new post on trollagerdi project

hi there, i thought i would redirect interest to the project page, here, where there’s a new post about our project.  i just finished a funding application, and it was so helpful that i thought i’d let people see how ambitious it is a year and a half out…


wall mural 5, 6, 7, and 8 (or something like that)

so okay it’s been a few steps.  let me post the pictures and then i’ll talk about the process.


after i got the outline up – imperfectly but not to worry – i took stock of my colors – black, white, light blue, yellow green, phtalo green, scarlet, dark pink – and decided i might could mix up a nice caucasian skin tone.  not that trolls have white skin, mind you.  or maybe they’re pasty white because they live in the mountains and only come out in the winter when it’s dark and nobody’s about to see them.  i can’t be sure.  but anyway, i need a nice light color for the skin or the rest of it won’t make sense.  anyway nothing is final until i put the varnish on.

you can see dark around the edges of the color.  that’s because the graphite contour lines and the grid are unfixed, meaning the graphite smudges into the paint just like any good pigment.  that’s why i need to put a second coat of everything on there, even the black.


then, the next day, i mixed up some scarlet and black and got a nice brownish reddish color that i put on the antlers.  on impulse i also brushed some lightly onto the trolls cheeks, lip and nose.  just as indication, and because when i have a wet paintbrush in my hand nothing is safe.


the next day i found a film can full of green earth dry pigment, and it was enough to mix in with the white house paint.  however, it was very very faintly colored (as green earth is among the weakest of pigments) so i was forced to put in a tiny tiny drop of phthalo green paint, which of course was too much.  so now i’m working with seafoam green, which would have been great back in the 60s but looks a little odd now, especially against that white background.  but i have hopes to make all the white disappear in the end.  it really makes the face color stand out, tho, doesn’t it?  and please note i’ve extended his nose a wee bit and will have to fill it in later.


today, not knowing how to proceed with the hair and beard, i decided to start with the outside of the mural.  so i mixed up that horrid light blue with some black, and slapped it on around the outline of the troll with a 3″ brush, feathering the outside edges so there wouldn’t be a hard edge.  the trouble i’m going to have with this is that now it’s hard to distinguish the antler headdress from the surrounding ocean because there’s a lot of black in both colors, so no contrast.  it means i’ll have to highlight the antlers, which i guess i was going to do anyway.  now my hand is forced, tho.


later on today, since i wasn’t working very well on my other projects, i took the container with the blue-black and mixed more of the blue in, then went around the figure again, another 3″ out from the contour line, feathering the lighter blue into the darker blue and kind of glazing over the darker color so there wasn’t an edge. the effect is kind of a shadow near the figure.  later i intend to take the straight blue out of the can and put it up around the figure, and then take whatever blue is left and mix some more white into it and finish the painting to the edge.

but this is as far as i’ve gotten.  people in the town are beginning to slow down as they pass, and some even go up to it and point.  it’s obviously a map of iceland, but i’m not sure how many schoolchildren have seen the troll face in it.  it can’t be that i’m the first, tho i’ve asked and everybody says so.  but hey, i’m not going to copyright it or anything.

here are the relevant timelapses of the progress. – five, six, seven, eightnine, ten.

landscaping project 18 years later

this is part of the process of getting ready to do a public art project in iceland next year.  it shows that i have done something similar in the past, so that people know i’m not going off completely at random.  in fact, almost 20 years ago i was responsible for the design of a school courtyard, and thought up something similar to what i came up with for iceland, the site or which is also at a school.

has the time gone by that fast? today i stopped by the school where i designed the inner courtyard back in 1995. way back when i lived in fayetteville, georgia, and they were growing fast, so they built a new elementary school. and i’m curious, so i poked my nose in while they were doing construction, and found out that there was no plan for the inner courtyard. so i volunteered, and was given the okay, and a $20k budget. whee hah. it was that simple. no approval process, no committees, just a sacred architecture design, and we’re good to go.

3 courtyard plan

it’s hard to see this tiny little picture, but i don’t have the original, or a larger one, so please bear with me. it shows the courtyard only, never minding the school that is built around it. it’s a very long courtyard, something like 300 feet, about the size of a football field, but only about 30 feet wide. i’m just guessing here, it’s been too long. the main feature is the pathway, which meanders, opening out into a large area for an outdoor classroom, and further along going over a bridge and pond. what you can’t see is the specifications for plants, grading, and all those technical things.

1 courtyard - spring hill north

and this is what they made of it. this is from the first year, when they opened the school. you’ll notice that the trim and roof and doors are painted green. that’s the only way i know it was the first year. it was designed to be a delightful view from all the inner classrooms, to be used as an outdoor classroom, and to have separate habitats for teaching. like a farm plot, a compost pile, swampy places and rocky places, shady places and sunny places. there’s even a fountain, tho the contractors stuck that in completely contrary to the bridge and pond idea. this is looking from the gym (or south) end of the school. all that grass is contrary to my design, it seems they went thru altering the design as it suited them, which i was upset about at the time, but at that point it was out of my hands and the contractor’s responsibility. these things happen.

2 courtyard - spring hill south

the view from the roof is instructive. you can see the garden (the superintendent put in a vegetable garden, and said everything tasted horrible because of the dirt). the faint green beyond the garden is a selection of grasses for a small meadow, and see all the nice trees going back.

and i just noticed, omg, that someone painted the green roof and gutters and doors red. how bizarre. it’s still the same school, just a year’s difference. so, the red school is the second year, when instead of grass they’ve got some trees and a meadow going, apparently. i’m afraid i can’t explain this at all. or really the chronology, except that the roof is red today. so i don’t know.

after the design and execution of the courtyard, and a year when i was still in fayetteville to do alternative projects with the school, and to shepherd the courtyard, it was left to whatever they could do with it. and poor dears, the weather hasn’t cooperated for awhile. one year it’s too hot and everything in there bakes because it’s a suntrap (which is bad in the south). i didn’t account for that. the next year it’s too rainy and growth explodes. eventually all the perennials died and there was just weeds, so they ripped the weeds out and covered the ground with plastic and mulch.

the courtyard is still being used. the installed some benches and a board to use as a teaching station, and there are benches in the shade where the teachers can eat. so it’s useful. but it’s fairly barren, and can be made better by various means. the first and most important being to amend that soil. i had a conversation with the principal after my tour, and suggested that each classroom be given a spot, and that the kids research what should go there, and they should do projects. and he nodded as if everyone had suggested that already. another thing could be to throw a bunch of money at it and get a landscaping company in there to make everything better. seriously, we had some lovely native trees and a bunch of great plants in there, but all that’s left is the crape myrtle (which admittedly looks lovely a dozen years later).


so a million years later, everything is mulched, the only trees are crape myrtles, with a few bushes, and some grass coming up between the mulch. at the library (or north) end, they’ve put in benches and a covered board, so they’re still using the outdoor classroom idea. and further on there are benches under the trees so that the teachers can hang out in the fresh air.


from the other side you can see where the bridge and pond were. the bridge and pond were actually the idea and work of another school family, and they did their addition the year after the courtyard was put in. it failed, but so did my fountain idea. and since i didn’t specify drainage, or get the construction guys to put in the pond area, it will probably always fail. which is just to say something else will grow, and it’ll continue to work fine. as long as somebody’s tending it and trying new things. that’s how it works at my own house. i grow a lot of anything i can get to grow at all.

one of the problems with my design is that i made no allowances for heavy rain runoff, and there were several places where recent rains had spread mulch over the pathway. but the worst problem was that the soil was not amended, and was the same heavy clay churned up when they build the school. this turned out to be a horrible problem. also, i should have had sprinklers put in.


one thing that was a great hit at the time was the idea of family trees. we did a fund raiser, and got seedlings of all sorts of hardwoods, and sold them to families, who then planted them in selected spots in the front of the school. and then we had the cement truck come by (i remember this, i wish i still had the pictures), and pour all these 12″ square markers, that the families then drew their marks or initials or inscriptions in. and they’re still there, and some of the trees are getting enormous now.

btw i think i’m way off as to the date of the school construction. i had thought it was 2005, but that was just yesterday. it was more likely 1996, which makes the school a million years old. no, let me count. still almost 20 years old.

iceland art project update

it’s less than a year before i go to iceland, and i’ve been planning the art project i want to do there for months. i’ve got working partners in olafsfjordur, we’ve got a schedule, and a budget, we’re finding other artists who are interested, and we’ve got public support where our project is known. we just don’t have any permission yet.

the summer is not the right time to organize these things. nobody is available, their attention is turned elsewhere, whatever organizing body isn’t in session. so all the plans and arrangements and agreements we have among ourselves are worthless until someone official says go.

what we need is permission to use the site, and permission to use the stones. a no from either governing body would kill the project right there.

and if we get the okay from both bodies, then a number of things have to happen before the ground freezes in the winter.

the teachers who will be such an important part of this project need to be organized in the beginning of the school year, which is now. the kids just went back to school this week.

also, the site has to be surveyed and improved if needed, and the various stones have to be identified so that we know what we’re dealing with when we go to make a plan.

and we need an advisory board made of local experts – we need businesspeople, a lawyer, local artists, a media person, engineers, stonemasons, and someone to interface with the huldufolk, elves, and trolls.

we have kind of organized the working partners; anyway there are three of us who talk frequently and are putting feedback into the presentation we are working on.

sometime real soon now, maybe this week, the presentation will be shown to a bunch of people, and the process of getting permission and getting organizes will begin. or not.

if not, then i go to iceland and do nothing but write my story, which is my original intent. if we get permission, then i will spend as much time in the next 11 months in planning and organizing as i will spend writing my story, and for the first part of my residency, i will do nothing but bring the art project to fruition. and then i’ll write my story. if i’m not too burned out…

anyway, that’s where it is now. still furiously working on the project, but nothing official has happened, and the kill switch may be pulled at any time with no real damage done.

art musings, olafsfjordur

i am fascinated with the glacial history of olafsfjordur, at the northern edge of iceland, on the troll peninsula, among the highest and most rugged mountains in iceland.

they were all glaciers not so long ago. the fjords of fjallabyggd were all scraped clean, planed, by ice several thousand feet thick, rubbing their slow way to the ocean.

when you look at the mountains surrounding olafsfjordur, it’s like someone took a pastry knife to a partially hardened mountain of marzipan – whole sections scraped right off, leaving streaks and chunks.

i envision it as it was during the ice age, the entire valley and all the side valleys a flowing river of ice, the present day town visible as a ghost reflection at the bottom of the glacier, under the ice tongue where the glacier drops all its crumbs.

i want to do some art about the mountains, and the fjord valley, and the ice that isn’t there any more.


a good dose of public art experience, coming up

wee hah, i am volunteering with the living walls project for the second year. last year i delivered lunch to a bunch of artists, helped to clean out a building we used as information central during the block party, and brought along my 4 year old grandson avery as aide to sten and lex (he got to go up on the lift).

this year, because i’m going to be doing a public art project in iceland, i need more executive experience, so i’ve asked them for some responsibility so that i’ll know what i’m doing next year, when i’m on my own (never completely, lots of others).

so, they’ve just sent out the email assignments to all the volunteers, and i get to be point person for district 2, which means i get to help with the scaffolding, and the various materials. and i’ll go between the volunteers and the staff. by the end of the 2 weeks i’ll know what it takes to do a large public art project. which will really help in iceland.

i’ll be with the following artists and their 13 supporting volunteers –

Joshua Ray Stephens
Christopher Derek Bruno
Sam Parker

there will be more.  i’ll keep track and try to post daily. living walls runs from august 5 thru the 20th, the conference itself runs from the 14-18, with movie night, a block party, lectures, and tours.

the final orientation and meet-and-greet will be this coming friday, august 2. we’ll be meeting fellow volunteers, discussing the artists, and get some last minute details about this years conference. i’ll get my artist packet, with wall locations, phone numbers and email addresses, food information (all important), and all sorts of other details. i’ll let you know.

refining a pubic art project

this project will go thru several stages (see previous posts, below). when i do a public art project all by myself, i spend many hours working up ideas before i settle on one, refine it with several drawings, then submit one drawing, as finished as possible, to whoever gets to approve my project.

but this public art project is different for many reasons. nobody put out a call for artists with a preselected site and materials and budget. it’s my idea, and i’m bringing it forward hoping to get people interested. so i will encounter resistance simply because nobody but me is thinking this way and it’s my job to get them interested. but i don’t have a finished final drawing to show them. i just have an idea – hey, i’d like to do a public art project in north iceland! whoopee! but all anybody can say to that is, ‘okay, and…?’

another reason it’s different is that much of it has to be done from thousands of miles away. which means a lot of other people will be involved. a lot of the work i’ll be doing will be done right here, on my computer, in emails and blog posts and facebook messges. others will have to choose a site and prepare it, make local contacts and organize the participants. i hope to minimize the burden on others, but the work they put into the project will mean it becomes their project, rather than mine. which is great.

the reason for this update is because my contact on the ground, the wonderful director of my art residency, has been talking to people around town about the ideas she and i brainstormed together in some facebook messages. and one of the people she’s been talking to came up with a really good objection to one of my ideas, which is that wildflower gardens take maintenance. and my whole operating method is to bring my art to a certain stage of completion and then walk away. so, because i don’t want to cause a train wreck, i am rethinking my idea.

the suggestion was that we might make some use of all the rock that came out of the tunnel that now connects the two towns of fjallabyggd. it was just finished a couple of years ago, and i’ll just bet there are tons and tons of rocks of all sizes and shapes, just lying around collecting moss.

here is an example of the rocks from the tunnel, decorating Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga, the local junior college.

the suggestion was also made that we could take the fairies into account.

i am of two minds about this. i believe in fairies, and you don’t mess with them. they are a proud people and don’t like being dissed.  but when you talk about rocks, and rocks of a certain size, and rocks which aren’t a normal part of the landscape, then i think fairy houses. so, maybe, we could use some of the rocks blasted out of the mountain, and make a fairy city. if the fairies didn’t mind, and the townspeople didn’t mind.

google translate gives álfur uppgjör, i’m sure there are many other ways to say it in icelandic, but i like Huldufólkbyggd. fjallabyggd is the name of the conjoined towns, and olafsfjord has a lot of -byggd streetnames.  i assume they refer to the fact that these streets used to be swampy vacant land, and i assume they were built up in recent decades.  byggd sometimes translates to ‘built-up area.’

so, the idea i came back with, based on practical criticism of my plan and a good suggestion for an alternative, is this.

we can take a number of rocks, not large ones but too big for people to lift, from whatever pile they’re in, and move them to a suitable site (which we’re working on finding). then, we can build a tiny little town of fairy houses.  we could make a design of our own, or even a small version of olafsfjordur itself.  we can make streets of paving sized stones, and buildings of larger rocks set into or on top of the ground. then we can decorate them as fairy houses, and plant flowers and grasses around them.

this would require a whole lot of participation by the people who live there.  for instance, i would like to open the design of the elf city to people who live there. we could have a contest, all ages. then, the ground that is selected will need to be cleared and prepared. and then the rocks have to be selected, moved, and placed.  this is real work, and it would be great if there was some local funding to compensate the people who will do this.  perhaps that kickstarter campaign…

the fun part would come after all the grunt work. i want to get the children involved in decorating the buildings. kids are great at painting, and they could make really good doors and windows, roofs, other architectural details.  if it was decided to make a mini-olafs, then they would be really good at making small copies of all the buildings in the town.

we would put annual flowers in front of the houses, and make streetsigns, and have a big party to open the exhibit. while i’m in the town, i will make up special seed packages to give out, and then later, in the fall, people can plant them around the fairy houses, which will grow next year, and hopefully make a permanent garden around the stones.

that’s my idea at the moment.  i have sent it off to the people who are interested in it, in facebook messages, and when they have a chance to think about it, they will respond with their thoughts, and i will think about what they say and redesign the project again.

if anybody reading this has an opinion or suggestion, i welcome them.