Julie Bender draws heat with animal drawings

Rodan sculpted in clay & bronze. Gauguin painted with oils. Cristo wrapped fabric. Julie Bender draws with heat. She practices the art of pyrography – the art of burning or scorching on wood. You may not have heard of it before, but pyrography has been around since the beginning of recorded history in Egypt and Africa. However, the art form has come a long way since then. Bender uses tools that are like a soldering iron but much more sophisticated. She can adjust the temperature and in turn control the shading, thickness, and other values of her line making. That, along with different tool tips and varying degrees of pressure allow her to create these remarkable and photo-realistic images. Her wood of choice is grade A northern maple veneer, sealed with protective finish. The natural motif she’s chosen is a fine match for her subject matter – the animal kingdom. Grouped into “Wildlife”, “Avian”, “Canine”, and “Equine”, her portfolio has something for every animal lover.

After we got over the impressive nature of Bender’s work, there were two qualities that stood out to us. It would seem that if an artist doesn’t have different colors, sizes of brushes, surfaces, etc. to work with then there would be a limit to how different each picture would look. But with the same type of wood and the same tool over & over, Bender is able to communicate very distinct surfaces and textures. The hair in a horse’s mane looks nothing like the hair of a snow monkey. The results she achieves appear limitless.

We also enjoyed the fact that some of the wood is left untouched on many of her pieces. This is probably a practical decision as well as an aesthetic one. It lets the grain of the maple become part of the image. The empty areas are an interesting contrast to her detailed mark making and remind us that these are not your typical illustrations.

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