Artists for the Earth

‘Last Chance to Paint’ connects children to nature and indigenous cultures

With environmental disasters like the Australia bushfires and Hurricane Dorian, it’s easy to feel helpless. Still, artist John Dyer shows us that there are positive things we can do for the planet.

His project, Last Chance to Paint, connects children to nature and indigenous cultures through art and music. Through the project, children can form lasting personal bonds with subjects, raising their awareness about and value for the environment.

“It’s important that the environment and biodiversity are celebrated,” said Dyer. “It’s not always about the disastrous things — it can be about simple things.”

Growing up on the coast of Cornwall in the United Kingdom, Dyer has always admired the environment. He began Last Chance to Paint in 2019 after realizing the positive effects that nature and art have had on his own children. With this project, children and schools can remotely explore new environments and cultures through art, music and video.

In June 2019, Dyer and the Last Chance to Paint team traveled to the Amazon rainforest to visit the Yawanawá. Paintings by Dyer, Amazon Indigenous Artist Nixiwaka Yawanawá and Yawanawá children depict the rainforest as a connected system of life, tradition and tribal spirits. Unfortunately, rapid deforestation of the Amazon is threatening Yawanawá traditions and other indigenous cultures.

In September 2019, Dyer and Last Chance to Paint travelled to Borneo to meet the Penan tribe and paint orangutans. The palm oil industry has deforested more than 80% of the Borneo rainforest, threatening the survival of these primates. Despite efforts to care for orangutans and return them safely to their habitat, Dyer believes this may be the last moment in time to paint them.

“What we do to the rainforest, to the Amazon tribes, we do to ourselves,” he said. “The way Last Chance to Paint is pitched is as an optimistic project that is celebrating what we all stand to lose.”

Music is also an important element of the trips. During the trip to the Amazon rainforest, the Last Chance to Paint team recorded Yawanawá music and played music as a cultural exchange. During a school assembly, students mimicked the sounds of a rainforest using only hand percussion.

Students anywhere can tune into 5-minute daily videos where Dyer vlogs his journeys and answers questions submitted by students. The videos let students experience these environments more closely, reinforcing their emotional connections to the subjects. Schools can also stay connected by submitting their art to Dyer’s World Gallery.

Along with student art, this gallery features paintings created on Dyer’s past trips and inspiration for his next trip to Africa, where he hopes to meet the world’s last two Northern white rhinos. By drawing or painting the environment, Dyer hopes that young artists will not only appreciate painting but also build connections with the subjects themselves that will inform the choices they make.

 “If you take [children] on a positive journey of art, color and life and meet amazing people, animals and environments, the overall impression or connection will be a positive one and one of love and caring,” said Dyer.

Dyer recently became an Artist for Earth for Earth Day Network. Artists for Earth is a global campaign that seizes the power of art to educate and inspire action to protect the Earth. Through this campaign, Dyer will have an additional platform to showcase his art to larger audiences.

Dyer looks toward Earth Day as a special moment to come together over our common love for the world and hopes to hold a 24-hour painting project which people can participate in live online.

Interested in becoming an Artist for the Earth? Register today.

Image at top: “Twilight Orangutans” by John Dyer. Credit: John Dyer.