medium and acknowledges the patience needed to complete each masterpiece.
“This unusual medium still has me marveling over the fact that my subjects may be brought to life solely by applying heat to wood” Julie Bender says, but it’s precisely the uniqueness of her art that attracts the attention of art lovers and collectors all over the world.
All Photos © Julie Bender