Friday, May 28, 2010

Tonkawa - Behind the Scenes II

In the final days of painting, we've been challenged by obstacles - some of our own making and others from ... above. First, and most terrifying have been the Buffalo GNATS. Nothing will repel them - not bug spray, vanilla extract, skin so soft, after-shave, alcohol, or patchouli - all of which have been offered as sure fire remedies.

The gnats go for moisture. Nicholas is seen here in a
losing attempt to keep them from going up his nose.

Another obstacle to painting has been the ever increasing time allotted to socializing with the locals. It seems they enjoy (and we, wanting to fully understand Tonkawa culture, must oblige them) leisurely meals accompanied by tumbleweeds, red wine, and (you got make it to believe it) egg coffee.

Recently, to the chagrin of our adopted feline Gustav Ruffkat, a number of these gatherings have taken place atop the roof of the Tonkawa Funeral Home (seen above) where we have been staying in the beautiful "Rest in Peace" bed and breakfast.

We also have been diverted away from our primary duty by a higher calling - escorting turtles off of major and minor roadways onto safe turtle territory. This is easy enough when it comes to box turtles and red-eared sliders. Snapping turtles are another matter.

Be aware if you're ever faced with the task of moving a snapper, there is a wrong way to handle this reptile. In fact the only way to insure that you'll come out of the experience with all ten digits on your hands is illustrated above.

And as there is more to look at on the wall, there have been more and more visitors who stop by to give us their two-cents about what should, could, or definitely should not be in the mural. But the quickest we've set down our brushes was in response to a slender hissing snake in the sky just west of the mural site.

This little tw
ister or 'twinkie' as some people around here call them, appeared from an isolated little cell that blew up at the end of a sweltering day. We watched it dance over Tonkawa, trying to land, but never quite having the juice to find the ground. It was mesmerizing and beautiful, and looked almost like it had a mind of its own - a cloud with an idea about what it wanted to be.

Fortunately, even in light of all these necessary distractions, and mostly on account of my great assistants Amber and Nicholas and remarkable community support, the mural is almost finished. The dedication will be Thursday, June 3rd at 6 pm. You're all invited.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tonkawa - "Design! - The Film"

"Design! - The Film'" Shot and edited by Nicholas Ward and Amber Hansen with occasional steering and much appreciation from Dave.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tonkawa - Painting Begins

Under overcast skies with temperatures in the low 60's, we set-up the paint table with brand new quart containers of Nova Color paint in hopes of enticing passersby to apply the first colored strokes to the mural. There were only a few curious onlookers when we began at 5:30 and still no one brave enough to make the first mark.
photo by Irene Ackerson
But as people got off of work and word spread of free homemade desserts, they started showing up - a gaggle of kids on bmx bikes, a family with grandma, folks from the Tonkawa Tribe, and even a few high school students who concluded, I imagine, that the mural was cool enough. And they kept coming. An hour later there was a real crowd, for Tonkawa, (over eighty people by our count) painting, watching, eating cupcakes and apple crisp, and playing games and chalk drawing in the middle of blocked off Grand Street.

The practical task for 'community painting days' was to block-in big areas of color that form the background shapes within the mural design. Anyone who wanted to, or who lingered too long watching, was handed a brush and directed toward a specific area to fill-in.
photo by Irene Ackerson
Inviting the community to paint was also an opportunity for mural design team
participants to share with other townsfolk the genesis of the imagery in the design and how it related to the spirit of Tonkawa's past, present, and future.

Among the many local people who came out during community paint days were beloved local artist Gene Dougherty,

Tonkawa police officer Travis Painter (yes Painter),

local fashion mavens Michelle and Wiladean,

and Gordon Warrior with four generations of his family.

After painting wound down and the sun set, more than sixty people made their way over to the field behind Dollar General for popcorn and a free outdoor movie

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tonkawa - Transferring the Design and Color Studies

Checking the radar on Amber's computer, it looked like we'd have a three hour window of tornadoless weather (this is no joke - there seems to be a tornado or two in the vicinity at least once every day). Power for the LCD projector and laptop were drawn from a city utility box attached to Tonkawa's lone stoplight at Main & Grand. All we needed was for it to get dark. While we waited anxiously for the sun to slip below the horizon, people cruisng down Main Street slowed down, curious to try to figure out what was going on. Then finally, at around 8:30 with only an afterglow of twilight in the sky we turned on the projector...

With the help of a couple local tech wizards, a core group of steady handed painters, a dj, and a few cheerleaders the line design was transferred to the 124 foot wall using thinned down paint in a little over two hours.

photo by Ken Crowder
In what seemed like only a moment, eight inch tall hands from the mural design were transformed into ten foot tall hands on the wall, Max Carr's plane went from toy size to almost real plane size, and for the first time we got a glimpse of how the mural would look at full-scale.

Back in the studio at Northern Oklahoma College, Nicholas, Amber and I began translating our line design into a 3/4 inch = 1 foot color study collage made out of cut paper. Using cut paper instead of paint at this stage allows for quick changes in color and value, and because cutting and pasting doesn't favor small details, it forced us to focus on larger shapes within the overall composition as opposed to more superficial embellishments.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tonkawa - Priming the Wall

Here is Nicholas and Amber's second short film documenting the Tonkawa mural project. While watching, listen for excerpts from their new song "Tonkawa."

Tonkawa - Mural Block Party!

Block Party & Mural Painting Kick- Off
Friday, May 14th
5:30 - 8:30pm
Corner of Main & Grand in downtown Tonkawa

  • Community painting on the mural
  • Live music
  • 4 square, jump rope, hopscotch, dancing
  • Community supper and free dessert
  • Make your own street pastel painting

Dave at a street painting festival in Kansas City

And then when it gets dark... A free outdoor movie with free popcorn in the field behind Dollar General!

For more information on these events contact the Chamber of Commerce at 580-628-2220.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tonkawa - Design

At my studio in Lawrence, Amber, Nicholas and I began sorting through boxes of research material. We rolled out long pieces of paper that represented the wall at a 1/2" = 1' scale and started scribbling and sketching down images and words (that represented images) to see how they looked juxtaposed together. In my experience this is is the hardest part of any mural project - working to transform and distill the vast collection of ideas and images into a composition that is both visually compelling and conceptually meaningful.

In our early studies, we decided to use divisions in the wall created by metal downspouts to organize the design into five sections or panels. From left to right we settled on five interrelated themes:

1) Max Carr delivering newspapers from his airplane (which will highlight events from Tonkawa's history) to rural Kay County farms .

2) Railroad Cisco of the Tonkawa Tribe describing to a group of students the tribe's journey from Texas to Oklahoma in the 1880's, and the Land Run that followed in 1893.

3) A symbolic scene showing a representative group of Tonkawans playing a traditional drum, nestled within giant hands cupped together in the shape of a heart, that radiates waves of sound, memory, and aspiration back through history and forward into the future.

4) A group of local folks around a coffee table fixing, painting, and reimagining the downtown.

5) A whimsical representation of Tonkawa's creative spirit symbolized by figures setting the moon and stars into a twilight sky as an outdoor movie is projected behind them.

Back in Tonkawa, we presented our design to the mural team. They studied it carefully, and after a good discussion it was approved with the understanding that we would reincorporate a couple dancing atop the grain elevator and add a Buccaneer (the high school mascot) somewhere in the last panel. Next step: cut paper collage color study.