Do you remember when you were a little kid and you used a magnifying glass to look at bugs and leaves? Do you remember when you realized that if you caught the sunlight in the magnifying glass in just the right way you could set the bugs and leaves on fire?
Austronesian artist Jordan Mang-osan (not to be confused with Mango-san) is also using the sun to burn things at this home in the Philippines, but instead of frying bugs, he’s creating massive works of art.
▼ Look at that detail! And to think it was all done with a magnifying glass!
This art form, technically called pyrography, and colloquially “fire art,” “heat painting,” “poker art” or “wood burning,” is actually a pretty broad category encompassing any art resulting from making burn marks on a base material, usually wood. That means it can be done with piping-hot tools, burners or even lasers. But Jordan doesn’t need all of that fancy technology; all he needs is his trusty magnifying glass, oh and several months of sunny days.
▼ It’s a painstakingly long job, but well worth it in the end.
Luckily, his hometown of Tam-awan Village in the Cordillera Region of the Philippines seems to get plenty of sunshine. It’s also an art colony, so Jordan grew up drawing with pencils and charcoal, painting with acrylics and exploring mixed media, but his focus has always been solar pyrography.
Can you imagine using a magnifying glass to draw precise lines on a sketched image so detailed that most people probably couldn’t even color it in with a pencil? Yeah, me neither. But that’s part of what makes Jordan’s art so cool. After drawing a complex image on a sheet of wood, he sets to work for a tedious few months, harnessing the power of the sun to darken the wood in the necessary areas.
▼ Jordan tries to capture the spirit of his culture in each image.
His artwork is so detailed because he wants to accurately represent his people, community and culture in every piece. He explains that his art is more than just the burn marks on the wood: “For me… I think that it is a big help in tradition and culture, because as an artist you can preserve, develop or show to other cultures Cordilleran culture through art.”
▼Scenic views from the Cordilleran region of the Philippines.
▼Man, that must have taken forever!
Jordan’s art has gone on exhibit across Asia and Australia, so if you’re lucky, maybe an exhibit will make its way to your area someday. But if not, try busting out that old magnifying glass and giving solar pyrography a shot for yourself. Just don’t burn up too many ants in the process.