Saturday, July 19, 2014

Haitian Collage

Around this time four years ago, I was headed to Haiti for a week-long service trip. If you take a look at my Etsy Shop, you might find that Haiti is a common theme in my work. And if you were to look at my sketchbooks, especially the ones I used around that time, you'll find it was even more common. That week has a very real and lasting impact on my life.

And recently, I added yet another piece to my Haitian collection: 

I love this little collage. Each part of it has meaning, thought it's not a big piece, just 8"x12". I feel like that's fitting, as I didn't spend a large amount of time there, but every minute was meaningful. To start with, the bright, cool colors remind of the guava milkshake I had there, and the cool air on the mountaintop from where I saw the whole city of Port-au-Prince. 

One of the things I did soon after the trip was make a little 4"x5" painting of a mango tree that I sketched several times through the week. I've kept the little painting around, but honestly, it was too small to really do anything with. I never looked for one, but I don't even know if I could find a ready-made frame that small; I'd have to get one custom-made. So when I decided to make a Haitian-themed collage, I knew just what to include. 

With a flat-head screwdriver I removed the staples attaching the canvas to its wooden support, flattened it with a heavy book, and then included it in the collage. 

What's with the house, you ask? The house, my friends, was inspired by a Haitian painting my aunt gave me. She spent a whole summer in Haiti a while back, and over the past few years she's passed several of her Haitian things on to me, including the painting. I traced the outline of Haiti and inside it copied some elements of the painting:

And finally, the blue stripes. It looks like I painted them, right? Well, fun fact, they're actually parts of a little blue and clear striped plastic bag I got some of my souvenirs in, which I glued on the white cardboard. 

In 2010 I was just beginning to keep a semi-regular journal; I wrote in it about twice a week. I really wish I had written every day while in Haiti; the fact that I did not makes me sad. But I did take a small sketchbook with me, and I carried it around a lot. Between that and my pictures, airplane boarding passes, and other odds and ends from the trip, I still managed to document about every minute of it. But friends, please learn from my mistakes! If you've got any upcoming travel plans, especially international travel, and especially to a third-world country, and especially if it's a mission trip, please make journaling a daily habit before you go! You'll thank yourself later, and it'll save you a lot of pain because you won't be kicking yourself over not keeping a journal for years afterward.

As I said, my mission trip to Haiti is a recurring theme in my artwork. Why? Because it was such an eye-opening experience for me. And that's what art should be about, I think. A good art piece, in my opinion, should express something either very emotional, very profound, or both. My time in Haiti had a profound impact on my life, and so that impact is reflected in much of the art I make.

Have you got any insights on international travel, Haiti, or art? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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