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 Biography :   Mr. Olceroglu was born in Eskisehir / Turkey in 1946. He is an Industrial Designer and Interior Architect. He met the art of pyrography in late 1950s. However the artworks he saw which were formed with plainly burnt lines or dots were not giving required artistic results for him. Then he improved the procedures of burning wood to enable him to obtain all medium tones of burnt wood color. He made his first fine art pyrography utilizing his own burning methods in the year 1965 when he was only 19 years old.
He is known as the first Turkish pyrographic artist who  made aesthetic artworks by burning the wooden panels in all medium tones.
Mr. Olceroglu generally prefers working on reviving the old engravings made by European artists in Istanbul centuries ago, during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. His aim is to save these beautiful documentary artworks from the pages of forgotten books and to introduce them to young generations.




Selahattin OLCEROGLU
and his sweet calamity, Bianco


A detail from
"An Ottoman Bride"



Topkapı Sarayı, Kubbealtı  

An art form by burning...
PYROGRAPHY .. "The Sepia* and White Technique..."

Fr:Pyrogravure De:Brandmalerei Esp:Pirograbado Ita:Pirografia Tu:Yakma Resim

*Sepia: The color of burnt wood, a derivation of brown.

· Description of the art of pyrography :
Pyrography was born as a decorative art technique used for applying motifs to wooden or other available objects using hot metal tips. In time, it was improved as an alternative to classical black and white (pencilwork) technique to make fine art paintings by burning the wooden panels in different tones utilizing heat controlled hot tips. Today, the art of pyrography is being used in two different methods: Decorative Method and Painterly Method...

Informative notes about the term “painterly” : The term painterly has been used in this web site in order to symbolize the professional rules and methods utilized by oil paint artists when they make their paintings in accordance with the criteria of fine arts (visual arts) concept. When we describe a pyrographic artwork as painterly, we mean that it has been made in the same manner as oil paint artists make their paintings. The term “painterly method of pyrography” refers to all common rules and methods (out of using paints) which enable pyrographic artists to make aesthetic artworks by burning the wood in all medium tones in the way to meet the criteria of fine arts concept. Some of the basic characteristics of painterly method of pyrography have been briefed below:

- Applying the procedures of black and white (pencilwork) technique perfectly, since the painterly method of pyrography (the sepia and white technique) is based upon this classical fine art technique.

-Depicting the shapes by means of solid masses of burnt wood color tones rather than by sharp outlines or contours.

- Burning the wooden panel in all required tones harmoniously and smoothly (without dots and spots) in order to capture the qualities unique to the art of pyrography.

- Burning the wooden panel  in required tones in the way to follow one another without gaps. Burning full surface of the panel wholly without leaving any unprocessed blank portion on the panel (e.g. the background) like oil paint artists do when they paint their canvasses.

- Utilizing standart shape wooden panels (square or rectangle) like the canvasses of oil paint artists, preferably larger than those small size panels generally used by pyrographic artists today. Utilizing larger panels especially when working wide angle themes with rich content in order to picturize all the details as required.

- All the rest of requirements for making painterly fine art pyrography are common with the rules obeyed by oil paint artists. These common requirements are explained in the criteria of fine arts concept which can be found in art encyclopedias or educational art web sites. The most important of them all is making original artworks aesthetically. Picturizing artistic photos taken by somebody else, imitating or reproducing the paintings of other artists are not welcomed in the world of art. Therefore, we kindly recommend pyrographic artists; “picturize your own original themes.” (Special note: When you notice that almost all of the pyrographic paintings on the left column are reproductions, we will just remind you an old Turkish saying: “Do what your master tells you, don’t do what he does!”)

Fine pyrographic artworks made into cross-cut wood or any wood panel in irregular shape, or leather, etc. are not considered within the category of painterly artworks. These type of pyrographic works are classified in the field of decorative arts while the painterly pyrographic artworks compete with the artistic quality of the products of other painting techniques in the field of fine arts.    

  · Decorative method of pyrography :
From the antiquity, this method of pyrography has been used for decorating wooden, leather or other available objects in several forms. Decorative works of today’s well known artists in this field can be seen in the link below, a link to the world’s first and foremost E-Museum of Pyrographic Art (Pyromuse) founded by Ms. Kathleen Menéndez of the U.S.A., respected pyrographic art author and expert.

Additionally, Turkish artist Husnu Zuber’s fine decorative works on wooden objects and Munir Erboru’s very exquisite calligraphic works written by utilizing Arabic alphabet and fine decorative motifs surrounding them can be viewed in the links below: KMenendez.html

· Painterly method of pyrography (fine art/visual art pyrography) :
This method of pyrography was practiced also in the past centuries, espacially in the 19th century for making fine art portraits and paintings. The pyrographic artworks of the 19th century artists like Ball Hughes of  the U.K., and J. William Fosdick and Charles H.F. Turner of the U.S.A. are being kept in some of the well known museums and private collections with special care. Every year, several unknown antique pyrographic artworks are being brought to the attention of art lovers through the research of Ms. Kathleen Menéndez and Ms. Susan M. Millis of the U.K., well known pyrographic art conservator who has the only known doctorate in the world dedicated to the conservation and restoration of antique and current pyrographic works. It is believed that, there are many other antique pyrographic artworks awaiting their rediscovery in the archives of the various museums of the world and in some of the  private art collections.

Images of some of the antique pyrographic artworks previously not brought into public view until today can be seen in the web address below and its links :

Today, the painterly method of pyrography is being practiced in many countries with increasing interest. This method of pyrography is being applied in two different ways. Some of the artists use only the color tones of burnt wood on their wooden canvasses (panels) by staying true to the original, natural and pure form of the technique; while the others apply mixed media techniques, by adding the colors of paints to the color tones of the burnt wood. The artworks of today’s well known artists of the painterly method can be viewed in the Portraits and Paintings Hall of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art, by clicking on the URL:

In paralel to managing the E-museum of Pyrographic Art, Ms. Kathleen Menéndez carries out another important mission by doing special articles about the works of world’s leading pyrography artists and those who make pyrography by using some interesting methods. Art lovers who want to learn more about the art of pyrography and especially those who have newly started practicing this art form are kindly recommended to look over all of these articles because they might help them to find out the most appropriate method of burning in harmony with their talents and artistic preferences. It is possible to reach these delightful documentary articles by clicking on the link below:

The artworks of pyrographic artists living in Turkey and other countries can be seen in the below pyrography web site as well, which was founded by Mr. Patrick Faleur of the U.K., one of the well known photography artists of the world.

It is possible to view the pyrographic works of other Turkish artists by searching the term yakma resim in the internet search motors. One of the praiseworthy names among these Turkish artists is Jak Ihmalian (1922 - 1978). His very exquisite and aesthetic works made by burning the wood with an old type soldering hammer can be viewed in the link below. Please watch carefully how gently he has used his very hot soldering hammer heated in open fire. Very gently, just like using an oilpaint brush…

· The place of the painterly method of pyrography in the area of fine arts and it’s future in the world of art:
It has been observed that, some art critics and experts have some hesitations on accepting the painterly method of pyrography as a branch of fine Arts and incline to define it as a handicraft technique. The main reason for these hesitations and inclinations is the use of a wooden panel and a hot metal tip in the painterly method of pyrography, instead of the classical cloth canvas and paint brush. Other reasons are that the pyrography tecnique was used for applying decorative motifs on wooden or other available objects for centuries and was known as a handicraft technique, whereas what the painterly method of pyrography is, and where it is today after the insistent efforts of some devoted masters of it are not known.

As it is clearly noted in the History of Art, the development of technology in the last few centuries has also affected the world of art and these effects have changed people’s way of looking at art and their classifications of the branches of art. For instance, branches of the fine arts like ceramics, stained glass, glass sculpture, engraving and photography, which were classified as handicraft techniques in the past, subsequently were accepted as branches of the fine arts in the last decades of the 20th century and included in the educational programs of the faculties of fine arts.

When the above variations are also taken into consideration, it is believed that the characteristics of materials used in the application of any art technique cannot always be seen as a reason for not accepting it as a branch of the fine arts. As a matter of fact, some kinds of artworks are being considered in the area of fine arts today, even if they are made by using different materials other than those classical painting materials like cloth canvas, oil paint, paint brush, etc.

The painterly method of pyrography is being used today successfully in the art of painting and should be critiqued for the artistic value of the work on the wooden canvas, instead of the characteristics of the materials used for making it. Some art critics and experts state that they are not authorized and able to critique the artistic value of these artworks because they have never seen any pyrographic painting before and do not have the expertise for making a comparison.

In fact, there should not be any problems in critiquing those pyrographic paintings which were made with the combination of burnt wood colors and the colors of paints, by using mixed media techniques. Because, it is believed that they could be considered familiar mixed media paintings as well, and could be critiqued by paying attention to the harmony amongst the colors of paints and the color tones of burnt wood.
And critiquing those pyrographic artworks, which were made only by burning the wood panel without adding the colors of paints, by staying true to the original, natural and pure form of the technique... Fundamentally, this form of pyrography is a different application of the black and white drawing technique which has been accepted as one of the basic and classical branches of the fine arts for centuries. The only difference is that, a wooden canvas and a hot metal tip are being used in  this form of pyrography instead of a sheet of paper and a pencil. And naturally, after the application of the pyrography technique, sepia color tones are being obtained on the wooden support, instead of the color tones obtained by a pencil on paper. This is the reason why Mr. Olceroglu defines this form of pyrography as the sepia and white technique. Consequently, the artistic value of such a pyrographic artwork can be critiqued by taking into consideration the same basic criteria used in critiquing a classical black and white drawing.

The art critics and experts are right when they state that, because they have not seen any pyrographic painting before, they are not able to compare, consequently critique, how successfully the artist has applied the procedures of pyrography on his wooden canvas in regard to other pyrographic artists. However, this problem will be solved in time, when the masters of the painterly method of pyrography will display their artworks more frequently and make relentless efforts to introduce this rare technique to the world of art. In parallel to this, art critics and experts are kindly expected to approach this unknown art technique in a positive manner, support and encourage it at every opportunity.

Today, the masters of the painterly method of pyrography worldwide, like Mr. Selahattin Olceroglu of Turkey, Mr. Dumitru "Dino" Muradian of Romania, Mr. Krasimir Hristov of Bulgaria, Ms. Lorraine Zaloom and Mr. Rodger Letkeman of the U.S.A., and all of the others whose works are exhibited in the Portraits and Paintings Hall mentioned above, have already improved the application procedures of this rare technique through their insistent efforts and prepared the required basis for young generations to practice it. After inspecting a perfectly made example of the painterly method of pyrography, it will be confirmed that, this art form deserves to be accepted as a branch of fine arts and that it has a great potential for creating its own Mona Lisas.

It is believed that; the painterly method of pyrography will be a well recognized art form in the future and that its masters who lived in the past, as well as its masters from future generations will take their honorable places in the history of art and in art encyclopedias together with their wonderful artworks, in the same way as the great artists and their wonders of the painting technique of fine arts are today.

· Pyrographic works of Mr.Selahattin Olceroglu:
Years ago, Mr. Olceroglu thought that the colors of burnt wood would match excellently with the character of old looking scenes, historical subjects, old buildings etc. However, the  application of the pyrography technique had to be improved in order to make it possible to produce artworks with the quality of other painting techniques and it might be possible only by burning the wood in different tones. He had never seen a pyrographic work before which was made by utilizing these burnt wood color tones but these colors had been displaying themselves in his imagination with all their liveliness. Then he designed a metal tip that would enable him to obtain all medium tones of burnt color on the wooden canvas. After  long and insistent efforts, he succeeded in forming his first pyrographic artwork in black and white method making use of  this hot tip in the year 1965, when he was only 19 years old. Research reports reveal that he is the first Turkish pyrographic artist who made aesthetic artworks in painterly method by burning the wooden panels in all medium tones.

Today, Mr. Olceroglu is known as one of the world masters of the painterly method of pyrography. He describes this art form as the sepia and white technique and considers it as an alternative to the classical black and white (pencilwork) technique. In his sepia and white technique, the tones of burnt wood color range from very light to very dark sepia on his wooden panels. He picturizes wide angle themes into his very large panels reflecting daily life scenes full of with many figures and motifs. He burns the full surface of his large panels in different tones like the paintings of oil paint artists without leaving any unprocessed, blank portion on the panels. His sensitive burning technique enables him to obtain possibly the highest quality of burning in all medium tones in harmony with the criteria of classical black and white pencilwork technique. All these characteristics of his working method make his artworks the unique and outstanding masterpieces of painterly method of pyrography. 

Mr. Olceroglu never uses any kind of paint on his works because he thinks that the colors of paints detract from the original form and the nature of pyrography technique and dilute the exquisite color of burnt wood, which is the basic and the only color of a true pyrographic artwork. In fact, he doesn’t even like his works to be called paintings because no paint is used when making them. He obtains all sepia color tones only by burning his wooden canvas with a hot metal tip at different heat levels. He applies the same technique when making the frame design on the same canvas, this time as a fine decorative work.

Mr. Olceroglu describes the formula of the painterly method of pyrography as simply “one percent talent and ninety nine percent patient and sensitive work.” Up to date, he has made many pyrographic artworks for the art lovers living in different countries of the world, from Brasil to Japan.

Mr. Olceroglu ‘s interesting story of starting pyrography and the other ideas of him concerning this exquisite art technique are told in an article written by Ms. Kathleen Menéndez. This article is being published in the address below :

Mr. Olceroglu generally works to revive the engravings of Old Istanbul which were made by European artists centuries ago. He explains the reasons of it as well as his final project about them in this way:

“These Old Istanbul engravings are the visual historic account of past reflecting the natural beauties, splendid historical buildings and monuments, social and cultural life, briefly all kinds of richness of Old “Magic” Istanbul to date. I love these beautiful documentary artworks and I want to introduce them to young generations in a different appearance by utilizing my sepia and white technique which matches very well with their atmosphere and black and white format. That’s why I had been reviving these engravings for years but I will stop working this way after finishing my last project about them and their masters. I want to create a rich collection composed of the pyrographic revivals of these engravings in order to be exhibited permanently in an art museum or gallery. I will dedicate this collection to the memories of these European engraving artists and state my personal appreciation them in this way. I appreciate them because they acted like our Honorary Culture Ambassadors by publishing these beautiful engravings in their own countries centuries  ago in order to introduce the wonders of Istanbul to their citizens, as well as presenting them to us as a very valuable cultural heritage. Additionally, they initiated the cultural and artistic relations between Europe and Turkey by picturizing Istanbul starting from the 15th century and became the pioneers of the developments of these relations which increasingly continued up to date. After setting up my pyrography collection mentioned above, I will exhibit it in Istanbul together with the black and white originals of the engravings. The exhibition will be dedicated to the memories of European engraving artists, of course. I will turn over this collection to an appropriate foundation or a collectioner art lover in order to be exhibited permanently in their art gallery or museum. In this way, many people will be able to view these very exquisite and impressive revivals and their originals and commemorate European engraving artists as well, for years.  If I can succeed in this permanent exhibition project, I will consider as I have accomplished my mission with these Old Istanbul engravings. Then I will stop reviving them and start making my original pyrographic artworks in the rest of my art life.”

· Impressions about the works of the artist :
In his long professional life, Mr. Olceroglu was able to open only one personal exhibition in Nov. 1999, during the celebration of the 700th anniversary of foundation of the Ottoman State. Some impressions of the art experts and visitors regarding his works are listed below :

× The exquisite and unique techniques which the artist uses, as well as his sensitive and perfect choice of subject matter make him truly a premier artist in his field.”
× “Your work is of an unbelievably high standard.”
“At which rate can the works of a human being deserve the definition "extraordinary" Mr. Olceroglu has succeded to force the peak level”
× So attractive and lively that you feel yourself a part of it, you feel yourself living at the same place in the past.”
× "Well known classical painting techniques have been challenged by an unknown, bewildering technique."
× “I will shortly state my impressions with only one word : "Splendid"”


Special Thanks To ...

Ms. Kathleen Menéndez for her courteous permission to use the links of E-Museum of Pyrographic Art in this web site and her admirable efforts in introducing the art of pyrography to the world of art, to the Publisher of the Woodcarvers On-Line Magazine Mr.Matt Kelley for his contribution to these introduction efforts, to Ms. Susan M. Millis for her productive research on the restoration and conservation of works in pyrography, to Mr. Patrick Faleur for his efforts in introducing the art of pyrography to art lovers and his kind permission to use the address of his web site as a link above, to pyrographic artists who have dedicated themselves to improving the painterly method of pyrography, and those art lovers, art critics and related foundations for their encouraging support to the art and artists of pyrography.

Selahattin Olceroglu

· Contact Mr. Selahattin Olceroglu

Workshop Address : Orhantepe Mahallesi Cinar Caddesi
                                 Barutcu Sokak Bayburt Ap. No:5/C
                                  34865 Cevizli / ISTANBUL / TURKEY

                 E - Mail :

              Telephone : 00 90 216 383 52 02

Updated on April, 2011



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