Last fall, when Michael Buisson III created his own spin on George Rodrigue’s “Blue Dog,” his favorite element was a small tombstone cross he had painted into a cemetery scene of the famous canine.
That cross, shaded by the St. Francis Xavier seventh grader to 3-D perfection, was the inspiration for the much larger cross that will dominate the banner hanging inside Lakeside Shopping Center during the Catholic Schools Week Arts and Music Festival, Jan. 27-Feb. 1.
“I had a feeling I would paint that cross again. It took me a couple of days to think it through,” said Michael, 12, of his banner design, which earned top honors in the annual contest sponsored by the Office of Catholic Schools.
In addition to painting symbols of the Holy Trinity onto his brown cross – the dove of the Holy Spirit; a Bible representing the inspired Word of God the Father; and a fish symbolizing Christ – Michael placed a circle behind the cross’ intersecting beams to signify God’s eternal nature.
“I’ve always been taught that a circle means everlasting,” Michael said. “That’s a big thing about God and Jesus – they’re with us always.”
The circle’s upper arc will sport the three colors of the Archdiocese of New Orleans – red, yellow and blue – and give it the look of a rainbow. Michael cleverly striped the circle’s lower arc to suggest a musical staff, and added musical notes to the staff in acknowledgment of music’s role in Catholic education.
“The hardest part was making the circle as perfect as possible,” said Michael, who worked with his architect father to devise a plan. They carefully measured the distance between each “stripe” of their circular rainbow, punching corresponding holes into a strip of cardboard. By holding the cardboard strip in place with a pin at his circle’s imaginary center – in much the same way a geometry student would plant a compass needle into a piece of paper – Michael was able to draw a series of perfectly spaced arcs onto the banner by moving the cardboard contraption around the center point.
Michael said the biggest challenge of making the banner, a 8-by-15-foot piece that sprawls across most of St. Francis Xavier’s stage floor, was taking his original design submitted on a 8-by-15-inch sheet of paper, and penciling it onto a much larger canvas in perfect proportions. To accomplish this, he used another architectural tool of his father’s.
“He has a really cool tool called a T-square,” Michael said. “He looked at my paper (design) and he realized that the banner was the same size as my paper – only in feet instead of inches.”
Michael is the third St. Francis Xavier student since 2005 to win the banner contest, said Kelly Bates, the school’s longtime art teacher: Daniel Goodman and Allison Stuart earned the accolade in 2005 and 2010, respectively.
Surprised his mom
Michael’s principal, Barbara Martin, said she is proud of Michael for other reasons besides his artistic talent.
“When we found out he had won it was the last day before the Christmas break,” Martin recalled. “We called Michael into the office and said, ‘Let’s call your mother.’ And he said, ‘Ms. Martin, would you mind if I surprise my mother and tell her myself?’ I said, ‘Certainly!’ I just think it was so nice that he wanted to be the one to share the good news with his family.”
Bates, who teaches art to St. Francis Xavier students in preK-4 through seventh grade, recalls meeting Michael at summer camp before his second-grade year.
“Even way back when he was thinking out of the box. I could tell he had an eye,” Bates recalled. “He puts a lot of thought into his artwork. He’s not one who hurries and takes out his paints right away. He thinks out the process – the colors he wants, his design – to make a beautiful piece of art. He’s just very meticulous with his ideas and how he expresses them on canvas.”
The banner designer, who hopes to pursue a career in medicine, said he is excited about sharing his Catholic faith in a secular setting.
“It feels pretty cool knowing that everybody who goes to the mall during Catholic Schools Week is gonna see it,” Michael said. “I’m looking forward to my family getting to see it and just seeing what it looks like hanging in the mall.”
Michael received $100 for his winning design. Runners-up were Analynn Ferr, 6th grade, Mary Queen of Peace; Amy Hoang, 6th grade, Immaculate Conception; Lindsey Nguyen, 6th grade, Immaculate Conception; and Sara Radka, 7th grade, St. Francis Xavier. All will be recognized at Lakeside Feb. 1 at 1 p.m.