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Kissed by the sun | This Maryland artist uses sunlight and wood to create waste-free solar engraved portraits

"I've always has the desire to create with wood. It was very fulfilling to be able to merge two things into one," Hye Sea said.
Credit: Instagram: @magnifythesun/www.magnifythesun.com

BRANDYWINE, Md. — Imagine bringing your love for nature and art together to make some of the most creative portraits in the DMV area -- on wood. That's what this 27-year-old Prince George's County artist does.

The artist, known as Hye Sea, says sunlight and nature have been loves of hers since she was a child.

"In high school my brother introduced me to the power of the sun and how to harness the sun. We would sit in the driveway and get a magnifying glass and burn paper," she said. "This set my heart on fire, being able to do something like this."

Growing up, Sea said she was not only always surrounded by wood, but was surrounded by another entrepreneurial spirit: Her father. He's been a carpenter since he was a teenager, and Sea credits him as where she gets a lot of her creativity.

"Being around wood left an imprint on my journey," she said. "He would give me scrap pieces [of wood] and he purchased my first magnifying glass." Sea said her very first solar engraved piece was a gift to her father. 

Credit: Instagram: @magnifythesun/www.magnifythesun.com

The environmentally friendly artist had a fascination with creating with the two elements together, and as of four years ago, solar engraving has been a true art form for her.

"I've always had the desire to create with wood. It was very fulfilling to be able to merge two things into one," she said. 

It was a viral tweet over one May weekend that garnered over 540,000 likes and over 140,000 retweets that helped many others see the beauty and detail in this alternative art form.

"Initially, I was calm. I had a calm and still response," she said when she discussed initially seeing a piece of her work going viral.

Sea said she's very grateful for all the support and when she did cry out of happiness, she said, "I was just really grateful just to see all the love and support. I'm not surprised but I don't expect it." 

The muse for Sea's viral art is also a DMV native, DonYè Taylor, CEO of The Digital Footprint, a creative agency that specializes in building online brands. 

"One of my friends sent me her page, I hadn't known anything about her growth since high school. I saw how she was out here killing it. I was in awe," Sea said. "She just owned her creative genius and I saw my reflection in that."

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After seeing the artwork, Taylor reached out to buy the piece and later found out the two attended to the same high school together.

Sea decided to choose this picture as one of her latest pieces because, as a kid growing up in the '90s, she'd been wanting to do a piece with cornrows for awhile.

What people may not know about this form of art is that it's more than just a vision. It not only takes precision but also breathwork.

"I have to breathe from my diaphragm so I can get through the entire piece. I'm very in tune with my body and eat a lot of hydrating foods," she said in reference to having to stand in the sun to complete her portraits.

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For some, being asked "what's next" in a moment where they should be living in the present doesn't really fare well, but Sea was more than ready to answer.

Her answer: Sustainable living. 

 As a person who is really into gardening and spends a lot of time in nature, she wants her platform to grow and show others that there is a sustainable alternative to everyday things.

"I really want to be of service," she said. "My platform is for others just as much as it's for me. I want to build with brands to create something that's bigger than us."

In the end, Sea said, "There's no limit. Nothing is impossible." 

If you're interested in a solar engraved portrait by Hye Sea, visit magnifythesun.com or follow her on Instagram.

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