Friday, January 18, 2013

Dare to be Different...paint a mural!

Mural a Community Effort

My daughter Ilara's friend Meredith Stults was invited to drop in to help push the Dare to be Different mural over the top on the last day of painting. Which was a good thing, as she dove right in to work on the deep dark shadows in the old-growth forest. Meredith clearly enjoyed herself, as was evidenced by her great, relaxed brush-strokes. Working on a large-scale mural (albeit this is one of the smaller ones; though the same general rules apply) it is critical to keep the flow of the brush-work loose and fluent. Too much 'pickyness' or tightness tends to dampen the free flow of painting on this scale, so I always encourage my proteges to stay loose, keep breathing and to go with the flow of the be 'in the moment'. 

Sprinting to the finish line with a bit of extra help.

Mural-painting technique a singular methodology

Meredith Stults readily 'took' to the mural-painting medium and methodology with just a bit of coaching. I encouraged her to think of painting the shadowy 'shapes' that were already being set up in and around the trees, rather than thinking about painting 'trees' per se. With this little tip she was off and running. I saw her brush-work suddenly loosed up and she transformed before our eyes into a confident large-scale painter. In a way, painting on this scale is like a dance that the artist has with her brush and the paint. There is a certain rhythm and flow to the application that takes on a life of its own when the artist is able to breathe and relax into her work. The physicality of painting takes a front seat with this technique.
Meredith Stults focuses intently on the rhythm and flow of her brushwork.
A well-proportioned owl fits in just right

Ilara decided early on that there ought to be an owl soaring overhead in the mural. At first we thought about making it quite large so that it would appear to be close to life-size and therefore close to 'us' in the extreme foreground of the image. After some deliberation however, we decided that the owl would look better pushed back to a place (in virtual space) where it hovered over the tree-tops of the old-growth forest. This ended up being the right choice, as it would have over-powered the composition and in doing so would've diminished the sense of scale that we had granted the central focus of the design, namely the giant Sequoia redwood. 

Ilara introduced the idea of  an owl into the composition. Here is a detail that shows it against the soft-focus background.
Mural design celebrates the rare giant Sequoia

When I first saw the picture of the rare giant Sequoia in National Geographic before Christmas, I was haunted by the image of the solitary megalith soaring so incredibly high above the old-growth forest. I wondered why there was only one in the entire vista of the photograph. After reading the article, I came to realize that the reason was simple, though ultimately ignoble. All of the others in what had one been a huge grove had been harvested over the years for lumber. Only a scant 10 % of these gigantic monoliths have survived into the modern age. This is tragic and ironic, as some of the eldest ones living today are in excess of 3000 years old. I felt blessed and honored then to have the opportunity to honor them in this small way.

Detail shows the sun setting behind the giant Sequoia Redwood, with transparent rays piercing into the shadowy depths of the old-growth forest.
One of the best shots of the Dare to be Different mural was captured by Ilara with her Android device.
Meredith Stults, Ilara Stefaniuk-Gaudet and I pose in front of the mural right after its completion in Edmonton Alberta.

Richard Preston reveals the secret life of the giant Sequoia Redwood trees in his Ted Talk

While we were working on the mural, we watched an amazing Ted Talk by Richard Preston that reveals some mind-blowing secrets of the giant Sequoia trees of northwest California. These trees are SO huge, for example, that they have been known to support permanent pools of water in their upper crotches that in turn support an exotic and diversified ecosystem all of their own including a relative of the 'plankton' formerly thought to live exclusively in the oceans. Remember, this is happening at heights of up to 380 feet ( equivalent to a 38 story skyscraper) in these magnificent trees! 

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