New Beginnings 2…

A New Mural!
Apparently, about 7 years ago, in rare (and brief) bout of self-promotion, (my least favourite task) I contacted a number of places that I thought had the potential for wanting a mural. I seem to remember I looked for visitor centres and tourist attractions etc, sent out a few leaflets and made a few phone calls. I can only very vaguely remember doing this I certainly remember spending a lot of time getting the leaflet to look right and not really very much time getting that leaflet out for people to see -the classic artist’s problem!
Anyway, back in November last year, I was in a bit of a desperate whirl of job applications and interviews, running exhausting Forest School sessions and working at an afterschool club. I was also volunteering with a local community arts charity Imayla and working on my illustrations. All this work and still barely affording my rent – it was fair to say that I was fairly stressed at the time! And in the midst of all of this I got an exciting phone call!
What could be more perfect proof that this is indeed an adventure?! This sort of serendipity only happens in adventures. It’s might also be proof that boring old marketing actually pays off (eventually!) Hmm I wonder what could happen if I did more of it?!
The phone call was from Jay Cooper from Arthog Outdoor Education Centre West Wales. He left a message asking if there was any remote chance I still worked as a mural painter?! They’d received my leaflet all those years ago and had hung on to it until now! They finally have the funds to pay for a full scale artist’s mural and wanted me to do the job! Horay! Obviously I jumped at the chance, not only was this commission perfectly timed, reassuring me that I wasn’t going to be destitute after all, I was also getting the chance to paint for this inspiring outdoor education centre. Some immediate concerns jumped into mind, mainly ‘How on earth would I manage settling back into Bristol whilst painting a mural in West Wales?’ – But I kept on ignoring this minor logistical details, I would worry about that obstacle when I came to it. For now I just said ‘YES PLEASE!!’
So in the New Year a string of phone calls and emails passed between Jay and I about the size of the wall, the time frame and most importantly the content of the design. A couple of months later I still wasn’t sure how I would accommodate travelling to Wales alongside all the jobs I was doing already. But then arrived the second, happy piece of good luck – Jay called to let me know that they wanted the mural to be painted on boards rather than straight on the wall and would this be ok? – HORAY!! The solution had arrived! I could paint it from Bristol! Phew! Not only that but I had by this point just moved into a new house and had just had a successful interview with Sustrans! Things we’re falling into place!
I have a rule I stick to whenever I start a mural commission. It is that no matter how much detail has been covered over the phone about the brief or how many photos I’ve seen of the space I always have to visit the space in person and talk to the person/people face to face before I start the design. I get such a different impression of what I will paint when I have followed this rule that I think it must be the only reliable way to make sure that I have got the right idea. It saves me a lot of work in the long run. I have broken this rule twice when I haven’t been able to access the wall prior to painting and both times I’ve had to redraw the whole design!
The Arthog centre is in such a beautiful location it was an absolute pleasure to visit, I didn’t really need much of an excuse!
So I put my bike on the train from Bristol to Fairbourne and visited Arthog before cycling up into Snowdonia to see family. What a beautiful spot! I know the area well and to do a painting influenced so much by this landscape is a real treat. So much inspiration to put into the design!
This is one of Jay’s lovely photographs of the area:
gorce on the moudach copy

Speaking with Jay was a real treat. He has so much enthusiasm for the work he does and so much love and faith in the children he works with. Many of the children who come for outdoor adventures come from Telford. They are city kids and for a lot of them this is the first time they have experienced being in landscapes like this. They go on a journey from inland city surroundings out to coastal countryside. While they are they undertake smaller journeys into the landscape and personal journeys trying new things and learning to trust themselves, each other and the natural environment. Jay wanted the mural to reflect these different journeys whist showing the activities they do together and the natural beauty of the area.

So… after a stage similarly stressful and disheartening as I described for coming up with children’s book illustrations I finally settled on this design:

arthog without annotations

The maps and the unfurling ferns are to represent these journeys.
I have Mona Caron to thank for the ribbon, she is an amazing San Francisco artist who I admire a lot. The ribbon motif is something I have seen her weave into many of her paintings, its genius. I hope she doesn’t mind me using it too!
The words are taken from a sculpture that is already at the centre which have become a sort of motto. And the rest is built from photos of the area and activities that Jay and the other staff run with the kids.
So I’ve been given the go ahead and painting has started. I’m fighting it off the feeling of overwhelm every time I look at the six huge boards of 6mm ply stacked up against the wall. Several days work has gone into transporting them, cutting them to size, sanding them down, priming them, drawing a grid, re-drawing the grid to the right measurements and finally drawing on the design. Now for the hard bit… I hope I can do it justice!

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