St Francis and his ‘Canticle of Creation’

My latest project is a mural for a primary school. The concept is an interpretation of St Francis of Assisi’s ‘Canticle of Creation’. It’s a beautiful piece of poetry which inspires an appreciation of the beauty of nature around us. And although religious poetry might not be for everybody, it is also quite visionary in the sense that someone who lived hundreds of years ago, (before the industrial revolution and fierce debate on climate change), was able to grasp that the planet that we live on is precious and we really are subject to it’s powers, rather than the other way around. The idea is to tie a fun piece of lively artwork to the appreciation of what’s around us with a respect for our fellow people, precious resources and planet.

Apart from his visionary ‘green’ ideas, St Francis was visionary in that this piece of literature is considered to be one of the first written in Italian, rather than Latin – a really bold step for his time. Liberating people from sitting through another trawl of Latin, which only monks, priests and very wealthy would have understood, opened a small crack in the doorway towards the average person being able to understand and appreciate a written piece of literature and participate rather than just spectate. There are many different versions of English translations, here is one from Wikipedia. Have a read:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

We are hoping that this mural will engage some of those ideals, thoughts and forward thinking in the little minds that play on the play ground and pass through these classrooms. I have started on the background design with some great help from the teachers and parents, and will be getting some more assistance from some ‘little hands’ at a later stage. Here are a couple of photos so far. I’ll keep posting as we go.

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A working work of art…

I travelled around California on a road trip a few years ago, and came across some fascinating and strange places on our trip including: Death Valley and the Forestiere Underground Gardens, near Fresno; both left me with the unusual feeling of wondering whether I’d actually physically been there or just imagined it. I recently read about a really interesting place called East Jesus, in Slab City in the hot Californian desert, and had I known about it before our trip I would have definitely made a point of seeing it under the banner of ‘how strange and beautiful and bewitching’.

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It’s a spot where an assortment of artists and others looking for an alternative experience of art, go to observe or get involved in ‘an experimental, habitable, extensible artwork in progress’ to quote their website. Originally founded by the late Charles Russell (“Container Charlie”), it seems to be a spot that allows people a chance to step out of their ordinary lives and into a space of creativity without worrying about the end product ‘standing the test of time’. The artwork, created from recycled materials, is exposed to the elements and is supposed to be there for a finite time only and then degrades in the extreme weather conditions. This means that the installation is always changing and will never be the same, and when it falls apart, the next artist is free to re-use the materials in their creative experiment.

It’s very rare to be able to imagine somewhere that is free of the constraints of having to ‘perform’ and ‘improve’ and be forever ‘indelibly perfect’. And the simple fact that these clever pieces of art are meant to disappear eventually, makes them that much more special. Have a look at Cinnabar Charm – it is utterly charming. Apart from all the arty-farty bits, they also have a number of off-grid/sustainability projects for those that are more scientifically minded and gifted with DIY skills.

So, if any of you other explorers out there are needing a trip to somewhere that looks pretty special, you can find their contact details here or if you would like to help them out have a look at their needs page too.

When the water came… It’s complete!

This latest canvas was created for the Advanced Water Management Centre at the University of Queensland. It is inspired by the Aboriginal creation stories involving the Rainbow Serpent and Tiddilik, the frog. There are variations in the story depending on which Aboriginal tribe one reads/hears from, so I have made a ‘collage’ in my mind taking bits from several stories to amalgamate them into one painting.

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This is my version:

In the beginning, the land was dry and the Rainbow Serpent moved across the desert looking for his tribe. As he moved his body made deep grooves  in the earth, and as he turned, his body pushed large mounds of earth up to form mountains. When the rain began to fall, the water trickled into the grooves that the Rainbow Serpent had made forming rivers, lakes and pools. This precious water allowed plants to grow and places for animals, like frogs, to live. After the rain, one can see the spirit of the Rainbow Serpent in the sky, reminding us that we, humans, animals and plants are all connected and dependent on each other and the precious earth we live on.

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It has been a wonderful experience researching for this project and I look forward to doing more like it. I’ll keep you posted….

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I am currently working on a canvas piece for my client at the University of Queensland. I’ve completed the design and have sent off my sketch for approval so I can start on the painting for next week. I’m hoping that I’ve been able to interpret and illustrate their vision of what they are looking for. The funny thing is, this project is taking me in a completely new direction… a completely new style…. out of my comfort zone.

 

They requested an interpretative painting of the Aboriginal Water Story involving the Rainbow Serpent and his Frog friends. I’ve researched the subject and looked at many Dreamtime Paintings by Aboriginal artists to hopefully get a feel of the history that I can transfer to the page. Especially beautiful are Colin Walangari Karntawarra McCormack’s. I’ve also listened to music while doing the design to hopefully transfer some of the emotion, rhythm, peace and beauty of the natural world.

 

Here are some of the Walangari Karntawarra’s captivating pieces:

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To learn more about Walangari Karntawarra and see some of his lively pieces, have a look at his website: http://www.walangari.com.au

And keep watching this space for my next Aussie inspired canvas!

What makes an artist? Stereotypically, one thinks of an artist as someone with wonderful natural talent laced with variable amounts of training and guidance from others; someone who happily whiles away hours of their time in absolute bliss splashing about wonderful colours after sketching a moving scene… They’re usually encouraged to continue on their artistic path by supportive family and friends; the same people who usually consider themselves “Not that artistic”. Sound about right?

Now those who indulge in their wonderful artistic pursuits (whether they be photographic, fine art, dance or music), often describe their lives as being balanced, calmer, happier than before.  The activity seems to allow them to access parts of their minds and emotions that brings them clarity and a sense of fulfilment. Now who could do with some more of that good stuff?? Everyone, I’m guessing. So, if everyone were to take up creative pursuits, would that make every one an artist?

Interestingly, a young artist, Ernest M. English, has recently undertaken a project in Boston where he’s gotten a whole bunch of “Not that Artistic’s” involved in producing a large 41-foot paint-by-number mural. He organised the project with ArtLifting, which was designed to encourage collaboration that transcends typical social and geographical dividing lines. I’m guessing it probably helped transcend the self-imposed, self-conscious dividing lines of creativity within the passersby too. Read more about it here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/05/26/group-mural-takes-center-stage-outside-prudential-center/emgTw3Ewx7oKAUa7PtlW8H/story.html

When is it that people suddenly stop thinking of themselves as being creative and artistic? Is it when their colourful pencil scratches are suddenly described as scribbles? When they’re told-off for not colouring in the lines perfectly? When they’re told that “Pink and red don’t match!” Or when their music teacher at school says, “Oh heavens Johnny, please sit down, you won’t be singing with the choir!” Now, that’s not to say that ALL of us should be professional singers/dancers/painters/writers etc. but we should be encouraged to have a creative outlet. To allow ourselves to be expressive and free and access all the wonderful mental health benefits of feeling ‘balanced’. And, it really helps to have some encouragement from a partner, close friend or family member for each of us to pursue those creative outlets, what ever they may be, and however imperfect the end result too! I’ve included a wax crayon drawing which was produced by a 3-near-4-year-old; please note the high-heeled shoes. The exercise resulted in great pride and ensuing beaming smile… on the faces of both the ‘artist’ and the ‘beholder’  Here’s to being 4 again!

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