Bud Hnetka was born and raised in the Archerwill area and has always displayed interest in the art world. Over the years his works were shown in galleries and he sold a few acrylic paintings. A Saskatchewan organic farmer for many years, Bud was keen on alternative energy and, on his farm, he used a wind generator and had a solar greenhouse and a solar shower.
It was in 1985 when quite by accident Hnetka discovered a rare art technique. He was painting a canvas outdoors and was using a three-inch magnifying lens to paint a detailed image. His cat rubbed up against his legs and, as Hnetka reached to pet the animal, he accidentally burnt his right hand with the lens. As he closed his eyes in pain, he had a clear mental image of making a picture using this technique. Ignoring his throbbing hand, he found a piece of wood and burnt-in the image of a tree. That was the beginning stage of “the solar art of Solar Bud,” a technique known as solar pyrography.
It was after he moved to British Columbia’s West Coast islands some 20 years ago that his artistic works using alternative energy really began to flourish. Hnetka advanced his pyrography technique, the art of burning images into wood by using a magnifying lens powered by the sun.
Using different-sized magnifying lenses, Solar Bud burns a piece of wood layer by layer to create a picture. After burning one layer, he brushes off the ashes with a toothbrush, lightly sands the flat surface and burns again. The process takes a steady hand, patience and many hours of sunlight to engrave images into wood and completely finish a picture.
With his eyes protected by special goggles typically worn by welders, Hnetka wears a tight-fitting head covering to ensure no light comes through. His right hand holds the magnifying lens into the direct sunlight to burn the wood, but he keeps his body in the shade. He wears a light natural fibre shirt and usually protects his hands by wearing white gloves.
Bud Hnetka lives in Thetis Island, a small Gulf Island community that can only be reached by ferry. By concentrating on expressing forest and ocean life, he has become one of the major internationally recognized solar pyrographers. He is a naturalist who works out of his home art studio, and some of his art has been displayed in the gallery at the Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria, B.C.
For almost a century, a bigleaf maple stood on a Vancouver Island dairy farm. When it had to be removed for health and safety reasons, artists from across Canada were invited to apply to the oneTree Project and, by salvaging its wood, to make functional art from the maple.
The oneTree exhibit project was a collaborative effort of Live Edge Design, the Robert Bateman Centre and wood artisans from Vancouver Island and across Canada. The project celebrated the beauty and stories of the 100-year-old Cowichan bigleaf western maple tree by making sure its legacy lives on in new creations.
From the century-old maple, 42 artisans took 4000 hours to create $150,000 worth of value-added art.
Solar Bud was one of the 42 master artisans selected to participate in this collaborative process. His “Forest Seal” solar pyrography on maple wood was the result of 28 layers of burning and 350 hours of labour. Describing his work, Hnetka says, “I made this pyrographic carving using a lens and the sun. The magic began when I discovered the seals in the wood and the sun came out.”
The collaborative process resulted in a phenomenal art exhibit at the Robert Bateman Centre, showing from November till January 2016. It included a large one-of-a-kind conference table surrounded by 10 chairs, a comfy rocking chair, miscellaneous musical instruments — a guitar, violin, flutes and a drum — and a maple wood statue of a little boy, created by a Norwegian wood carver now living in Tofino. There were beautiful bowls, cabinets, a knife block, and many more amazingly unique works created by these 42 master craftsmen. Several of the participating artisans were there, eager to chat with the public about their creative process. No one walked away disappointed and rave reviews followed.
Visit Solar Bud’s website at solarbud.ca.
Submitted by Myrna Petersen, the daughter of the late Carl and Juliet Petersen. Myrna graduated from Rose Valley High School and still has relatives living in the area. She runs Ideation Entertainment, a Regina-based company that develops stories for print and media.