This was a work day. I researched and drew out ideas for the mural in the morning after saying goodbye to the last of the field students. I realized that I needed to move the process along a bit quicker. The students do have some interesting drawings, but I am to create the experience of painting a mural for them. In some ways, the process is more important than the specific outcome.

My process for doing the work is odd sometimes. The mural is a bit long, so I wavered on the composition. But I knew I needed to commit to something today. The problem is, how to design a mural in a place you have only been for about 9 days? There is also the logistical issue of paint supply. It is difficult to get things here. We have some primary color buckets, some white primer and a few tubes I hope to mix with the white paint to make a few more tones. Another challenge is actually thinking of a mural design that would be easy to direct some students to work on.

I decided to set up a paint by numbers approach with broad flat shapes that they can fill in. That way I can direct a handful of the students at a time.

As far as the theme of the mural, the Mangrove tree is a very valuable ecological asset that grows on this island. It provides a well sheltered habitat for a whole bunch of organisms. The unique root structure helps keep the land together. The tree itself is an efficient carbon sink, the most carbon rich forests in the tropics. And the worldwide population of mangroves is on the decline.Mangroves perform an ecosystem service of protecting from storms and hurricanes. They are very effective bulkheads against climate change.

So I first made a terrible mock-up in illustrator, only to switch to the sketchbook and pencils. I created a few sketches that I took with me to the school.

At the school, I taught the form 4 students for about an hour and a half. I used the same general shape for the class as I did the two previous classes, but I put more effort into getting them to draw. At times it felt a bit more awkward than the previous classes, but that easily passed because I was aware that this feeling was my own creation.

I passed out some pages of drawing paper and crayons after talking about my artwork and showing examples. I framed my artwork in terms of climate change, which they didn’t recognize. They knew the term global warming though. I tried to express it in terms of healing culture’s relationship with nature.

I asked the class what is culture: “A way of life!”
And nature? “Life!”

We then set about drawing pictures of mangroves and other plants. It was a bit of a struggle to get the students drawing. Some where more eager than others, but in the end, all of the students drew. I also had to coax them to use the crayons and fill up the page. Most would grab only the pencil and begin very timid drawings.

But in the end, everyone did fill up the page, more or less. Three students stayed an extra 15 minutes working on their drawings. The goal was to simply get them drawing and using more color and space than they are used to.

It is hard to know the best way to approach teaching them art. My hope is to take them outside their comfort zone with enthusiasm.

In the evening, I redrew the mural design, making it more clear. I also experimented with some red mud as pigment. I continued to collect old glass shards to use as a mosaic as well.

The day was capped off with a quiet dinner at the field station and an epic tennis racket zapper smackdown of some skeeters.