This 14 by 22 mixed media painting is done on Arches 140 lb paper and began in an experimental water media workshop. As the colours and shapes emerged, I decided that it was to be a depiction of a forest fire. Our son Patrick is a wildland fire fighter and wrote the description below. Although I had not seen his writing until after I completed the painting, his words describe my image vividly.
“The Montana fires in 2000 were a bona-fide firestorm. We worked several night shifts near the head of the fire. There was a steady wind, sort of a suction effect, blowing along the ground toward the fire. Our firebreak was a forestry road. We patrolled below it, looking for “spotting” (new fires started by floating embers). We put out more than a few. But I do remember taking a break on the berm of the logging road. The fire was going full bore on the other side. We had goggles, so we would peek over the edge for a look. It was too hot to keep your head up for any length of time. on the other side was dense second-growth Douglas fir. the whole scene glowed red. it was hard to pick them out, but there were mini-tornadoes of embers moving amongst the trees. they kind of wandered around, then dissipated. “Fire devils” we called them. "
“The fire was classed as Rank 5, which meant there was a running fire along the canopy. But at night it was probably more like Rank 3. Stands would go up and balls of flame would separate from the stand and float above the tops. I assume this was burning gases released by the needles. We were only sleeping four hours a night, and they had been feeding us ephedrine pills to keep us up. So this probably contributed to the hallucinatory feel those night shifts had.The fire devils were about human height, about 4-5 feet. They looked very much like red versions of the Tasmanian devil cartoon character, when he is in his mobile state."
Featured in “Works on Paper”, October 2011