Surrealism is the new Real

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Torran's Space Mural - The Week Long Oddessy

    Recently (last week) I had the opportunity to do a Space themed mural for a very special little guy.
    To call him a Miracle Child isn’t nearly enough – he’s a little bundle of miracles. He was born 3 months premature after a difficult pregnancy, on life support for a while, and 6 brain surgeries over the years.  Torran is autistic, and needs hearing aids to be able to hear. He’s also the sweetest little bundle of energy, and he turned 5 years old on March 10. Talk about a rough start.
     His parents, the lovely Lesley (who keeps a more detailed blog Real Women Drive Stick about her adventures as the mother of the mutli-miracle boy and other topics) and hubby Bruce, decided that since they were renovating the entire upper story of their home (and living in the furnished basement for the time being) that they wanted something special for the wee man. Lesley approached me about the mural a few months ago, and I was ecstatic to be able to accept. That meant staying in their home while doing the mural, and living with them for the week it took to paint it. I’m pleased to say it was a fantastic time, and good company all the way through.
      Torran was something of a taskmaster. I arrived Sunday evening with the intention of setting up my painting supplies in his room then spending some time with Lesley and Bruce before sleeping then starting painting in the morning. He was under the impression I would be starting right away, and in his adorable way stated his opinion. I hadn’t even taken my shoes off. He'd been waking up in previous mornings talking about the things I would be painting for him, so I guess in is excitement he forgot that adults need things like food, sleep and to be social.
     For the record the painting portion of the mural is done, but the room is not quite complete. There will eventually be a bed with space themed covers, a dresser and a console with buttons that cause lights to illuminate, a moon that glows and shows the different phases, so yes, there are large empty areas but they will eventually be filled with furniture when the flooring is added in. I will be adding more photos when the room is fully operational.
      Since Lesley wanted to prevent the room from being too dark, it was divided up into 2 parts - Torran's "Space Station" and Outer Space. When the wee man is in bed, he'll be looking out through his "force field" at the stars around him.

The Canvas

     Torran had specifically requested a Spiral Galaxy, so I decided that the easiest way to work it in would be through a porthole in the North wall that would be next to his bed, seeing as there was a large number of things to be added in the rest of the room. I went with a 3D look to the outside of the porthole, and opted to use the wall for a space to show objects floating as if in Zero Gravity. I had originally wanted to paint toys, but Bruce pointed out that he wanted Torran to be able to keep the room into teenager-hood, so I opted for something a little heavier and educational, the 20th anniversary edition of Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time".

     I also added a floating pen, figuring pens will be around when Torran is a teenager (I hope) and lines in the walls to make it look like Space Station paneling, instead of just a plain white wall. The lower right corner is where Torran's bed will eventually go, so he can look out as his Spiral Galaxy whenever he wants. Everything here was done with acrylic paints, except the galaxy for which I also used my airbrush to get the softer lighting effect.
      Apparently the 3D effect worked - the electrician came in and thought it was actually a metal frame around the painting. He also said he wants a room like this.
Detail pics of the book & pen

Saturn & Comet


The East wall contained a closet, and a little alcove area where the door opened. Since the wall is going to be primarily shelving over the bed and shelves in the closet, that area got spackled with stars, but otherwise left alone. The alcove on the other hand was prime territory for Haley's Comet, Saturn, and a Nebula. The comet and the Nebula (also a special request from Torran) were done with a combination of airbrush and acrylic paint. Saturn was in an odd place, for a reason to be discussed in the South portion.

South Wall
  The South wall was the most involved part of the mural, as it required a large amount of research and detail. For one, Torran is flying his own little shuttle called the "Valeryan", a name he chose himself. I enjoyed doing a little portraiture of him for this, and he seemed to also enjoy it. All the planets and constellations on this wall are aligned exactly as they were on the day of Torran's birth (thank you Google Sky Map Time Traveler), though obviously not to scale - that wouldn't be a particularly impressive mural. ;) Commander Hadfield, who took over command of the International Space Station a couple of weeks ago is waving out at Torran from the space station. As an aside, I DID try to get a few words of encouragement from Cmdr. Hadfield, but due to his super busy schedule, I was unable to do so.
 However, the lovely PR people I spoke with offered to send Torran a "Mission souvenir" package, so with luck in a week or so he'll receive a small package, probably including a mission patch and some information on what Cmdr. Hadfield is doing on the Station, besides Twittering to folks, playing his guitar, and running things like a boss.
       And of course, no Space Mural would be complete without a shuttle from NASA. I chose Discovery, since it was the last US/Cdn.shuttle to fly in Torran's lifetime.(At least, the last shuttle of those that were flying in the last 20 years. With luck there will be new ones for him to see in the next few years.
     One of Torran's other requests (and the one he talked about most mornings leading up to my arrival on scene) was the Canada Arm. I had originally considered putting it on the Discovery, or the International Space Station, but where's the fun in that? So I attached it to Torran's own Station, where he can "control" the arm, using the console to be built and added at the foot of his bed. It will light up when buttons are pushed, and give him some really fun play/pretend time.
     I put his station within orbit of Planet Earth, and put the planet within view, with a tiny little white dot marking Toronto's location so he can always find his way home. I also added a satellite, orbiting earth, to help communications along, or so he can get decent Wi-Fi in space, take your pick.
    Jupiter was unfortunately very far down on the Sky Map, so it's been squeezed into the one area not to be covered by the drawers that will eventually go in that corner, but still within view of the station. A couple other things will soon be added - an illuminated moon that will be remotely controlled, showing the different phases and providing a nightlight for the wee man. (I think I may have to get one too - it's pretty sweet).
    I also spent some time with the star constellations, and will eventually be providing Lesley with a star map, with planet names and lines connecting the stars to form Aquarius and surrounding constellations so she can show Torran where they are. (A few stars might have been covered by the ISS and Discovery.)

 The Earth, Jupiter, and part of the Canada Arm are actually on the West Wall, along with the window and the eventual control console. Rather than try to omit the window, I worked it in as a "monitor", labelled Earth, so Torran could see the weather at home. The magnetic board that Lesley installed below the window will soon have Torran's instructions from Mission Control, including his morning routine and things he needs to remember to start his day.
     Over where the foot of his bed and the control console will be I added a monitor screen showing the Mars Rover, something else he can remotely control while pretending he's in space. I am especially proud of this piece, as a few people on Facebook and G+ thought it was an actual photo at first. I didn't attempt do go for full detail (it would have taken another week of painting) so I went with a slightly stylized approach, which worked out wonderfully. Below this is where the light up control board will go, with the possible additions of a couple more screens, depending on the size of the board. (It's still in the works, and all that.)
    And of course, no mural is complete without "Easter Eggs", which is highly serendipitous since I finished the painting the day before Easter.
Easter Eggs, hidden within the Mural
       Near Earth, a small 1950's Pulp Classic UFO circles the Earth, probably creating crop circles in some poor farmer's field, or annoying the people at Area 51 which officially doesn't exist. The X-wing is hanging out just below the Discovery shuttle, while the Tie-fighter is handing out by the International Space Station and lightswitch. The Serenity Firefly Class model can be seen just to the right of Mars, and the Enterprise is jetting away from the nebula on the corner of the closet wall. There's also a B5 Shadow vessel hanging out in the Nebula, but it didn't show up in my photos. Why are they there? I might just be a geek. :) My hope is that one day Torran will watch those shows and movies and perhaps recognize the tiny spaceships on his wall.
     I will be returning to the house to add a monogram for Lesley and Bruce in a week or so, but I already miss being there. It was great company all week long, and such an incredible project to be able to do for such a special little guy, not to mention having the chance to put in the research to make it somewhat astro-accurate, and something that Torran will hopefully enjoy for years.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Poor Man's Fight

     Recently I had the honour and privilege of working with Elliott Kay, author of "Poor Man's Fight", a dark future Science Fiction novel (available on Amazon). He wanted something a little different than the usual "space ship or planet" background a lot of Sci-Fi novels seem to sport these days, so we went with something a little less vast and a little more intimate. The idea was to focus less on the "space" aspect, and more on the intimate details that would tell part of the story without revealing too much.

      Elliott liked the style I had used for my fan drawing of Boba Fett, so I went with the same media, and cooler colours to reflect the isolated feel. It was a fun project, and I look forward to working with Elliott again.

      The next project is one I have been looking forward to for months, also involving Space. I'll be doing a mural focused on Space, and different aspects of human interaction with the vastness that is our universe, for a 6 year old autistic boy. The Mars Rover, the International Space Station, the Discovery shuttle (the last to fly within the boy's lifetime) and with the pending permission, I intend to add in references to different Sci-fi series, like Star Trek, Star Wars and Babylon 5. It's going to be pretty darn epic. I'll be doing a special post with all the stories behind the different aspects when it's done in 3 weeks.