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Art & War
Ceremonial Chalk Drawing for Veterans and the Global Village
Two years ago we went to Florida and created a 125ft. x 40ft. interactive chalk drawing. The goal and experiment was to connect Art and Ceremony to the military as a way of healthy integration back into society as a valuable asset to the community.
Journal Writing by Mark Lewis Wagner, Founder of Drawing on Earth
Well we did it, an epic adventure, an experiment in big creative, and an initiation experience for several of us. From a vision and a vague idea, to conversations, research, collaborations, team building, plane tickets, supplies, packing, travel, to seeing the site for the first time, and knowing things would be changing fast.
When we arrived Tues. night we discovered that the street we would be working on wouldn’t be available for us until Friday evening due to traffic. We had planned to start Weds. AM. And on top of that the street was recently paved and had bright traffic direction signs painted on it.
OK… what I do love is a creative challenge. The days that I spent designing and printing out detailed drawings were laid by the side, everything needed to be rethought and redesigned on the fly. I guess someone else might of freaked out but for some reason it wasn’t the case. I think the festival by nature is very forgiving, there are always things to work around; oil, melting tar, gum, bumpy broken streets, too smooth surfaces, bird poop, wind, blowing leaves, garbage, heat, and rain.
Laura Reese Slocum, my cousin, artist, cancer survivor, cool chic, she and I hung out together on Weds., we schemed and schmoozed, and checked out the scene. We were going to be creating a large piece, one of the largest at the event, and there was rumors of rain on it’s way.
I realized we needed to start before Friday evening, so we got some barriers and just worked inside the rectangle area while traffic was moving around us. The police weren’t thrilled with us being there but after the 3rd time they let us alone and said – “just watch out for the older drivers!.”
Redesigning was pretty straight forward. What is the essence of what we were doing? What are the main elements? Get them down and work from there and simply see where we get to by Sunday afternoon. The 3 main elements were the jet, earth, bird. The already existing design on the street suggested a straight line for the path.
We were able to use a flat back acrylic for our base, not normal for chalk drawing / street painting festivals but the rain coming had everyone using more materials that would endure a storm.
Mark P & Laura
Thurs. night Mark Pinto arrived from California. He’s a Marine Veteran, former Buddhist priest, and professional photographer and sculptor. There was a amazing gallery opening at the IceHouse, a new gallery in Sarasota that was featuring art from festival artists. Very cool, art and artists from all over the world.
And then there was RAIN…
You can imagine how everyone was watching the weather by the hour. I woke up often during the night and looked out to see, nothing new. But at breakfast it started to rain – solidly. At least it was warm, and it effected everyone – time to go to the museum or back to bed.
It did stop and we were on site while it was still wet.
Mark and Laura were both chalk drawing virgins, that didn’t last long. Laura’s been painting murals and making jewelry for a long time. They both hit the ground drawing and never looked back. The only problem I had with Laura is she wanted the art look great – of course, and at times it was more about getting it done and moving onto what’s next. She gave me some “leave me alone I’m working” looks – cute!
Mark P worked on the Earth with the ground still wet from the rain. He got into the chalk melting onto the street while working on the oceans, and when the street dried too early he wanted more water . Laura got to work on the 4 seals of the military at our gateway (she eventually had help), and I worked on the tree spirals.
What I love about doing larger work is it’s pretty open to where things want to go. Other artists are seriously copying master works by other artists, some artists creating their own works using detailed drawings and elaborate ways of transferring their images. I had a printed sketch in my hands and because we were redesigning everything I’d draw light tick lines (now sure of a better word) and stand back and see how it looked, readjust if needed, and then draw the line in.
Jamie Sealander was the Veteran Artist Chair for the festival. She was a Army combat photographer and now is a professional photographer and sculptor. She was our walkie talkie goddess who helped out our project tremendously. She was also a virgin chalk artist and asked if she could help us. She ended up incorporating a purple heart drawing that she had planned to create into our larger piece. Local teen artist Kailey Nobles also joined us for work and play!
We worked until dark, ate at a Veteran sponsored dinner, then everyone was excited and wanted to get back to work which we did until 10:30pm. We originally thought we’d be live by Sat. morning and be inundated by the general public participating in our chalk drawing journey.
It ended up that out site was rather off the beaten track and the people that did come by seemed to be coming or going and passed our piece. That was fine, it was what it was, and what was more important was that we were there, creating something new and seeing what that was like, and due to the lack of street access and some rain we had lots left to do – like add the boot prints, then foot prints.
What I love about the creative process it just that, it’s a creative process. Someone has an idea, like a boot print to symbolize the warrior’s journey from boot camp to war and back home. Should that be a cut out stencil or… Laura had a great idea of stopping at the Goodwill and buying a boot that could be painted and printed on the street – perfect! And to get a foot print we simply painted her feet and she placed them on the street which was the part of the journey from boots to bridging back walking barefoot onto the grounded Earth.
We even needed to figure out what to do with the turn-arrow. One arrow was hidden by the jet and smoke but the other one… hum? We all gathered around and talked about it and we saw that if we mirrored the arrow it created a circular energy instead of a turn… it turned around and around.
The entire piece was to have the four elements present, fire, earth, water, air. The two arrows made a pool shape was perfect for the water area. One of my regrets was that we ran out of time to place symbols of global peace in that water area – that would of been perfect.
By Sunday noon we were ready to go live, meaning light our fire. We’d figured out that buying a new small webber grill and organic charcoal would be the best and easiest way to have a fire. We gathered anyone who was around and circled up around the earth drawing, like we had done the last several days. This time Hopi veteran artist Filmer Kewanyama joined us and said the opening prayer – it was an amazing moment.
Our project was now live, we invited people to walk the warrior’s path, into the service and into war, and enter back through the Earth, walking into the community creating. You could write or draw a prayer and burn it in the fire. I happened to see one of the kids prayer as it burnt, it said “I love everyone.”
At the end of the journey, on a big spirit bird (40ft. wing span) is a heart with a house in it and an open door, boot and foot print are there together. Home is where the heart is.
The piece didn’t quite feel right during the main part of the day, not as many people as I imagined would be engaged, connected, participating, moved. Jamie said the piece was really for a town where lots of their kids were in the wars.
Then there was a moment were I saw more little kids around our piece and I realized that someone could easily go over to the fire and get burnt. Mark and I realized the ceremony was over. We said prayers and put the fire out – it was awesome.
And then the magic happened. I placed all the left over boxes of chalk that we had around the site and the kids descended upon it bringing their parents along. The piece took on a totally different energy that was the last leg of the journey. What we did was give the piece away to the community, we let it go, we let people draw whatever they wanted and wherever they wanted. I’ve never seen this before at any street painting festivals.
It was totally liberating and transforming. A welcoming home piece for veterans, a sacred journey of integration for everyone that ends in a free draw for the community. When we left, people were still drawing everywhere and using up all the chalk. Perfect! We were all so grateful and tired.
A family that stayed for a long time used the dad as their canvas – that was very fun to watch and listen to the twins giggle.
In the end are always questions for me. In the bigger picture I know what we did was good and the tip of some iceberg. It was a first and a big learning experience, a different level of art school where the Earth is the canvas and the invitation is to be creative and follow a vision. It’s to include a community, to consult, to get ideas from others, to collaborate, and be of service.
I’d personally like to thank Mark Pinto, Laura Reece Slocum, Jamie Sealander, Kailey Nobles, Denise Kowal (vision keeper of the entire chalk drawing event – largest in the world) and to all the volunteers, to all the chalk drawing street painting who work for days in the hot and cold giving their gifts of beauty freely to the world because they want and need to, Christina Pratt, Sandra Ingerman, Ed Tick (author and therapist whose book “War and the Soul” was my main inspiration), Kathleen Ellertson, Chris Barry, the Journeymen, Patrick Summer, Hoop Power, Zander, Drawing on Earth, and to all those who have served, suffered and still suffer from war on all sides of the battle both inside and out.
In the bigger picture I’m interested in ushering war back into the realms of archetypes and myth. As Tick says, wars belong in myth and not here on the planet destroying all the natural resources and life on Earth. Let’s separate war from money, the economy, and careers. Let’s initiate ourselves into the next evolutionary plane where we take responsibility for ourselves, for our friends and family, for our community, for our enemies, and for the entire planet. War is with us forever, it’s part of our inner worlds, let it live through the arts, through stories and film, through sports, in healthy and sustainable ways.
Text on Site
Ceremonial Chalk Drawing for Veterans and the Global Village
In the old days the village created a sacred time and space to welcome the warriors back from the unimaginable experience of war, to help them integrate back into society. Today the need is still the same, returning military service personnel and the community both need rituals that help integrate the soul and help bring us all back into wholeness. We need to bless those who have served and who are still serving, to bless the dead on all sides of the war, acknowledge and take responsibility for sending our youth off to war, help right any wrong and soul loss, and welcome everyone home into a global village.
We have created a large ceremonial chalk drawing that Vets and the community can walk on to help complete the journey home. We do this to support and inspire the Veterans and families, helping them to create long-term health and lead soulful lives. The vision is to create a sacred space on the pavement using chalk and tempera paint that acts as an imaginary journey. Paper will be supplied to draw and write prayers to burn in a small fire as a give away. This is a collaborative chalk drawing for anyone to collaborate on.
Veterans & Current Service People
We welcome your return to the community by walking together with us. Enter into an archetypal place with a journey of remembrance, retracing your warrior path, the path taken by countless before you – for war is part of our inner nature. Be mindful of your journey, be proud of your service, and be grateful for this moment. At the mid point there will be an opportunity to bridge back into this world, to burn away and let go of what may no longer be of service to yourself, your family, community, and the world.
The second half of this journey is an opportunity for you to walk a healing path, letting go of your sufferings, as you engage in a welcoming loving creative community. Your presence in the community is important; you bring a wisdom that comes from selfless service and as witness to war. We are honored by your presence and welcome you home!
Civilian Community — Global Village
Begin by walking in warrior”s boots, glimpse their infinite and unimaginable journey, honor and sacrifices. Observe, intuite, and be present throughout the journey. The first half of the walk will acquaint you with the warrior”s path. The second half is a path of healing and creative community, where we all walk together connected to the Earth. We welcome the veterans home. We remember those who can”t come home. Your mindfulness is a vitally important component of the welcome back from war and service. Celebrate this journey with us all, and thank you for walking with us. It is an honor!
The Creative Spirit of the Planet is a Beautiful Thing!