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Creating artwork for Fort Simpson
Mural-making and sign-painting program underway at Aurora College

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, August 1, 2013

Colourful fish, dragonflies and ravens will become part of the Fort Simpson landscape after a new program wraps up at Aurora College.

NNSL photo/graphic

Joseph Purcell stands with the first mural created by students in the mural-making and sign-painting program that he's been instructing at Aurora College in Fort Simpson. The mural will be placed in the community's swimming pool. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Through a partnership with the Village of Fort Simpson and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, the college's Fort Simpson campus is offering a mural -making and sign-painting program.

To date, two of the expected six murals have been completed. At the end of the program, the murals will be given to the Village of Fort Simpson to place around the community.

In addition to creating works of art, while working on the murals, the six participants in the course are learning basic artistic concepts including colour, line, pattern, texture and composition, said Joseph Purcell, a full-time, professional artist who is leading the program. The program isn't about creating artists, but rather people who can make murals or signs, he said.

"There is a demand for signs," said Purcell.

Following an apprenticeship model, Purcell is involving the students in every step of the mural-making process from applying four coats of primer to each mural panel, to choosing and mixing the paint colours and applying them to the murals. The first mural created by the young adults is a three-dimensional piece showing six brightly coloured fish leaping on a green background.

The mural will be hung at the community's new pool.

"I wanted to create something that was playful, that had a wave-like composition," Purcell said.

Knowing that many of the pool's patrons are children, Purcell also designed the mural to be colourful and have qualities that could have been created by a child.

With the first mural, the six students learned how much time and energy can go into a piece. Each of the fish, as well as the wooden blocks used to decorate them, had to be primed four times and receive four coats of paint.

"It was very repetitive work, very time consuming," Purcell said.

The students, including Lance Hardisty, Jordan Isaiah, Donovan Peterson, Dillon Manuel, Sheldon Yallee and Bobby Cazon, talked and listened to music while working on the mural for three weeks, beginning on July 8.

"They worked hard," said Purcell.

The process of making a mural was totally new to them, he said. During the same time period, the students also completed the second mural both murals are 1.2 by 2.4 metres of a dragonfly.

Deh Cho Dragon was created using a popular process for making murals that involves doing the drawing on acetate and then projecting it onto the mural panel where it is traced and then painted, said Purcell.

"It's a very simple way to work," he said.

Before the program ends on Aug. 30, Purcell expects to finish four more murals, including ones that include a raven, a black bear and possibly a loon. The students are also expected to create their own, smaller murals.

To Purcell's knowledge, this is the first program of its kind offered by Aurora College. The Department of Public Works and Services has also been contributing by allowing the students to use its shop in the village.

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