Rockall mural by A Horsnell Wade
This is the story of a large rock with a curious defiance. Back in August 2010, I joined a group of eight artists to create individual outdoor murals as part of the Dartmouth Cove Mural Project. My work was designed specifically for this location in tribute to the embattled mammals, birds and fish that inhabit the great oceans of our world. And I was happy to create a public artwork for all to enjoy.
As a focal point, I chose to depict the incredible anomaly known as "Rockall", a great solitary rock which rises from the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean to stand alone against the elements. In my painting, a wave breaks against Rockall to become a gull, while a whale dives in the background and a school of fish swim in the foreground, all under the tidal pull of a full moon.
The real Rockall is a geographic wonder, a challenge to the adventurous, and many stories abound. Check our Wikipedia's interesting details and photos and you'll discover there's also a point of controversy.
In a long-standing game of "King of the Hill", the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark and Iceland have all claimed Rockall as their own at some point. As well, various adventurers from amateur radio operators to Greenpeace activists have managed to scramble to the top of this islet (actually the tip of an underwater volcano) for a precarious visit at various times over the years. Claiming Rockall continues to fire the imagination of many, as captured in this lyrical Irish verse by B. Warfield, "Rock on Rockall":
For this rock is part of Ireland, 'cos it's written in folklore
That Fionn MacCumhaill took a sod of grass and he threw it to the fore,
Then he tossed a pebble across the sea, where ever it did fall,
For the sod became the Isle of Man and the pebble's called Rockall.
Which brings me back to my tribute to Rockall and the second half of this story. I recently visited my mural to see how it has weathered over the last two years. Happily the work has stood up very well, however I was disappointed and more than a little surprised to see someone has painted over the title and my signature.
Just as Rockall has shunned flags or placques, my claim has been disputed ... or at least erased. So does it matter? The artist's signature is a mark of certain pride and acknowledgement, however with or without that identification, the work is still my own. And that cannot be disputed. What do you think?
Churchill at the Easel
How about Tony Bennett, Joni Mitchell and Dennis Hopper? Turns out each of these celebrities is also a painter. It’s not uncommon for the creative impulse to spill over into numerous art forms – the gene to make art runs deep. But sometimes fame binds an individual so strongly to one role, we're surprised when other artistic skills are revealed.
You might be surprised to discover just how skilful some of these folks are with a paintbrush, but many of the celebrities explain they were drawing and painting long before they turned to the stage. Others save painting as a refreshing change of pace or an alternate means to express themselves.
Well-known actors Sir Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, Legends of the Fall) and Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises) have each been recognized for their skill as painters. Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood has chosen his famous band mates as the subject of his paintings and enjoys using his iPad and iPhone to make art while on the road.
The celebrity artist isn’t restricted to stage and screen. Consider the artwork of such famous names as Olympic skater Toller Cranston, Prince Charles and Sir Winston Churchill – discover their work style, their inspiration, their artistic achievements.
Check out the home pages and artwork of many more celebrity artists at www.poplifeart.com. You just might be surprised. I know I was.
How I Finally Found My Answer
"Dharana" by F H Varley (1932)
“So what’s it mean?” That’s a familiar question I’m often asked about my abstract paintings. Finding the right words hasn’t always been easy. Until now.
When I’m in my studio, music always helps me focus. I concentrate until I lose myself in the canvas before me. I study the shapes and colours and trust that my experience will help me translate what I feel. Where does the painting want to go? What does it want to say?
Many years ago when I first discovered the artists in the famous Canadian "Group of Seven", I was immediately drawn to the work of Frederick Horsman Varley. His use of colour, his wonderful portrait and figure work held me spellbound. And I wanted to read all I could about the man and his art.
That’s the first time I saw one of my favourite Varley paintings, the masterful “Dharana.” (above) Varley had an intense interest in spirituality and in his words, dharana is “… a Hindu term,” he explained. “It describes a state of meditation in which the mind looks into the soul.” Meditation. Yes! Now I had a word to describe what I did in my studio.
The next time I heard the word dharana was several years ago when I decided to study yoga. My teacher, Gail Fulop, explained dharana as one of the eight steps of classical yoga, the ability to hold the mind on one object for a specified time.
What’s the meaning behind my abstract art? I paint what I feel and that feeling comes from very personal meditation. Thanks to Mr. Varley and to Gail Fulop and her wonderful SpoonStudio, home of (believe it or not) … “Inspire Yoga”.
Try it! Meditation works when viewing abstract paintings as well. Relax, take time to study each of my paintings and appreciate your own personal interpretation.
Walk on the Wild Side
"Walk on the Wild Side" © Jacqueline Iskander
That’s a great title for a glorious mosaic created by artist Jacqueline Iskander. I met Jacqueline online recently and can’t get enough of her wonderful artwork. The vibrant colours, the sense of light and movement – all created with tiny pieces of stone, glass, beads and other natural materials. This is one favourite of mine, but click on the image to see her entire portfolio.
As explained on her website, "Jacqueline has been exploring the vast and versatile world of mosaic since 1996. While self-taught in the early years, in 2006 she began traveling for study with mosaic masters and teachers in both the United States and Italy. Although Jacqueline has developed a great deal of experience with many materials, both traditional and contemporary, she has an affinity for traditional Italian glass (smalti) and mosaic gold, natural materials (stone, mineral, semi-precious), and beads."
In her own words, "I work with stone, glass, gold, and lots of other cool stuff. The materials just kind of scream, "Hey, look what I can do!" So, I let them do it. When the party's over, there's a piece of art. And I get all the credit."
Sharing art and ideas with other artists from around the world is wonderfully easy on the Internet. We inspire, encourage and support each other as never before. Speaking of which, I should say I met Jacqueline while taking a great online class with Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach who helped me get a much better handle on the wild world of social media, among other things. Thanks Alyson!
And thanks Jacqueline for the walk on the wild side.
Anna Horsnell SCA
Canadian painter of contemporary abstract art