Wellington Crescent & St. James Bridge (1)
'Polar Bear Splash'
Location: South Side
Occupant: St. James Bridge underpass
District: River Heights
Neighbourhood: Sir John Franklin
Artist(s): Sarah Collard (Collard Creations)
Sponsors: Richardson Foundation, Inc., Take Pride Winnipeg!, City of Winnipeg, Herc Rentals
Mural of the Year 2010
Tom Ethans: "There used to be a Mural here years ago (see RIP section at same address)
but it was getting old and weather-worn so we wanted to take the time to do something
new here. In 2013 the Assiniboine Zoo polar bear exhibit is actually going to have an
underwater viewing area. Sarah has done a tremendous job of breathing life into this
area, and we want to congratulate her on a fine job."
Sarah Collard: "When I first started with this wall all I knew was that (Take Pride
Winnipeg Executive Director) Tom wanted something about the Zoo on there. The initial
idea I had was of a tiger sleeping under the bridge- there was a polar bear, peacock, bats,
monkeys, prairie dogs and some other animals. This was based on my family experience
of going to the zoo and this is what my children and I remember. But then Tom gave me
more direction and told me that the Zoo was going to be doing further developments with
the polar bears and a new aquatic viewing experience, so he asked me to devote the entire
wall to only the polar bears. About that time there was a good article in the paper about
just that. So this Mural is about the future of the polar bear exhibit, and my vision of
what it could look like. Maybe, just maybe, the community will get on board and see the
benefits of this proposal partially from the visualization of it in the Mural and help it
come to fruition."
"I took photographs of different polar bears in aquatic underwater viewing and I spliced
them all together into a collage. The polar bear on the left is standing on a rock and
looking down; representative of its natural habitat in Northern Manitoba. On the west
side pillar there's one splashing in the water (photo 2). I imagined the bear at the top
behind the word 'welcome' to be like a grand-fatherly bear, watching over and protective
of the others. I also like the interaction between this larger bear and the smaller bear
swimming that has its arm tucked underneath his mouth, almost like a playful touch, like
a baby and its parent."
"I wanted to arrange all these bears together so it looks and feels like they're all together
in one scene; and making the waves all come together. I like the two bears at the lower
left swimming, and that the baby bear is looking at the mother bear in total adoration and
trust. The mama bear is in a 'kind' position, with its paws curled, and looking forward
and upward, which also serves to bring the viewer's eye up and around."
"There's a family feel with both the bears and with the human family observing them.
The human figures are of all ages: there's a dad, a mom, a teenager, a man holding a
baby, and the young boy in the foreground sucking his thumb. That is the wonderful
draw about our zoo: the kids love to go, so the entire family goes; and the great thing
about this Zoo is that it's still an inexpensive outing for the family, individuals of all ages
and in every walk and stage of life, which is amazing."
"I put a representation of interactive buttons into the underwater viewing area. I
originally had another figure here but it didn't look right- it was stilted. I also put a
happy face button on the foot of the bear right where the boy is pointing at- the button is
like a friendly educational reference."
"It took me 2 nights to project the image onto the wall. The first night I only had a small
generator because there's no electricity down there, and it conked out after half an
"I love all the blues in this. I went and bought extra paint to capture how the surface
waves look from below and the glimmering of the surface backlit with the light of day.
The colours I bought were slightly different tints of turquoise and green than what I had.
A lot of this is getting the exact colour. Another thing I did is that when I projected, I
used my actual original photos rather than just the drawing to get all the rich details from
the photograph. I painted all the dark lines during projections and was able to get more
of the details and nuances that I wanted that I never would have gotten if I had just drawn
it freehand. The one large bear to the right of the boy looks like the light from above is
being reflected on his face. That was in the photo. You can see on that bear's fur several
areas of the reflective light from the water surface above. I didn't have to push it that far
but I did. I could have just winged it, but it wouldn't have been as nice, and I'm really
proud of it. I also spent time getting the water waves right, which added depth and detail.
I used my baby blue as a highlight and cobalt blue as the mid-tone in this one, in addition
to my white, cyan blue, pthalo blue and a deep navy blue. I did not use any black on this
at all; I never do."
"I did not mix colours in my usual way on this wall. Generally speaking I painted right
out of the cans, and that is because I wanted these exact colours for sure! Every time I
came to the wall I wanted every single exact shade every time; and when you're mixing
colours you cannot get the precise colour every time. Usually I am an impressionistic
colour mixer, but not this time."
"I painted all the polar bears twice. I painted them all to the best of my ability the first
pass, and then I came back and painted them again. I wanted to add more colour and add
more detail. I used a fan brush the second time around. This brush just touches the top
and doesn't get in the underneath grooves so it allows some of the colour underneath it to
come through. I've learned over the years the value and the importance of the underlying
paint that can come through and breathe and have a nuance. I didn't want a straight edge
on the fur of the bears at all, but wanted a fuzzy look in the water."
"On the last day of painting I added a map of the Churchill area on the east side
wraparound (photo 9). When I put it on, I allowed the background to come through- it's
like a translucent map on top of the image. My understanding is that part of the Zoo's
future vision is that it be a rescue place for endangered or injured bears or bears that
cannot live any longer in the wild. The rock below is representative of the sedimentary
rock that is in the Canadian shield and found in Northern parts of Canada. There's lots of
minerals and colours in that rock. You see that light blue, that rusty colour, and a deep
grainy navy blue. You have sulphur, iron and other minerals."
"I loved the design from the start. I thought it was really good composition; it's happy
and it's playful, and everything came together in the design stage and worked well; and it
made me feel good looking at it. I'm really satisfied with it."