‘Water’ … the third Element Door

Water was the first door I painted in this series. It all came about because there was a door going nowhere in The Gap High School Library, and the Teacher-Librarian, Janelle McMahon asked me if I would paint it blue (because she liked blue…lol) 🙂

I’ll do better than that, I said, I’ll paint a picture on it and it will include blue! Little did I know where that casual remark would lead.

One formal proposal to the Principal later, the one door had turned into four and the images were to be the Elements. No better topic to express my love of landscape! The school gave me a good lump sum of money for the art supplies and I agreed to do it free of charge – I kept the left-over oil paints, brushes etc.

Water paved the way for the rest of the pictures. I had no idea how the paint would stick to the surface – the doors all had a textured good-quality vinyl surface in a limestone colour. But I need not have worried – it worked perfectly.

I used acrylics to ‘map’ out my design first, glued down the mixed media of the printed poetry on rice-paper, then slowly built up glazes in oil paint. The individual images in the picture I added as I went, building up their surface with oils.

‘Water’ – ‘Down by the Bay’ – Sheryl Gwyther 2003

Water focuses on my other job at the time, a part-time teacher at Brisbane’s Nudgee Beach Education Environmental School. It’s on Moreton Bay and is mangrove coastline with estuary beaches – a really important part of the Bay’s eco-system.

Jelly fish in deep water

The Bay (as Brisbanites call it) is constantly under threat from over-fishing. We had a shipping accident last year that tipped containers of chemicals to the ocean floor and swamped tons of oil across beaches. Now the sea-grasses where dugongs feed are threatened after the recent floods in Brisbane.

Moreton Bay in danger of being loved to death, and so are the estuarine mudflats of Nudgee Beach. I haven’t been back there for a while but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s denuded of its micro-life.

Water is a multi-dimension landscape painting – mapping out a bird’s-eye view of Nudgee Creek as it flows into Moreton Bay. The macro image of a Soldier Crab represents life on the mudflats, and the water-poetry inserts are there because the painting is in a Library.

The chosen poetry extracts are some of the most evocative words written about water by poets from several continents and times. I chose my favourites, Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot, Five Bells and Beach Burial by Kenneth Slessor and others.

Human symbols for water include in the painting are Aboriginal water-hole circles, the ancient Egyptian wavy hieroglyph for river, the zodiac water signs of Scorpio, Pisces and Cancer, and the Brisbane tidal patterns. See if you can find them all.

Some of the larger images include baby turtles (not from Nudgee Beach); my favourite creature of the Bay – the Soldier Crab; flowers from the Red Mangrove and shells.

Soldier crabs armies look like pieces of sky moving across the mudflats.

This is a painting about conservation of a fragile environment – and I don’t care if it’s not subtle. The estuary mangroves are the nurseries for Moreton Bay’s fish and mud crabs. Below, in and above them live countless creatures. The most destructive creatures at Nudgee Beach walk on two legs.

If you’re ever near The Gap High, call in and ask Janelle or Karen to give you the guided tour. 🙂

All images are copyrighted. If you would like to use them for educational purposes, please acknowledge them and contact me first for permission.
(c) Sheryl Gwyther 2011

Making art with kids at Nudgee Beach

 

 


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13 thoughts on “‘Water’ … the third Element Door

  1. Hi Sheryl

    I was thinking forest, although Shaun Tan’s Lost Thing has got me thinking laterally. I like the idea of retaining the water tank as an object as opposed to merely disguising it. Perhaps it will become an angular creature who’s landed in Mum’s backyard.

    M

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  2. Wow Sheryl, you are truly talented. Such attention to detail. I am impressed. Such a terrific idea too.

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  3. Congratulations, Sheryl. All four of your element doors are magnificent. So much talent, both in writing and painting. Best, Chris.

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  4. Your post on George’s blog prompted me to try again on blogs I’ve been unable to access. Fingers crossed as I send post.

    I love this door!

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  5. Hi Sheryl

    This post is verytimely as I’m about to embark on a (long term) project to paint a mural on my Mum’s watertank. So far, my painting projects have been limited to one fridge so it will be interesting to see if I can pull it off. Perhaps I could outsource the job to you!

    Cheers,
    Marianne

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  6. This is a good one. I used to look at it whenever I was in the library, and think, “haha, my mum did this!”

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