Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Peaceable Kingdom" - Alaska version

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" - Rodney King

Still being inspired by some of the works in that book of American Folklore, this one caps off the series of doodles: Edward Hicks' iconic painting "Peaceable Kingdom." Lots has been written (here's a good Quaker perspective) about the sixty-odd variations he did on this theologically larded theme, a pastoral portrayal of spiritual symbolism. It took a while to select correlating species common to the Arctic, and in turn "customizing" the imagery recast into a regional remix. I spent a couple sessions of sketching in general areas to block in basic shapes and then swapping around the species until finding the right combination of critters that still stayed somewhat true to Hicks' original composition. The cruise-ship is in reference to a different version than the variation posted where white settlers are signing a treaty with Native Americans; that's updated that to Native Alaskans being photographed by a tourist (incidentally the only add-on is the suitcase). Fireweed, an alder thicket, spruce and birch trees have been substituted for the flora, and for fauna the three bears (polar, black & grizzly), moose, walrus, salmon, hare, beaver, sled dog, wolf, musk ox, raven, bald eagle, Dall sheep and caribou - sixteen species including humans.

I confess a holistic, harmonious vision is not completely at the heart of this version, as it's poking fun at the piece and offering an ironic interpretation/commentary on the reality of a contemporary, analogous situation. The most obvious deviation from Hicks' "peace" would be the mauling of the bawling child (and the omission of the other children), and shoring up the Western view of a clear division between intrusive, disruptive Man and Nature. Plus I suppose a personal motivating force behind doing this stems from the delicate psychological balance struck trying to coexist in a one-room cabin over another long, dark and cold Alaska winter with a whole host of critters.

It felt good being able to return to a temporarily shelved concept over a month later, the back-burner projects tend to weigh heavy when unmet goals accumulate. This panel was pecked at around the edges intermittently over the past week until I cleared the deck enough to spend a couple all-day sessions on it and finish it up.
Speaking of, one of the films that I really like to listen to in the background while I'm working, and one that is tangentially related to the subject matter of this particular panel, is Terrence Malick's "The New World," one of my personal top five (excellent review of his work here). Along with "The Thin Red Line," his films envelope you in an all-encompassing environmental experience by combining intimate natural sounds with a deeply reflective and connective score.

After some digital prints for tabloid posters and recycling as a Nuggets panel, I'm going to experiment with this piece; it'll be the first thing I've ever done to get printed on canvas, as I believe nothing else will suffice to truly reflect the works inherent cheesiness. Some clear varnish should bring out a nice ambient glow along with adding a little luster and faux brush-strokes. What I have in mind is along the lines of Thomas Kinkade's "brushworks" (each poster will come with an Official Certificate of Authenticity):
"Some of the prints also feature light effects that are painted onto the print surface by hand by "skilled craftsmen," touches that add to the illusion of light and the resemblance to an original work of art, and which are then sold at higher prices."
Soon as I get the details down and move into production I'll start peddling the wares by offering a limited-edition print through the website - keep ya posted.

“Love... shall we deny it when it visits us... shall we not take what we are given.” - Captain John Smith


  1. Cool. I'm a fan of both Edward Hicks and Jamie Smith. I want a copy!!!

  2. Excellent! One of my agents will be contacting you shortly to arrange a payment schedule.
    No but seriously - thanks Charley, and I'll get a poster in the mail for you folks ...soon as I get these Xmas cards off...