In the name of art, burn, baby burn.

Phil 'Suspect' Jones is holding an exhibition this weekend, showing the wood burn work he has been producing for the ...
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Phil 'Suspect' Jones is holding an exhibition this weekend, showing the wood burn work he has been producing for the past two years.

When Phil Jones isn't tucked away in his studio with his gas torch he's scouring the city's op shops for weird kitchen utensils.

A cake slice, a spatula, anything that won't burn and has a cool shape or pattern to it will do. The New Plymouth artist uses what he can find to guide the flame he etches into a piece of ply, burning a detailed image onto the surface.

The art form is called pyrography, or wood burn, and Jones, 39, has spent the past two years mastering the technique.

SIMON O'CONNOR/Stuff.co.nz

Phil 'Suspect' Jones is creating art with wood and flames.

Having put his mark on many walls around the region, Suspect, as he's also known, is renowned for his street art but lately he's been trying to forge a new point of difference.

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It started with him burning images onto recycled pallets and then he began playing with plywood and skateboard decks. His subject matter was fittingly people smoking, having created work of public figures with a fag in hand, including Kate Moss, Winston Churchill and Fidel Castro.

Using a gas torch, Suspect creates images from burn marks on plywood.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Using a gas torch, Suspect creates images from burn marks on plywood.

He's since added portraiture and landscape pieces to his collection and a forest scene is currently brewing in the artist's abstract and busy mind.

"It would be real sharp and blurred in the background," he plans. "At the moment I've just been copying imagery just to get the technique sussed but I want to get a bit more creative with it."

Like most of his art know-how, Jones has taught himself pyrography. It's all about experimentation, he says.

Suspect find images he thinks would look good in wood burn and replicates them on plywood.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Suspect find images he thinks would look good in wood burn and replicates them on plywood.

Lucky for him, though, the method seems to come with ease because this year he's promised himself to finish every piece in one sitting, leaving less time for trial and error.

"Normally I'll punch one out in a night, because I have to. I've had other work that I've carried around for six years plus unfinished.

"So my whole thing this year was to not walk away from it until I'm happy, signed my name on it, done, then put it away from my eyeballs so I don't look at it and try and add something else."

The New Plymouth artist uses kitchen utensils to achieve shapes and lines.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

The New Plymouth artist uses kitchen utensils to achieve shapes and lines.

Contrary to his personal pact he's spent the past few days working on a portrait of a beautiful young woman smoking. A stickler for perfection, he's unhappy with her nose and can't walk away from it. But if he doesn't he can risk doing too much and making a mistake.

"I'm my own worst enemy," he says.

"Is an artwork ever finished?"

People smoking has been a focus subject for Suspect's wood art.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

People smoking has been a focus subject for Suspect's wood art.

It's the perplexity of life as a self-employed artist: trying to strike the right balance between achieving perfection and churning out enough work to keep food on the table.

Jones is opening his studio, located at James Ln, this Friday night at 5pm for a weekend long exhibition of his art before he heads off to Wellington next week to take part in the NZ Art Show. 

Some of Suspect's finished works.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Some of Suspect's finished works.

 - Stuff

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