Aulani Essay

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There is always a little magic in the process of landing a mural job. This was a large mural job.

Working with the Disney team was very gratifying for me. My father, Jean Charlot, had lectured to the Disney artists when he was a young man and had made lifetime friends. I had so enjoyed meeting these artists when we would visit them in rair trips away from Hawaii to Hollywood when I was a child. Hugging the tentacles of the octopus that battled with Capt. Neimo was the ultimate of cool to me.

Here was my chance to work with my generations Disney team. The Disney Imagineers hired me as an independent “Artist” and after the content of what they wanted to be in the mural was agreed on they left me alone.

Between us we had complete agreement on the ancient Hawaiiana half. I wanted the whole mural to be about the Hawaiian culture before Captain Cook discovered the islands but Joe Rhode, who headed the project and who had hired me, was set in his desire to have the ocean side of the mural to be about modern Hawaii. Working with your client is what you do when you are a muralist. Once the subject matter of the mural was agreed on I was left alone to do my art.

There was though another very real pressure that ruled my artistic output and that was time. I had miniature canvases that I had made on which I was going to design the mural composition. When I had all 24 full size canvas panels stretched and delivered to my apartment/studio I felt a click go off in my brain. It was like a Stop Watch clicking telling me there was no time left to make sketches of the mural composition. That brain clock was right on as I finished the mural, after two years of work, one week before it had to be sent to Hawaii to be installed. Meeting the deadline meant painting every day from morning to night, no time to sketch, no time to doodle, just paint and paint again. Every day was an artists dream - do my thing, painting, over and over again. That meant trusting my instinct, running on automatic every day. I loved it.

Forty years of living in the islands left me with years of images, years of memories. I knew what each tree and fern felt like. In Fiji I had hunted wild boar with spears, in the Big Island I had hunted them with a camera and rifles. The first panel I painted was Hawaiians bird catching and boar hunting.

I had a list of work occupations that the Pre Cook Hawaiians did, what men did and what women did, and as I painted them into the mural I would check that occupation off. There were enough occupations to paint that a mural three times the size of this one could have been painted.

As friends from Hawaii would visit me I would photo them for the mural. I also had years of photoes from my years of living there. Image by image I stitched together the composition. My hope was always to give the viewer the sense of living in another time. I studied the drawings and watercolors of the artists who saw and painted the Hawaiian culture from life. Every little squiggle I would stare at wanting to know what it meant. The Hawaiians were very fashion conscious. The women's hair styles at the time of discovery were very short and bleached in the front, the men were very creative with “Mohawks” and half beards and much more than I had space to represent.


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/ still image / mural details / aulani mural in lobby

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