Flame thrower: Lawrenceville artist Erica Elle uses a blowtorch to create her vibrant paintings

This paint ”scientist” has a technique that goes way beyond a paintbrush
Erica Elle

Photograph by Gregory Miller

Forget paintbrushes. Artist Erica Doggett-Alphin, who goes by Erica Elle, wields a blowtorch to create her kaleidoscopic paintings.

In the garage studio of her Lawrenceville home, Elle pours a mixture of turquoise, yellow, gold, and dark blue alcohol-based paints onto a resin-covered canvas. She dons a face mask and fires up the blowtorch, hitting the canvas directly with flames. When they settle, the colors marble to form an abstract painting that is vibrant and cryptic.

“I’m a scientist in a lab,” says the Memphis native. “I started playing around with resin and alcohol-based paints, and when I mixed in fire, it made a flame. When the flames went down, I noticed that it created really cool textures. I realized that I could put color on top of it and it looks really beautiful.”

Erica Elle

Photograph by Gregory Miller

It’s a form of fluid painting, deliberately spilling paints and manipulating them without the use of traditional brushwork. Elle picked up the technique about three years ago. She often does them with “dirty pours,” where she mixes the colors together in a cup before pouring them out on the canvas. Her palette runs from intensely bright hues to moody dark neutrals, with craters and ridges that evoke a moonscape.

“I manipulate the flow and texture of the paint by hand, gravity, and direct application of fire,” she says. “All of my pieces tell where I was in my life. From the colors and the movement in the piece, you can tell how I was feeling that day.”

Erica Elle
“Caribbean Shores,” $200

Previous work has included portraits of iconic women, such as Dorothy Dandridge, Frida Kahlo, and Nina Simone. Buy prints or inquire about originals and commissions at ericaelleart.com.

This article appears in our Summer 2018 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.