The large scale, detailed illustration of Water Ways took nine months to create. We, Meg Lemieur and Bri Barton, decided to create the illustration in collaboration with frontlines communities and individuals across the mid-Atlantic region. The goal from the start was to create a piece that could be used as an educational tool to teach people about the natural gas industry and give a broader voice to those who are most directly impacted by it.
We began by collecting and organizing the information we already had available to them. We had both already been involved in environmental advocacy and activism for years, so we connected with our partner organizations and frontline comrades to gather and synthesize their personal stories and wealth of knowledge on the topic.
At this time, we found out that we had been awarded the Leeway Foundation Art & Change Grant, which gave us the seed money to print our first round of paper posters, our first banner, and first hundred narrative booklets. This lit the fire under us to get the piece done.
For the next five months, we interviewed frontlines community members who had been struggling with the impacts of fracking for years.
Throughout this process, we either compensated people directly for the time they spent with us or have been supporting them through the results of Water Ways poster sales and honorariums.
Once the stories were gathered, we sketched visual metaphores to represent each story and pieced them together on a large sheet of paper in order to determine the composition of the final piece. This took many revisions, as we organized the many complex stories into five basic sections: Infrastructure, Politics, Resistance, Hopes for the Future, and Cultural Context.
When we first drew this, we were going to include the arbitrary colonialist state boundries. However, through dicernment and realization that although we must talk about state politics in our piece, we wanted to focus on watersheds, airsheds and other natural geological ways of segmenting land masses.
State borders are a relatively new construct when you look at the grand scheme of the land's history. State names were given by the colonizers, not by the people who have lived and have been living here from much before. There are
many names for the land. So although we commonly refer to it as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other state names, we feel that it is important to acknowledge that these ares have held and still do hold more identieis.
The original sketch looked very different from the final piece. We re-drew each scene up to six times just to determine how it could tell each story as accurately and simply as possible. Although the final drawing is very intricate, each drawn character represents a community or individual's complex story. Water Ways could have easily been 3x as large and just as densely drawn if we had visually told each character's full story. But we knew that our end goal was to accompany each paper poster with a 12-page narrative booklet which would be able to dive deeper into each story. Our educational workshops also expand on the stories in creative ways.
After sketching the first version of Water Ways, we returned to the frontlines to show the illustration to those who shared their stories with us. We asked each person if we represented their story accurately and if they had any suggestions or changes to the piece.
We got a handful of changes, but nothing too huge to tackle. We made the changes and checked back once more with our friends to see if our changes were exactly what they requested.
Finally we were ready to ink the final piece.
For two weeks straight, we locked ourselves in the studio and inked the entire piece. We laid the final sketch ontop of two 9"x12" light boxes and then laid fancy drawing paper on top in order to trace the drawing with Micron pens.
Within 2.5 years of the , we have given away or sold over 600 posters/booklets and have printed three banners. One of the banners is used in Colombia since they are deeply effected by fracking as well.
Within 2.5 years of the initial printing, we have given away or sold over 600 posters/booklets and have printed three banners. One of the banners is used in Colombia since they are deeply effected by fracking as well.
Soon after our initial printing in the fall of 2017, we trained 10 long-term environmental advocates on how they could present the diversity of stories within the illustration. This resulted in us being able to host numerous workshops across the region simultaneously. Each presenter brings additional knowledge to each workshop since we each focus in a spectrum of environmental work outside of our Water Ways work.
Our workshops shift and morph to include new information and current events that pertain to local and global issues that effect the direct population we are working with.
At the end of each workshop, we encourage people to share any active campaigns that are looking for more support and members. One goal of ours is to connect grassroots movements and to help people find an entry point to activist groups in their area.
Our 12 page narrative booklet goes through the entire illustration, vignette by vignette, and tells the whole story. We encourage people to display it near the poster so that others can follow along and learn the meaning of the images.