ON FIRE: Tuấn uses flame to draw. The work requires the utmost care. Photos courtesy of the artist
Huỳnh Quốc Tuấn, 28, a creative designer in HCM City, does not use regular paintbrushes to create his lively artistic 'paintings,' but uses fire instead.
The young man's living room is decorated full of special artworks created through the magic of flame.
His home has become a mini-exhibition of hundreds of works covering different themes, from peaceful villages, portraits and still life to wild animals. All were created by his talented hands moving flames across paper.
"During one of my university projects, I tried to practise carving pictures on wood but accidentally spilt a candle on a paper. The scorching imprints of fire on the paper attracted me. I discovered stains can create shapes, and an idea popped into my mind about drawing with fire," said Tuấn, a graduate of the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts, HCM City University of Technology.
"In the beginning, to be honest, it was a lot of trouble, and I continuously failed. The paper was too thin and was easy to catch fire quickly, so I could not complete a picture. After each failure, I drew more lessons to find new methods, from the chemical treatment of paper to new ways of burning and using semiconductors. Slowly, my paintings were formed and became more interesting."
NICE BURN: A 'painting' by Huỳnh Quốc Tuấn shows the miracle of flame in his work.
After nearly six months of research, Tuấn mastered the basic skills of creating art with fire.
He uses flames on paper, with a special 'fire pen' made himself. It requires a very high degree of meticulousness as just a little carelessness or lack of focus and the whole picture easily burns away.
"Unlike watercolours or oils, painting with fire requires absolute patience. Because if just a small detail fails, I have to discard the whole work and start over," Tuấn said.
The young artist revealed that making a correction with fire is impossible. There is no eraser, no delete button.
FEELING BLUE: A big challenge for Tuấn is creating colour. Besides the basic brown and grey of the burn, it took him four years to make blue.
Fire, wind and smoke are natural and inherently random objects, so they can only be controlled to a minimal degree.
"A big challenge for me is to create colours. Besides the basic brown and grey of the burn, I have added layers to get the wanted colour. I remember once making a picture, and it took me four years of research to find the expected blue," he said.
During the past few years, the artist suffered many burns and faced toxic fumes and chemicals but vowed to pursue his passion.
"The most difficult aspect is to control the path of the fire. Each picture must have unique details and its own soul. To do so, I have tinkered with and created specialised fire drawing tools," he said.
The randomness of magic flames gives each picture a unique feel, and it is not possible to create a second work exactly like the first.
It usually takes about three to four hours to complete a work. Some even take days, months or even years.
All are drawn using his talent, enthusiasm and diligence. Tuấn's paintings feel very close to life, and leave viewers feeling relaxed, with their imaginations stirred.
"It's amazing to create artworks by flames. Tuấn's paintings make me feel the miracle of human talent. Whenever I admire his works, I can see the lively and beautiful features of life, nature, people and animals. He is really a hardworking and devoted artist," said Nguyễn Linh Trang, a fan of Tuấn.
Trang is a first-year student at an art school in Hà Nội. She has been inspired by him and often tries to practise fire paintings but fails because she lacks patience and devotion.
After about seven years of engaging in 'flame art', Tuấn has created hundreds of works. Some say he should participate in a contest, but he paints just for his passion.
There are some artworks he keeps as souvenirs as they mark important milestones in his life.
The picture that makes him happiest is one auctioned by his company, TTT Architects. It features portraits of the company's board of directors.
"The painting was first valued at only VNĐ40-50 million (US$2,000), but then went for VNĐ7 billion and became a gift worth 14 months of salary to all the employees. I was very happy to bring such a meaningful present to my colleagues," Tuấn said.
FIERY PASSION: Huỳnh Quốc Tuấn, 28, a creative designer in HCM City, turns inanimate paper into artistic lively 'paintings' using a naked flame.
His Facebook fan page TUAN - Art Flame has attracted nearly 2,000 followers, and he has a collection of tools for painting with fire that fills five large shelves at his home.
With his hands smeared with faint marks from fire burns, Tuấn never regrets pursuing his passion. For him, painting with fire is an art which nurtures his soul. VNS