“The creatures that share our planet are not separate and distinct from us. They are us. Our treatment of them and the environment reflects our attitudes about ourselves. There is no us and them. There is only One. Dualities are an illusion, definitions of something that is intrinsically indefinable. In viewing my art I hope to inspire a connection and an awakening that fosters the awareness that we are all responsible for and deeply connected to and an inseparable part of the natural world around us.”-Sharon Bechtold Woodburning is a metaphor for life, the creation of art using a natural process and surface is a reflection of the cycle of life itself. The burning of the wood – destruction or death – gives birth to new life in an image embodied in the wood. It is only in working with the natural surface of the wood that true harmony is revealed. Unlike most burning artists Sharon works with the grain patterns of the wood using not only the movement of the grain but also wormholes, knots, and missing bark to enhance the image As in the traditional Japanese art of Sumi-e, it is Sharon’s goal to capture the Life Essence or Ki of the subject. Each burning is an intimate portrait revealing personality, emotion, and timelessness. It is her goal that the viewer connect at a deep level with not only the subject but also with the wood itself, and so realize the interconnectedness of us all in the never-ending circle of life. Each piece of wood is unique, its own history told within each line of grain and ring marking the passage of time. The grain pattern itself whispers possibilities for a painting. The burning instruments range from the open flame of a blow torch to various heated metal surfaces, soldering irons, and burning blades. Transparent pigment washes are used in conjunction with natural oil based wood stains to enhance the image while allowing the grain and character of the wood to remain prominent. The burning process itself is a highly sensitive experience. The smell of burning wood relaxes the mind and body. Fast burns contrast with slow burns trailing wisps of smoke. Texture created by the burning adds a tactile aspect to the artwork. A delicate dance between the artist, materials, tools and process ends in the final orchestration of image Of her work, Sharon says: “I’ve always enjoyed working in public, which is why I bring my tools and materials to each show I do. The interest, views, opinions, and just plain fun of hearing what people see in the wood, the art and their opinions and stories of their personal encounters with the animals. All of this fuels my work and keeps the process exciting and alive. During long projects it is not unusual that people will visit me at a number of different shows to check on progress of a piece. Last year I had the pleasure of doing the Sandwich Art Fair. For 5 days from morning to evening, I worked on a 6 1/2’ long slab of basswood. The scene unfolded as steam engines chugging through rocky tunnels and crossed perilous ravines through the mountains. Amid these dramatic scenes deer stopped to view the thunderous intruders. Visitors to the fair stopped by, gave their opinions and suggestions. The artwork unfolded as I asked what they thought and let the flow of their ideas guide the composition. What fun and excitement! The artwork sold to a couple from West Virginia two days before the end of the show They knew it would be fantastic and trusted that I would deliver a piece of art that they would love. Two weeks later it was delivered and they were thrilled. Most of the larger pieces I do in this manner sell before completion. But the sale is only part of it. The most important part of this process is the ability to interact creatively with the general public. Most people that stop by will not purchase any of my work. But they will contribute more than they can ever imagine! I do the physical work, but the input of the viewers is a huge component of the finished product. I just hope that in doing this I can help them also connect with their imagination and creativity so that they feel a sense of accomplishment too. It is my hope that people come to realize that ideas are huge parts of any endeavor be it art, government, or improving your personal life. The ideas always precede the work and the more ideas that come forth, the richer the tapestry that is produced.”~Sharon Bechtold As a third generation artist Sharon Bechtold grew up around a variety of art materials, tools and the encouragement that have been instrumental to her development. After completing studies in commercial art, fine art, and photography, Sharon worked as a graphic designer in the family business. Her oil paintings, watercolors, and pyrographs, have won numerous awards and been represented by galleries throughout the Chicago area. Since 1988 she has taught art both at the adult level and children’s classes. Since 2000 she has devoted herself to Pyrography, developing her own unique style, based on classical art principles, in order to render a realistic image guided by inspiration.