Cumberland Piazza, in the Hotwells area of Bristol, has recently undergone a colourful and illustrative transformation. Made possible by local community groups, and in collaboration with illustrator Dave Bain, the once dismal space is now a bright and inspirational area to pass through and explore...Read More
Thanks to all those who’ve been in touch with their reactions to my blog post, earlier this week, about this project. This post covers the other two designs, plus additional design work for this project.
Moving up one floor to the inpatients unit, you are greeted by a wall of my robot illustrations, which frame the entrance to ‘Area 61’ and the social space (called ‘The Chat Room’). For those with astute memories, you may recognise some of these robot characters from many years ago, when I did a series of small paintings for an exhibition.
As this third space will have a lot of traffic going through it, I wanted to create an artwork that would be visually rich, so a frequent visitor might see something different every time they pass by. I also wanted to encourage a sense of activity and playful fun, connecting the viewer to the social space beyond. The characters are also doing a wide variety of activities - the hope being that a viewer may identify with some of these.
The final space is in fact another key entrance space for those coming into the unit. Leading from the older building onto the new build down a long corridor, the project team expressed a keenness to have an artwork that introduced the unit and had a direct connection to patient’s experiences. My meeting with a few of the patients (referred to in the previous blog post), family members and others connected to the project was critical in understanding the many things, thoughts, experiences and motivational quotes that were central to those going through cancer diagnoses and treatment.
I built up an enormous amount of notes, doodles, thoughts and quotes from these dialogues and began to build them into a loose info-graphic that would take the viewer on a journey into the unit, allowing them to interpret and take ownership of whatever would be most appropriate and relevant to them. This illustration went through a number of changes and was the biggest challenge to get right as any words and images, of course, had to be sensitively thought through as to how a viewer may interpret them.
The final artwork was drawn out as a vector file and coloured digitally, which proved useful for final tweaks and changes - especially in a few instances when the dimensions of the entire wall were changed and the bumper rail dimension was adjusted.
Finally, the project team asked if I could design some symbols for the toilet and shower door(s), as well as a graphic for ‘The Chat Room’, so that they all tied in with the overall illustrated artwork aesthetic of the unit. A first draft of the toilet/shower symbols, while very playful, were deemed possibly too confusing for a patient on medication and so a more straight-forward solution was called for.
This was a wonderful and exciting project to work on and a great opportunity to problem-solve across several different types of spaces with varying uses, as well as employ a number of different aspects of my portfolio. My sincere gratitude goes out to the whole team who I worked with, who were always helpful with feedback and direction. It’s heartwarming to have already had feedback from the nursing staff at the unit as to the positive impact of the artwork.
If you happened to spy the occasional sneaky peek on my twitter or instagram over the last few months, you will have something of an idea of this project, which I’m now able to reveal in full.
Towards the end of last year, I was sourced by Willis Newson to work with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Teenage Cancer Trust on four designs that would then be transferred onto vinyl and applied onto key walls in a new specialist Young People’s Unit at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.
Having already submitted a portfolio of work to the project team, along with a number of initial ideas for the various spaces, my first meeting with all of the parties involved already had a basis on which to discuss the direction of the four designs. A walk-through the partially built unit - hard hat on! - was an immensely useful exercise, revealing the scale of the project, the spaces where my artwork would be placed and how they would interact with the unit, as well as who would view them and when.
The unit is split across two floors, with one floor for day patients and the other for inpatients.
The first wall space to consider was around the day patient entrance, which faced out onto the waiting room area for the adult units. It was immediately highlighted that the artwork for this space, should appeal to those occupying it, as well as introduce the viewer to the new Young People’s unit. Already on the walls were a number of close-up photographs of flowers against white backgrounds. The nursing team were particularly drawn to the nature and bird-life imagery in my portfolio. So, it made sense to tie in the colours and themes, already in the photographs, into the new artwork for the entrance.
I sketched up two roughs, one referencing optical illusion shapes and building blocks mixed with birds and another with flowers, leaves and two birds framing the entrance. I dropped by the waiting room space, incognito, and presented the two drawings to those who happened to be there at the time, to gather feedback. The latter design featuring the two birds was the clear winner, being described as restful and having the most appeal. The other did clock up some positive comments, but was deemed too “edgy” and, while possibly appropriate for a youth space, ultimately was going to be primarily seen by the adults in the waiting room. These sentiments were agreed on with the project team and I was able to move onto final artwork phase.
The second wall was in the social space for the day patients. This was a side room, equipped with a computer desk, chairs and football table. The wall in question had no interruptions across it’s surface, so no concerns to be had with factoring in plug sockets or doorways. The room has one window and while this provides an ample amount of light, it was clear the artwork should not be too “heavy” in colour as it may over-power the space. It felt right to think along the lines of play and fun.
I met with a few of the patients going through treatment. This was a eye-opening experience into the trauma of diagnosis, the effects of cancer and the incredible battle and journey that they were going through. It was a lengthly but useful discussion, during which we talked a lot about the various things, activities and aspirations that had kept them going and kept them positive. One key element that came up several times was music.
I really wanted to get this amazing feedback from the patients into the artworks and a theme of music seemed like an appropriate one for this social space. Not wanting to tie into a specific musical genre was tricky though, until I considered headphone listening, which quickly led onto the idea of a silent disco. A number of characters could be enjoying any kind of music, but together as a group having fun. By bringing in animal masks, this introduced an element of fancy dress and the bright colours, against a clean white background, helped keep the overall feel of the room light.
As the artworks were to be enlarged and reproduced, by a reprographic company, onto heavy duty specialist vinyl, I was able to produce all the artwork from my own studio space. It was important to take into account my scanner and software capabilities in capturing the final artwork, as three of the four designs I intended to produce traditionally - the fourth being a vector artwork. This meant some careful dimension calculations before I began putting paint to paper.
Each artwork (except the fourth) was painted as a single image using acrylic paint and water-soluble colouring pencils. I sized up my rough to the correct size and dimensions, to produce the artwork at, and traced this down, from a print out, onto stretched paper, which I’d painted with a base coat. I then scanned the finished artwork at a very high dpi, before cleaning it up and preparing it for print, on the computer.
I’ll be blogging about the third and fourth designs very soon.
Last week, the good people of LIFE agency, in Birmingham, invited me to paint a large mural in their front meeting room. The brief: to illustrate and include the phrase “Today is a good day”.
There were other factors to take into consideration too.
The meeting room faces out onto the road and you can see the “mural wall” as you walk up to the building and go through their front door. It was important that the mural could be seen from the outside. However, it also had to work from within the room, without dominating. Also, one side of the meeting room is covered in a dense black and white Jon Burgerman wallpaper pattern, which is playful - filled with swirls, continuous lines and his fun characters.
I developed three sketches for the wall, one based around nature, one with birds and one with two monkey characters, which was the favoured design. To work with the above factors I kept the illustrations clean and simple, by using big shapes and keeping lots of space around it. I referenced the LIFE logo,which uses a deep orange/yellow, as a starting point to create a limited colour scheme, to aid the finished mural not overwhelming the space. And, I included a fluidity and movement in the designs, so that they would sit comfortably alongside Jon’s wallpaper.
Of course, the phrase had to appear in the mural. The monkey design has the characters telling the phrase to each other, while rejoicing in a rich find of their favourite food. This character has appeared a few times before in my work, so it was exciting to be granted the opportunity to paint him and his friend an a large scale.
With my trusty trolley loaded up with paints, brushes, tubs, rags and all those little things I need to paint, I caught the train from Bristol to Brum and spent the best part of the week painting the two cheeky monkeys onto the meeting room wall. Earphones in and a variety of podcasts, tunes and DJ mixes helped keep me going, as well as a few cups of the strong stuff from the coffee place nearby.
At the beginning of this month, I was to be found in Blaengarw Workmen's Hall painting a 8m x 3m mural for Creation Development Trust. The theme of the mural was "a walk down memory lane" and I had been in communication with the team in Blaengarw finding out about their local area and some of its history. Contributions to the mural also came from local school children and their families.
I sketched out various characters from this research and placed them onto a larger sketch for the mural, which I then projected onto the wall and spent day 1 (of 4) getting in the main background colours.
With only four days to complete the whole mural I asked Creation Trust if they had any volunteers to come and help paint with me, so over the following days there were some wonderful people who put in the hours filling in sections of the mural, along to the delightful sounds of Radio 2.
It was still a 60 hour job for myself, so some very early starts and late finishes, but completely worth it. Creation Trust run a local cafe, which provided delicious grub and I'd stuffed my mp3 player full of music to see me through the late hour shift.
Back in August Alfresco Disco invited me to paint up some signage and a mural for their "Welcome to the Sambadrome" party. Fellow Drawn in Bristol member Alexia Tucker assisted with the painting, beyond the call of duty, as there was a lot to do in a short space of time. Also, thanks to Liv Bargman for her contributions to the smaller signs.
During the first half of the event I transformed the face on the mural into a Mexican inspired Day of the Dead mask. By the time I'd finished the party was in full swing.
A few more snaps from the archive, this time hand-rendered typography, illustrating all the shows that happened at Mayfest 2012, working alongside other Drawn in Bristol members (we each had a letter each). More snaps here.
Towards the end of last year and running into 2012 I had the privilege to exhibit some of my bird-themed work in the cafe/bar at Cardiff's 'Chapter'. The show was entitled 'Red Feather' as I had produced 10 new images of robins to be integrated into a bespoke mural for the space.
I neglected to properly blog the images and mural earlier this year, so here they are in full. More images of me creating the mural can be viewed here.
Some of the artwork below is still available for sale and each image can be ordered from my as a limited edition giclee print.
Bristol's long standing and slightly tired looking 'The Prom' is now but a fuzzy memory. In its place is the much cosier and warm 'The Gallimaufry' (already affectionately known as 'The Galli') with it's exposed rough wooden surfaces, nooks and crannies and off-centre artwork. I was commissioned to produce a mural to run along behind the stage area, reflecting some of the artwork I'd produced for 2011's Deep Into The Woods exhibition. Here are the results...