Small Systems Design Associates

Home page for the Intro Panel to a display of the 10 Walkabout panels.

WALKABOUT - A young woman's journey of exploration.

At the heart of it we are all story tellers. As we go through the day-to-day wonders, terrors, and sometimes boring events of living, we gather material for our personal stories. Along with these materials we add our thoughts, images, and memories. Then we use our tools of expression to form stories. …at least in our own minds.

In this, the early twenty-first century of the Common Era, the tools of digital expression in two and three dimensional media are almost limitless. Those who are facile with digital tools use them to quickly make color, sound, imagery, movement, and physical objects. Essentially, and more importantly, these tools become more and more reliable, cheap, and available, over time, to everyone who feels a need - as the Hawaiians say it - to "…make story".

There are many stories in the form of beautiful works of visual and animation art made possible with digital media. However, there is a problem for the digital artist in the lack of tactility in working the medium of expression. Computer keyboards, drawing tablets, and rigidity in the mathematics and logic of digital software insulates us from the electronics, and so blocks us from approaching artistic expression in the free-wheeling and messy ways of very young children. Because we can't really touch digital art, it all has a sort of plastic feel about it.

We need to return to the child's way of doing art. We need to get our hands, clothes, and surroundings dirty making a big mess with molding clay, with cutting rocks and wood, with splashing paint on canvas, and splashing other stuff on other surfaces, and even with simple hand writing on blank sheets of paper with pencils that smudge, and ink that spills.

In this show I do make extensive use of digital media. I use the web to gather images, and I use Photoshop and other visual and animation tools to manipulate and assemble the images into a montage that supports the context in each panel. I use the web to find and verify facts of history, and to explore the opinions of family, friends, and others on social media in developing the descriptive text that accompanies each panel. These texts and layouts are developed using a web version of MS Office.

This process of image selection, layout, review, and revision has gone on, with occasional breaks to do other things, for over two and a half years now. It has evolved in parallel with the childish and messy process of extending my limited knowledge of how to do physical work and create physical objects with oil paint. The result of that process is what you see hanging on the walls here.

There is one more aspect to a walkabout, and that is the individual who is on one. Viewers will note the presence of a young woman in each of the ten panels. She has a name, Cassie. She will be present in each of the ten periods and events represented in the panels. As with the progress in a walkabout, Cassie is in a process of becoming a real character, but she is mostly in a sketched outline here. There will be more about Cassie in the future.

Finally, you might ask: "What the heck is a walkabout?" I was first exposed to the idea in a beautiful Australian movie of that name, first released in 1971. In the movie, walkabout starts from a cultural premise that it is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood for a young aboriginal man. On walkabout he will leave his family, friends, and all social and cultural structures behind as he takes a few tools, potions, and tokens with him on a journey of personal survival in the great outback desert of Australia. The journey could last many weeks, even months.

The movie "Walkabout" extends the context beyond a lone aboriginal male to include a modern public school girl and her very young little brother.

The aboriginal idea that walkabout is a male thing faded further with another Australian movie titled: "Rabbit Proof Fence." In that movie, a true story set in the Australian bush in the 1920s, three aboriginal sisters escape from a bush school set up to indoctrinate aboriginal girls into the structures and ways of the all-white Victorian culture. Their home village is a thousand miles away, but they make their way back by following a rabbit proof fence built to contain the exploding population of rabbits in the outback. Along the way, the three girls, led by the oldest, must learn how to find food, shelter, and survival together. They must evade all the attempts by the school headmaster - played with eloquence and diligence by Kenneth Branagh - local police along the way, a diligent native tracker on horseback, all trying to catch them and bring them back to English school.

Two of the girls, the oldest and youngest, make it home. The middle sister allowed herself to be re-captured, and was never heard from again.

We can learn about life, the world, and our place in it by reading books and leading lives that includes respect for others, responsibility toward the people we count as friends, family, and neighbors, by constant inquiry into the opportunities and problems of the world, and by constant effort to be a better person.

Walkabout is less about study, and more about giving us that childish messiness in our engagement with the world that enriches our humanity, and makes us full human beings.