St. Charles artist Anne Ressman Zabinski has been painting with acrylics, watercolors and alcohol inks for several years, but sometimes she exchanges the brush and colored pigments for a candle and flame to create her abstract images with smoke. This technique of painting with smoke is called fumage.
The idea came to her two years ago while sitting around a campfire, and she wondered if anyone had ever made a flame dance across a canvas.
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She discovered artists Wolfgang Paalen and Antonio Muñiz, and after seeing their work, said "I knew right then that I wanted to be a fumage painter."
Ressman Zabinski gathered all the information she could, along with a variety of tools, canvasses and candles and taught herself the technique.
Her canvasses range in size from small to medium and in materials from ceramic tiles to clayboard to actual canvas material. Designs and markings vary in looks depending on the distance of how near (or far) she holds the flame to the canvas. She then manipulates the sooty residue using water, carving tools, erasers and other tools. Sometimes she layers acrylic paints or alcohol inks into her artwork.
Ressman Zabinski says she connects so much to the surrealist art form because it's all about movement.
"Fumage enables to me to be a part of the art. I'm holding a candle that produces fire, and I'm moving around, just like the universe does and the earth does. ... That couldn't make me happier.
"I become part of the canvas, I become part of the tool to put those images on the canvas."
Ressman Zabinski says people often ask her when and why she became an artist, but she can't pinpoint a date. "I've always been an artist. ... It's a part of me, like an arm. I can't imagine it not being a part of me."
She says her life experiences are what have helped her develop into the artist she is today, and she expresses those experiences through her art.
"You don't just wake up and become something. It's really deep inside of everybody," Ressman Zabinski says of artistic drive and creativity. "It's when it gets to the top and you do something with it, that's when you finally have become an artist."