October 7th, 2020

Oct 7, 2020

Image: Nancy R. Davison


I have been trying to paint the terrible beauty of wildfire for years. My watercolors are pretty but lack the power and the threat of uncontrolled flame. My interest was basically esthetic and generically humanitarian until a few weeks ago when the Oregon fires threatened my sister’s house in Eugene. She watched the Holiday Farms Fire, upwind and 12 miles away, grow and spread as reported by local news. Packed their cars. Put Go bags by the back door. Taped the windows against the heavy smoke and hazardous air. I waited and watched with her through our nightly phone calls. Wildfire suddenly became an immediate and urgent subject.

I went back to my printmaking to find that messing about with different layers of  printer’s ink gave images of unpredictable intensity and brilliance.

For this piece I rolled out a stripe of yellow, dropped the paper face down on the inked glass and rubbed the back to transfer the color to the paper. Leaving the paper pinned in place, I peeled it back, cleaned off the yellow and rolled out the orange. I used a card to scrape out the whites. Then I pulled the paper back down and rubbed it to print orange over yellow and white. I applied the dark red with a piece of matboard, working into the printed surface – adding darks and details, balancing the composition. 

The air in Eugene is mostly clear with hints of distant smoke. The Holiday Farms Fire is contained and the wind has shifted. My sister and brother-in-law have resumed their daily round, their long walks in the afternoon. ‘Normal’ is just a memory. The drought and the unseasonable heat continue as fires flare up and fade from British Columbia to Baja.

Nancy R. Davison