What better way to commemorate one of the fathers of modern electricity than by burning his portrait using it?

Using live wires from a car battery, multimedia artist and YouTube creator Phil Hansen recently took on the arduous task of burning a portrait of Serbian-American inventor, engineer, and electrical aficionado Nikola Tesla using the resulting electrical sparks:

YouTube video

In total, two days were spent zapping the two DC wires together against the white canvas, with Phil taking periodic breaks to cut the wires to prevent them from melting together. If you’ve ever seen two electrical wires spark when they make contact, chances are you’ve also been in the proximity of the disgusting smell they make.

tesla electricity art

By increasing the number of burns in a specific area, he can adjust the darkness levels. Tesla’s hair and mustache, for example, are made of massive clumps of dark burns, while regions like the shading encompassing his eyes are spaced out wider and thus result in lighter levels. With his apparent knack for portraiture, Phil repeats this process until the full face of Tesla reveals itself through intricate shading. To add a bit of humor to the portrait, Phil uses a direct current (DC) as opposed to Tesla’s alternating current (AC), to spite the electrical engineer.

tesla electricity art
tesla electricity art

To cap off the portrait, he adds on the top of a sharp suit just below Tesla’s chin and sears his signature on the lower left side. Phil has a ton of other interesting art pieces that somehow connect the medium to the subject he’s working on—all of which are over on his YouTube channel.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.