Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Of icons and animals...it's all Divinely inspired!

Remember this photo from a couple of weeks ago?  I still haven't added gulls to the cliffs, but progress has been made on this mural...
A lot of the reason I write this blog is to attempt to demystify the creative process, and encourage you to stretch your own creative wings. I truly believe we are all born with creative potential, but some of us are steered firmly away from it, starting at a very young age, while others of us resist those well-intentioned efforts with every fiber of our being. The artist who inspired the style of this mural was a resistor from early on, and thanks to his tenaciously stubborn nature, we get to enjoy his incredibly beautiful and detailed carving and iconography (note to fledgling authors: it is a good idea to follow dubious compliments with lavish, though true, praise, if staying in the subject's good graces is at all important to you :)) ). Though the actual pieces are scattered around the globe, click on over to carvingart.com and check out the photos of the work of George Bilak.

More of George Bilak's work can be seen at Carvingart.com.
 Now, before we go any farther, let me warn you (and him), this mural looks NOTHING, well, very nearly nothing, like his work.

The ram may have been inspired by St. John, but is anyone else seeing John Travolta in the white suit on the Saturday Night Fever album cover?  No?  Oh, good.  Never mind.
See, what happened is that I was asked to paint a mural on a sixty foot wall, encompassing four doorways to the Sunday school classrooms, at Unity of the Valley Spiritual Center, but I immediately felt that the building is too modern, the kids way too cool, for my traditional, cozy, storybook style of art.  I knew, without hesitation, that I had to step outside of my comfort zone, and design something that felt energetic enough for both the location, and the congregation.  I was asked to create shaped door surrounds, and to include a rainbow, as the childrens' program there is called "Rainbow Circles".  Everything else was totally up to me.

The rainbow arches over the preschool and kindergarten ages doorway.  I think I'll add a litter of tumbling wolf pups, as this is the age where kids start to learn to socialize, and wolves represent that well.

A mama duck gives landing lessons to her ducklings, on the nursery door.  The tree will eventually house a nest of baby birds, and the meadow beyond...who knows what will come to life out there?

A jugle cat lounges coolly over the pre-teens doorway.  They'll have to wait for the sandy beach and jungle at their end to fill up with other exotic beasts.

This kind of freedom is exciting.  It's also terrifying to the point of petrification.  I knew I wanted a landscape with animals, and that it needed to have a dreamlike quality...if one happens to dream in technicolor.  As I was painting in the background, with absolutely no clear idea of what the animals would look like, I tried to suggest the various landscapes of the world, so that animals from every continent would fit somewhere.  This led to the red rocks in the center.  As I started to create them, I remembered George's icon, St. John the Forerunner, and asked the office manager to bring up his website, so I could see it. 

I think the bison shows the iconographer's influence in the stylizing and shading...if you kind of squinch up (yeah, I'm makin' up words again...my world, my words, my rules) your eyes and keep an open mind.
The shape of the rocks was what I was thinking of, but what also caught my eye was the tweaking of the proportions of background to figure, which I read is a feature of Byzantine icons (There are links from his site to pages that explain more about iconography, if this captures your interest.  It's definitely a disciplined art form.).  I was already planning to use a lot of white lines to pop highlights, rather than black to shadow things (Unity is all about light, so I wanted this wall to glow), and I realized the line work in this art form, though an ancient tradition, is actually very modern looking, and maybe something worth borrowing.

Having delivered his bundles, Stork wades in the pond near the nursery door.  I'm thinking he'll be joined by a frog, and some fish, then a meadow full of chipmunks, hedgehogs, and whoever else wanders into my dreams.
Now, as I said, I was inspired by this. In the creative process, it really isn't uncommon for the finished piece to look nothing like the art that inspired it. Inspiration is a jumping off point. To land anywhere near the budget, I needed to simplify. This mural was originally intended to be an eighty hour project. Even simplifying the animals to their exaggerated essential shapes and loosely brushing in the white line work, I'll end up with more than double that amount of time into it, so no way could I do a whole mural in tight icon style.

Check out George's iconostasis, to see what it looks like on that scale, and ask him how long it took to create the wall and the mural behind it. 160 hours would not even begin to touch it! And though stylized animals in George's art form would be really gorgeous, they would still be too formal for this church, and the style would take me half a lifetime to master (I would like to finish this before my ninetieth birthday, and preferably, before my next birthday). My thanks to Mr. Bilak for his gifts to the world, and for providing such an inspiring jumping-off place for this wild pink rabbit, and her technicolor dream scape. 

Rabbit leaps over Coyote the Jokester, in an attempt to catch up with Tortoise, who actually hasn't arrived in my little world yet. 
There are more animals finished, and many more to come, but I'll save them for another post.  As you can see, I work in a wide array of styles, and more of my work can be seen at theartofthehome.com, where you will also find all the information on how to hire me.  What's your dream world look like?

You are invited to leave comments below, or you can email me with creative questions at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

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