The first mural of 2023 has gone up on the north wall of the Michaud & Levesque building, with artist Stéphane Lennon providing a voice for nature in the constant battle against litter. This 4×8 single panel piece is entitled “Keep West Nipissing Wild”. The artwork features local animal life carrying bilingual signs protesting the effects of litter and, according to Gayle Primeau of Sturgeon Falls Beautification, this particular location is problematic when it comes to littering. The hope is that a bit of social commentary might induce people to think twice before tossing things on the ground. The theme is about keeping the area clean and green. That’s right up Lennon’s alley, as he says, “I’m pretty passionate about environmental stuff and care a lot about littering.”
He says that originally, he was going to use voice bubbles for the commentary but opted for picket signs instead, perhaps to make a stronger point that the local wildlife cannot protest the activities of humans. “It makes more of a message… I picked animals from around this area – rather than animals not endemic to the area.” Of course, hippos and giraffes wouldn’t make sense in West Nipissing, but wolves and racoons and birds do call to local sensibilities. The colours chosen are very vibrant, making the entire piece stand out.
Lennon said of his choices, “From the start I was thinking of a blue-green palette. I wanted to go for a … kind of Woodland style – a very typical style in the area… I am Indigenous, my bloodline is not from here, but I do kind of consider myself part of Nipissing because I do go to ceremonies and stuff at Nipissing…. I was inspired by Woodland but made it customizable to myself. Also, I don’t like the idea of copying other styles, so I kind of made it to my own style, taking the colourfulness from a more typical Woodland style.” The piece has a bit of a neon feel to it. It does have a horizon, a spatial aspect, something not typical of Woodland, along with some whimsical features, like a UFO and a satellite in the night sky that can be seen on closer inspection. “I wanted to make something that would pop, [that would] work from afar, and didn’t want it too different because I didn’t want it to pop in a bad way. I’m pretty picky about my colours.”
Lennon said he put about 32 hours into the project, working in a studio space provided by Gayle Primeau. “I lived in a tiny apartment and wouldn’t have been able to work there.” Also, this is an unusual piece for the artist. He’s 20 years old, and primarily works in the digital world when it comes to art. “I’ve been doing art basically my whole life but have been trying to do commercial art for about 5 years. I’ve always been passionate about art, always passionate about nature art. I don’t draw too many humans in my art. This is my first time doing a mural but hope to do more murals in the future, and hopefully it will be a good sample to other towns and businesses that may be interested,” he said.
It was a leap from digital to large canvas acrylic. “I had paint experience but never painted such a big canvas, so I was a little worried. It is a little rough, but it’s my first attempt doing such a large painting.” The roughness does have a certain appeal to it. While the mural might not look as polished as some of the others in town, it stands out and achieves its goal – grabbing the attention of the viewing public. The dual purpose is to create an eye-catching piece, and to send a clear social message – on a theme that is dear to Lennon’s heart.