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Zachary Aronson, the World’s Only Artist Who Paints with Fire, Dazzles at Gala


Arriving at the Children’s Hospital in LA for its red carpet gala, I was prepared for a spectacular evening. Galas are always black tie events, and with everyone dressed to the nines and a menu full of incredible food, the night promised to be unforgettable. I had also heard that our entertainment was going to be special: Zachary Aronson, literally the only artist in the world who creates portraits using flamethrowers and blow torches, was going to be there as well, painting pictures of guests. There was no way my husband and I were going to miss out on that.

Zach wasn’t hard to find even at a gala. I spotted him almost immediately, as he was set up in a corner and surrounded by a crowd of people, all curious about whether it really was true that a picture could be painted only with fire. Surely something else was needed? As I walked closer, I could see that Zach already had a model, a young woman in a dazzling black dress, and he was hard at work, moving a blow torch over what turned out to be a six-foot mahogany panel. 

He was being peppered with questions by the inquisitive crowd and answered each one without breaking his concentration. “CalArts,” he replied to someone. “That’s where I got my degree in art, but I started painting with fire when I was a student at USC.”

I was impressed. CalArts is one of the finest art schools in the world, so Zach had some serious credentials. I watched for a little while longer, noting how he was gradually deepening the burn in the wood. I couldn’t see any details yet, so I decided to leave for a short time and return later to check on his progress.

I mingled for a while, talking to some of LA’s movers and shakers, but I kept one eye on Zach, who continued to work on his portrait. My curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I went back to see how the portrait was coming.

In only 45 minutes, the portrait had undergone noticeable changes. The large burn was now more defined, and I could see that he was working on bringing out his model’s hairline as well as her neck. Other gala attendees joined me to admire the emerging portrait and to ask more questions. 

“More than 100,” Zach told a woman who wanted to know how many portraits he had already created. “I have most of them in my LA studio, where I paint people’s portraits.”

“Have you done any gallery showings?” I asked, smiling as I saw Zach bring out his model’s chin.

“Yes, eight,” he replied. “Most have been here in the LA area. I’ve also done many private events, including office parties. This is definitely something people haven’t seen before, so it makes the night even more fun for everyone.”

The president of my company waved at me from across the room, and I excused myself to catch up. When I could finally break away thirty minutes later, I saw that Zach had finished his portrait. I slowed down as I approached it, my eyes taking in all of its details. From the swirl of the hair across the shoulder to the irises of the eyes, the portrait really was extraordinary.

As Zach and his model stood by the portrait, I felt respect for what he could do. Fire is traditionally a destructive element, yet Zach had found a way to work with it to make it be creative. He had a synergy with fire that allowed him to do what no one else could do: make art using only wood and a flamethrower or blow torch.

As the gala’s main event started, I slipped away but not before telling Zach I believed he had something important to show the world. “Thank you,” he answered. “In the end, I am not sure how much of this is really about me. This is about my hands and what they can do with fire. I just let the portrait unfold as it will. Without fire, I am an artist among so many others. With it, I have a medium that I use to express the essence of my models and share it with the world.”

For more information on Zachary Aronson and his ability to paint portraits using only fire, please see:

Website: www.zaronson.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/zacharyaronson

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