The sun peeps swifty over the hills this time of year. The sky filled with a light haze at 4:30am and the air rushes in from the east as the inner country heats. It's the middle of summer and the holiday season has rebooted a new year and my talented-Artistic-Sister has drove 1,300kms from the north-west of Australia to paint three murals just west of Perth city, and I join her to capture the journey on film.
I rose wearily. The weekend had been a social ping pong of celebrations and birthdays for the last three days and I was feeling the weight of all that talk-thinking that goes with meeting people. It didn't help that my un-fit socialising muscle had been slowly deteriorating since Covid, when everyone kept to themselves. It wasn't like jumping back onto a bike, as the saying goes - although, it was unbalanced and rickety - just like jumping onto a bike - I had a thought, that analogy now made more sense than before. But like a bike, I had a sense that over time it would all come back to me, but for now I was socially exhausted.
I scrambled the kitchen, fighting my slumber and climbed into my car packed full of camera gear chugging a garden-goodie-smoothie while I drove north for the next hour. I turned off the main highway into a commercial district filled with freshly laid buildings plotted amongst sandy vacant plots. It wasn't the most picturesque of sites. Tradies scurried about the unfinished site as the sun's rays finally hit the earth at my feet. It wasn't a relaxed sunshine, it was full and punchy. I could tell, today it was going to get hot.
Tiff, my sister, was hurrying in and out of one of the units that was along a corridor that cut through the centre of the units. She was gathering all her paints and tools ready for the day. I greeted Tiff and she too was spacey. Like we had both been affected by the same brain-haze, but then I recalled she'd drove two days to get here. She had a good reason to be sleepy.
We piled her stuff into the back of my ute and putted down the un-sealed ally-way to the entrance of the site where the first of three murals would go.
Behind some electrical boxes and indented into the building was a square wall which spread from the ground to the top of the building about fifteen metres high. This was going to be the first of three murals. Tiff told me it would be a fine art mural of a Kingfisher seabird native to the coast and wetlands in the region, while I attached propellers to my drone.
I quickly wrangled some shots with the drone before the sun beamed too high and took away the contrast of the shadows. I got some shots of the blank canvases where the murals would eventually go, but the sun was already arcing well into the sky and the light was washing away quickly. I would have to come back to get something more artistic later.
An engine fired and a constant beep drowned out the morning air. A scissor-lift parked under the mural had earlier gotten bogged in the loose gravel. The sight manager was driving in a small Bobcat and began towing it out. I looked at Tiff and she giggled, "I love construction sites. They have all the tools, even if you think you can't do something, they come up with a way". The scissor-lift broke free and an earth compactor was sent in to level the ground to prevent further bogging. The site was ready.
Tiff turned to me with a nervous smile, "Ok. That's good. But um... Ah... I haven't actually used one of these before," referring to the Scissor-lift. "So, I guess we'll see how we go". She started the machine and throttled the stick upwards. It rose up the wall and jaunted to a halt where she began painting. Tiffy hastily began brushing blue wild strokes, revealing symbols as she scissored across and down the wall covering the entire wall. From afar it sure didn't resemble a Kingfisher or a bird in anyway. All I could reconcile from the scribbles was a foreign language that resembled an old movie I watched as a kid called Dropdead Fred. I recalled Elizabeth, a small girl with an imaginary friend called Fred. She wrote to him in a secret language which only she and he could read which she hid in the shed. I was curious now, "Was Tiff writing in her own scripture?", I thought. Then amongst the symbols I spotted coherence, my nickname, Crackles sprawled out at the top of wall and I thought this must be some sort of homage to the making of the video. "But, that'd be a waste of time," I hushed the silly thought and continued to try to unravel the mystery.
The scissor-lift cramped to it's lowest point and Tiff needed to get behind it in order to finish her long-lost language. She grabbed the stick and start manoeuvring the lift across the mural. Twisting the tyres and incrementing back and forth trying to pivot the machine away from the wall. She grunted in frustration as the progress was slow and cumbersome. Back and forth, and sideways. Finally, after fifteen minutes she broke free and rolled towards me and turned off the lift and climbed down. She laughed, "That was frustrating. I couldn't get it in my head how the wheels turn. Is it just the back wheels that turn?" I giggled, trying not to talk over the audio track. It was amusing. I recalled the scene from Austin Powers, where a golf cart was stuck in a corridor. And, I had been recording the whole thing. Older brother syndrome perhaps, but It was a nice comical scene I thought, reassuring her that it was only the front wheels that turned. I thought this could be a scene that could be a an ice-breaker from all the deep interesting stuff we'd talk about later on around art.
Tiff grabbed a drink of water and I turned my mic back on, as the machine was silent now and we could talk. I asked, "What on earth are all these symbols, they don't look like a bird?" She looked back and laughed, "They are for my symbol grid." Saying it as if I knew what that alien word meant and how these alien symbols fit together. I spat out genuinely, "I don't actually know what you're talking about," making sure this didn't come out like a question for the camera. I genuinely didn't know. "It's so, you can paint whatever you like letters, numbers, symbols and then I take a picture of the wall and overlay my design so you get a reference of the proportions when things are really big and you don't have to keep checking. It's one of the great things of technology for murals," Tiff explained. Wow, I thought. What a cool revelation. As we were chatting a couple of people walked by from across the road, "Oh wow. Look at that," I could hear faintly. Tiff giggled again, "Oh man, I actually wonder sometimes. I swear I could put anything on the wall and people would say they love it". To my suprise, they sounded like they were genuinely amazed by the scribbles. Not just saying it to be polite. I kept quiet to keep the sound track clean as Tiff continued on talking about how painting for her connects people to things they might not notice and to remind them of the things outside of the concrete jungle. It clicked. Now I realised why the passer-buyers were so enthusiastic. To see something. Anything would be a relief from this dusty reflective grey that filled their day to day surroundings.
Tiff jumped back aboard the scissor-lift and started sketching out her design, making sure her brush strokes met where the symbols on the wall aligned to her design on her phone. "This way, I can make sure my proportions are spot on. Because if I don't get this right, no matter how beautifully detailed the mural is, it will just look off. This is the most stressful and important part."
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this slither of an insight to a new project I am working on. A small doco about Tiff and the murals she is painting. I look forward to sharing more soon. If you would like to follow along, please hit the subscribe button and you will be sent an email with the latest posts.