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Patience is a Virtue – Part 2

Earlier this year I found my name mentioned on the Coventry University website. Film footage of Lanchester Polytechnic had been found in the Media Archive for Central England (MACE) and a request was made asking for anyone who had knowledge of the films to get in touch.

The first film was a television news piece from 1965 which shows a group of students lifting a Mini car in an attempt to set a record. The second, footage of a mural which ‘was decorated by student Colin Slater as part of his degree course’. The statement continued, ‘If you are one of the students who helped to carry the car in the video or if you remember this event, please get in touch! We would especially like to hear from Colin Slater or anyone who remembers the mural on the side of the building. Our email address is’.

I answered the request and over the following weeks an email conversation took place resulting in an article about the painting being featured in Evolve, the magazine for Friends of Coventry University. I would like to express my thanks to Madeline Cheah & Kristina Anders of FOCUS for making contact with me and for putting the article together. The painting was only projected to have a life span of 3 months but actually existed for 11 years. The article published in Evolve has given it a new lease of life and now, thanks to film footage found in the archives of MACE, it can live on indefinitely. This is a transcript of the full interview.

About the mural:
What inspired you?
Although I still considered myself a painter, in the Spring of ’76 my work was stale and I was frustrated with my lack of progress. I needed to stimulate a change of thought and working pattern. I selected the ‘Psychology & Art’ programme as my Art & Design History preference, and attended a series of seminars each week presented by Alan Dyer and moved my practical work for a term to the Printmaking department. Here I explored new practises and processes, and was encouraged to explore the space beyond the metal plate by cutting it up and reshaping the image so that the print wasn’t limited to the confines of a square or rectangle. However as the paper on which it was printed was still pre-determined my frustrations continued. I was keen to break free from a traditional and conventional format and it was my Art History seminars with Alan Dyer which began to suggest some very interesting possibilities.

I remember sessions illustrating the functions of the eye and brain, the psychology of perception and the art of illusion. That spring term really captured my imagination and I began to find a new direction. In the library I investigated the work of Escher, Magritte, Dali and of many others who employed illusion as a device, but more important was a style of painting which I previously hadn’t thought of as being relevant to me, however now I began to notice it in a different light. It was known as ‘Trompe l’oeil’.

I became increasingly interested in the idea of art being relevant to a particular place as much as the effect it could have on that place. I was also interested in the idea of a painting that was fixed and immovable, which led me to view with ‘fresh eyes’ the paintings of the Renaissance, of Palaces and Country Houses, and which, in turn, led me to the Mexican Murals of Siqueiros, Rivera and Orozco. I decided I would make a contribution to this great tradition and my Final Degree Show comprised of a number of large scale paintings, both as realised projects and as proposals.

It was thanks to my personal tutor, Tash Shenstone, that my ambition was realised. He gave me terrific support for 3 years and always showed great belief in me. If it wasn’t for him, the painting wouldn’t have happened. After speaking with him about my desire to paint on a large scale and for it to become a permanent feature, it was he who found and suggested the site – the Extension Studies building located in Vine Street – and I developed the design specifically for that building, for its cement rendered gable end.

In the late Seventies, in both the USA and Great Britain, large exposed walls were being painted in urban areas to establish an identity in harsh economic times and many murals at that time were loud, garish and unsympathetic with the local environment. My intention was to produce an image that worked with its surroundings but which could catch ones attention through a subtle twist or tease of the eye. On the one hand it could be passed by unnoticed, on the other it might be interesting enough to be observed more closely.

Many ideas were scribbled in my notebooks and upon photographs taken of the building. My initial drawings employed the architecture of the building, and as my ideas developed they became more influenced by the surreal paintings of Rene Magritte and the metaphysical cityscapes of Georgio de Chirico, however it took some time until I was satisfied with the image. The drawing didn’t work, it looked too much like a theatrical backdrop. What was the point of painting something ordinary on such a large scale, and on an exterior wall? I had to rework the image. Something was missing.


I have been a supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for many years, and while at the Lanch Saturdays were often spent driving to football grounds within striking distance of Coventry to watch them play. One weekend in 1976, whilst on my way to Molineux, I came across a pub located in Himley, the Glynne Arms, affectionately referred to as ‘The Crooked House’. A signpost directed me along a narrow lane, at the end of which, sitting shrouded in mist, was the strangest sight I’d ever seen in my life. A building stood at the most precarious angle defying gravity, the door and windows following the same tilt. Fortunately I had my camera with me and I took a photograph before entering.

The Crooked House, Himley

The interior was even more peculiar. A working Grandfather clock leaned back against a wall, a chandelier hung from the ceiling at 60° and when touched returned to the same angle. I walked up a slope to the bar, which leaned out to meet me, and after ordering a beer the barman showed me a ball bearing that rolled uphill. He told me that it was the only pub that people entered feeling drunk, and left feeling sober. He was right! Even though I went to the match, I can’t remember how my Wolves fared that afternoon, but it was a very memorable lunchtime and I’d found an important clue which would make my painting ‘special’.

The following week I reworked my drawings again to incorporate a Crooked House, and to save time redrawing the image I repeatedly placed one sheet on top of another to trace elements of the previous version. I was using paper from a Layout Pad at this stage, and there were soon so many sheets of paper being flicked through and rolled back in order to see earlier variations that some paper layers became torn and shredded. Then, one morning, I arrived at my work bay in the studio and found the most recent drawing on my board peeling back at the corners, revealing the one underneath.

I sat looking at the board while I smoked my first cigarette of the day. The best idea for the mural was staring me in the face and it would be a combination of everything I’d considered. I began my last drawings. I exposed the gable end to reveal it was supported by a wooden structure, which in turn would act as a stretcher for a painting that was rolling back or peeling away.


I received some criticism about my design at the time but the mural was never intended to be a painting about decay, it was more about peeling back layers.

How long did it take?
During the Spring of ’76 I began working on ideas for the painting after the site had been identified by Tash and I had produced my final drawing toward the end of the summer term. An early drawing for the proposed mural was included in the 1976 Art School Prospectus.

Tash began organising meetings for me to attend from Easter ’76 in order to obtain the permission necessary to start painting. I met with representatives and officers of the Lanch as well as various departments of Coventry City Council. Following a meeting with the Department of Architecture and Planning in Jan 1977, which I thought would be my last, I received a letter from Harry Noble, the City Architect and Planning Officer. Instead of a green light the letter stipulated that I had one more hurdle, I still required formal permission from the Education Committee who were owners of the building. The Joint Education Committee discussed this at their meeting on 21st April and on 11th May I finally received a letter of authorisation. As I attended one meeting after another, as well as having countless telephone conversations, I thought this process would never end and it was this stage of the project which inspired the title of the painting, ‘Patience is a Virtue’. Obtaining the necessary permission had taken a whole year.

I had hoped to have completed the painting before the end of my second year, to have painted it during the summer term to take advantage of the better weather and longer days, but there wasn’t enough time remaining of the Art School year to organise materials etc. before the summer break. Nevertheless, on my return in October, during the second week of the Autumn term, I began work on the wall itself.


My diary from 1977 states that I began erecting scaffolding on Thursday 13th October, with the assistance of my close friend John Jostins. John is now Professor of Sustainable Transport Design at Coventry University and founder of Microcab. He has been a lifelong friend. We were at school together and at Loughborough College of Art & Design before attending the Lanch, and I often assisted him with his environmental sculpture projects. As a return favour, he worked with me for the first week. We constructed the scaffolding in front of the wall, prepared the surface, painted the wall with a coat of primer and then began transferring my drawing to the wall. After that, I was on my own.

A couple of chums visited and painted with me for an hour or two, but other than John’s help at the beginning, the next couple of months was just me and the wall. My last day of painting was Thursday 15th December and the following day, the last day of the Autumn term, John returned and helped me take down the scaffolding. A photograph of us engaged in this task, with an accompanying article about the painting, appeared in the Coventry Evening Telegraph the following Monday.

So, how long did it take? The painting itself took 9 weeks, but the postcard I produced to promote the project reads ‘Easter 1976 – Autumn 1977’……….which is 20 months!

What motivated you to keep going?
Not an easy one to answer. Gaining the necessary permission was tough. As word spread that we were trying to obtain permission to paint, it seemed that an increasing number of departments became involved. Once one hurdle was out of the way, another appeared in its place. It was a process I had never encountered before and I had my hopes built up and dashed several times. It was tempting to give up at that stage and I asked myself many times whether it was worth it, it would have been easier to work in the studio and continue painting on an easel. However Tash was pivotal to the success of the project at this stage. After establishing the site he then helped me pass all the obstacles and kept my spirits up as more red tape manifested itself. It was thanks to Tash that the project succeeded.

As for painting, I had never worked on such a scale before. The wall was approx. 30′ high and 25′ wide and I painted in wind, rain, hail and snow. There were some freezing temperatures too and after a couple of weeks the hours of daylight became shorter so I worked continuously each day. After 5 weeks of painting I became ill, and experienced dizzy spells while on the scaffolding. I was diagnosed as ‘physically exhausted’ and advised to rest, however I was determined to finish the painting first. Instead I ate larger breakfasts and worked shorter hours. I couldn’t predict how long the painting would take and as one week drifted into the next and the conditions became colder, I experienced some difficult days. At times I felt very alone and that it would never be finished.

It’s not easy to explain what keeps us going when the going gets tough. It could be fear of failure but I was determined to see it through. Perhaps, as he’d shown such faith in me, it was also because I didn’t want to let Tash down either. Whatever the motivation, I stuck to the task and it was a very proud moment when the scaffolding came down to reveal the painting for the first time. Yes, that was a great feeling!

Did you enjoy it? Would you change anything in retrospect?
The same could be said of the mural as the occasion when I ran the London Marathon. It was great, and looking back I can say with honesty that I enjoyed doing it, and yet pain, perseverance, endurance, commitment and determination were a large and integral part too. I have always loved painting even though there are times when it drives me mad with frustration. Painting for me has never been a leisure activity. I enjoyed painting the mural but it was also the first time I encountered what a marathon runner coincidentally describes as ‘The Wall’. Perhaps mural painting is where this term derives from! For the first time in my life I had to employ a doggedness and tenacity to see the project through to a successful conclusion. I had never had to dig that deep before.

I wouldn’t change anything. As I described previously, I didn’t produce a design and then look for a wall to place it on. From the very beginning it was something I considered specifically for that location.

What was the building used for?
The building was part of the Polytechnic. It housed the Department for Extension Studies, Vine Street Annexe.

Would you mind if we featured a small snippet somewhere in e-news, our website or on Facebook perhaps?
Great! I’d love you to feature it. Learning recently that it was included in the Media Archive for Central England was a revelation! I was totally unaware any moving film of it existed, and I was still at the Lanch on the date the recording was made. It gives a better sense of scale and even though it lasts only 25 seconds, the painting was brought back to life again.

A little bit about you:
What inspires you now?
When the opportunity arises I still love painting on a large scale, last month I painted a mural at a Primary School in Peterborough, Cambs. Five years ago I was invited to design and lead a community mural project for an underpass beneath the A605 at Warmington, Northants, which was the largest wall I’d painted since my Coventry painting.

These projects don’t occur very often, the paintings I usually produce are much smaller, although I do work on a large canvas from time to time. My subject is my love of being outdoors and walking the landscape. A selection of paintings can be found on my website –

Any advice for budding artists?
I have to admit that when I left the Lanch I felt thoroughly demoralised. I was very disappointed by the grade received for my degree, which was a 2:2. I didn’t attend the Graduation ceremony the following autumn and my certificate was posted to my parents. Perhaps my mother has it, I don’t have it in my possession even now.

Degree Show,
Herbert Art Gallery ’78

Unfortunately my final assessment went badly, I was heavily criticised for my display and for producing only a small number of paintings. However, only two members of that panel had visited the Vine Street mural, none had seen the other I’d painted. My show was in the Herbert Art Gallery. It comprised of one painting 8’x16′, photographic evidence of other work – two murals (30’x25′ & 10’x10′) and two other paintings (8’x12′ & 4’x6′) – and drawings of proposals for other mural projects. If the computer technology we have now had existed then, my show would have had a more sophisticated appearance. If only Adobe Photoshop had been available in 1978!

It took a long time for me to accept that the grade I received didn’t matter, it still allowed me onto the post graduate diploma course I’d applied for. Eventually I realised that the most important element of my course wasn’t the qualification, it was the experience of being there. It was an adventure, and the Lanch laid a foundation for possibilities which might lay ahead. In addition, bonds and friendships were established and remain strong 30+ years later.

My advice to a ‘budding artist’ would be, to be a good listener. It would be a mistake to be blinkered and not listen to another point of view, but it’s also important not to lose faith with what you’re doing either. Always keep an open mind and an open ear with respect to opinion and advice, whether it is voiced by a tutor or a colleague.

What are your favourite mediums?
I often change medium to keep myself on my toes, so I drift between drawing and painting on a fairly regular basis but I don’t have any real preference. I regard drawing as an important activity so I frequently use charcoal and chalk pastel. As for painting, I work with acrylic but I really mostly work with oil. I love its versatility and the smell is wonderful! Recently I’ve been using the Brushes app. on the iPad too.

What do you do to relax when you’re not painting?
I’ve always enjoyed film, so an evening with a dvd or a visit to the cinema to watch a movie on the big screen is a particular interest. Listening to music, supporting WWFC, playing and watching cricket, reading, working in the garden, walking and looking out at a distant horizon, whether it’s land or sea – they’re all good!

What are your favourite memories of your time in Coventry?
I have many vivid memories of those years, I could make a very long list, the Art Fac. was an exciting place to be. Perhaps the most special memories though are the friendships made during those years. There were many great characters and sadly some good friends I remember with fondness have already passed away. The Art Fac. Christmas ‘Do’ at The Mercer’s Arms when John and I performed a Laurel & Hardy dance routine (we performed a Fred Astaire number at another) were special occasions; a Zulu Evening we organised was unforgettable; being a member of Winsor & the Newtons, a group formed by Nick Ward; evenings at The Oak; playing for the Art Fac. football team; supporting Jerry by attending intimate pub gigs of The Automatics before they became the Specials; Ian Lorimer’s after-pub ‘soirées’; watching Davy Porrit dancing and chat up 3 girls at the same time; sharing digs with Nicola & Annie – they’re personal memories really. Good times, and the more I think about them, the more I recall.

Sadly Tash passed away a few years after I left the Lanch, I have very warm memories of him and the support he gave me was beyond measure. I have wonderful memories too of my painting tutor Harry Weinberger. I respected him as a tutor and he became a good friend. We maintained a correspondence and I visited him many times at his home in Leamington Spa until his death in 2009.

Last but not least however is the memory of 1977, which was a very significant landmark in my life. In May of that year I received permission to paint the mural and the following month, thanks to BUNAC, I flew to the USA where I spent the summer selling ice cream in Kansas City before travelling across the country delivering cars through their Auto Driveaway scheme. I returned from the USA on Sunday 2nd October and the next day began the final year of my BA Hons course in Fine Art by organising the materials and equipment to make ‘Patience Is A Virtue’ become a reality. While in the USA I corresponded with a student on the Graphic Design course who I had met just before the end of the summer term, and soon after I began painting the mural I asked her out on a date. Her name was Denise Thomas. We married the following year and last Christmas we celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. Yes, 1977 was a very big year and my relationship with my wife began with this painting. Some momentous decisions which shaped the rest of my life were made while I was at the Lanch!

Patience is a Virtue – Part 1

To accompany the article published in the Autumn edition of Evolve, the magazine for Friends of Coventry University, I have reproduced my diary pages relating to the project with relevant photographs. Apologies therefore for poor grammar, repetitions etc but it has been transcribed as it was written in 1977. Reading them again 35 years later, the words revive many memories of a final year at art school, a reminder of good friends and 9 weeks of a daunting task which became a turning point in my life.

Vine Street, Coventry 1977


Thursday 13th October
Day max. 15°
Scaffolding erected up to about 20′ next to the wall. Weather extremely mild, warm. Erected with help from John (Jostins). Found that the structure might become more unsafe the higher it got, decided to order 4 x 21′ poles to brace the structure against the wall, also a ladder to cut out the monkey climbing up and down the side. Scaffolding also proved to be extremely heavy which didn’t appear evident in the instruction leaflet, decided that the instruction leaflet was a mere fib. ‘Versatile’ and ‘Adaptable’, it may be. ‘Safe’, is still open to question. ‘Fast’, never, and definitely not ‘Clean’!


Friday 14th October
Day max. 15°
Structure now within about 12′ from the top of the roof but wobbles precariously, one more layer could bring the whole lot down. Braces and ladder ordered, expected delivery anytime.

Monday 17th October
Day max. 15°
Ladder and braces arrived and secured to scaffolding. Structure now more secure and no wobble. Top layer put on, still with help from John and the extreme limits of the painting can now be reached. All step boards and kick boards also in position.

Tuesday 18th October
Day max. 14°
Brushed down the entire wall with a stiff yard brush removing top surface dirt and moss. Began covering wall with Weathershield, John helping out again, both of us continually suffered from cramp in the palm of the hand, wrist and forearm. Weather warm yet slightly foggy, college completely out of view. Over half of wall covered by the end of the day. Worked without a break from 9.30 through till 5.45.


Wednesday 19th October
Day max. 17°
Rain. John paints part of the wall yet to be protected by the Weathershield paint, because of the damp wall and action of the rain it becomes washed to the floor. Weathershield almost run out.

Thursday 20th October
Day max. 18°
Rain until 1.00. Decide to buy more Weathershield, 5 litres £6.33. Begin work on wall 1.30 and work through till 7.00. Finished covering wall with Weathershield now apart from two small areas near roof which a step ladder is needed for. Touching up in certain areas needed and drawing in can be done.

Friday 21st October
Day max. 17°
Rain until 2 o’clock. Visited wall at 3.00 but is saturated and needs to dry. Picked up paint from stores and key for Vine Street annexe car park in view for work over weekend. Saw Ken Pope and Frank McGrath about having some postcards printed to publicise the piece, will begin work on it on Tuesday. Postcard reads ‘Lanchester Poly, Extension Studies Dept, Vine Street, Coventry. Mural by Col Slater, Easter 1976 – Autumn 1977. Approximate size 30′ x 25′. Completed Autumn 1977. Available for viewing 24 hours a day, all weathers, no security guards, admission free’.


Saturday 22nd October
Day max. 17°
Weather excellent, sunny and quite warm. Began work at 9.00 and worked through till 7.00. Touched up wall with Weahershield and a couple of areas near the roof that couldn’t be reached before, at last I had access to a step ladder. After a break for some lunch the process of drawing in began. John arrived and was invaluable help. Each of us had a photograph of the finished drawing and we worked from that using distinguishing marks on the wall as a guide. We decided that to grid it would be laborious and as it is basically a fairly straightforward painting just stuck in an oar and went for it. John drew and I directed him from the opposite side of the car park. We decided we’d paint straight away, not use charcoal and ‘colour in’. The paint was used very thinly, a lot of water was added and the drips made a good enough guide for verticals. The drawing in was extremely hard work, both of us feel very tired tonight and deserve every spot of alcohol to hit our neck!


Sunday 23rd October
Day max. 14°
Yet again the weather was kind, sunny and warm, began work at 10.00, both of us still feeling tired from the previous days work. The schedule for the day was to have all the piece drawn in as John would be back on his own work tomorrow and it’s a job that needs two, and to cover as much of the glaring white as possible. This time we were both on the scaffolding, blocking in areas and building up the painting but not outlining first. The top section of the scaffolding felt wobbly as there was quite a stiff breeze. By 3.00 the weather had turned against us and it became perishing cold. We walked back to the end of the street to see the work accomplished so far and everything seems to be working okay. Everything is in proportion and is beginning to look quite impressive. The buildings on both sides of the painting were mapped in, dark areas of the imaginary inside of the building blocked in too. A good days work, flopped in a chair and fell asleep immediately when we had given up for the day. Several people in the street are now stopping and asking what’s going on. Many people in cars just stop and stare and go on their way again, should have some constructive comments tomorrow when the kids come back to school. Quite an audience yesterday too with Coventry City playing at home.

Monday 24th October
Day max. 13°
Rain all day. Rang up for the weather forecast from Birmingham Airport which told me that the afternoon would be sunny with clear skies and a fair wind. Instead there has been a constant drizzle the entire day. Wall looking pretty good from the college, a lot of students now come up to me and tell me they can see it. It’s nice to know that so many are able to, that’s one reason for doing it.

Tuesday 25th October
Day max. 15°
Clear sky, sunny and fairly warm, the weather promised for yesterday afternoon. Began work at 9.30 and worked through till 4.45 when it was beginning to get a bit dusky. First mapped in building in background of painting, then the car park and the tears in the bottom left and right parts of the painting. Changed the ‘folding’ windows mapped in on Saturday, they look about right now and worked into them a little. More people stopping now as they pass me and shout comments. One chap thought I was going to paint the Queen and was disappointed I’d ‘changed my mind’. One lorry driver pointed out his disapproval, first one so far, by saying that Hillfields was a dismal enough place as it is without my painting making it look even more gloomy. The residents however are all enthusiastic and haven’t earned any rebuff from them. This evening I feel extremely tired again, dread to think of the number of times I’ve been up and down the scaffolding today. Feel, however, at this rate if the weather stays in my favour I could finish within the next 3 weeks. Optimistic?

Wednesday 26th October
Day max. 12°
Not a good day but fine, very cold and very blustery on the top level. Began work at 10.00 and continued until 4.00, finished early as I was feeling a bit ill. After working on the top layers the wind has been attacking my forehead all day. My face is like a furnace again this evening. Has taken all day to put the struts in the top of the painting right. Still annoying that even with Brian’s (the technician) step ladder there’s still a good 2 sq. ft. either side the top section of scaffolding that I can’t quite reach. One of the nearby traders, the bookmaker, hailed me today and asked me whether I would do his wall next, I said I’d think about it. Then he added that it was ‘the competition’. I said I hadn’t heard of one.

Thursday 27th October
Day max. 14°
Morning very sunny, fairly warm. Begin work at 9.00 and work through till 3.30. By midday the weather had turned against me and was extremely cold, wind also was very bitter. Worked on the windows in the folding area, the windows in the background and the window in the building on the left. Had to stop work by 3.30 as I was feeling dizzy and had a splitting head, also I was perishing cold. Must be the cold wind causing the trouble, I wrap up warm enough I reckon but through working I sweat and become warm, then when I stop I shiver as the wind freezes me almost immediately. For the second day running Annie Cunliffe supplied me with Dispirin, also the canteen lady offered me some of her ‘strong ones’. Still feel I can finish in 3 weeks if the weather holds and I have plenty of rest between each painting session.


Friday 28th October
Day max. 13°
Think a chill must have come my way, can’t face the thought of going up the scaffolding today. Muscles in my shoulders, back and neck continually ache and so does my head. Decided to have a days rest.

Monday 31st October
Day max. 13°
Weather is fine but extremely windy, top section of scaffolding can be seen to be swaying from the bottom of the wall. Decide to wait until after lunch before attempting any work. Begin work 1.30, wind dies down a little but still difficult to paint a straight line, the wind keeps blowing me off balance. Worked on window in bottom right of painting. Straightening, using chalk and a dark paint making proportions better and generally beginning to look more crisp. Finish work 4.50, feeling extremely cold, fingers, toes and nose completely numb. Yet again face burning and the usual headache. Weather expected to be more fair tomorrow. Didn’t work above second layer today as I felt the wind was too strong, even mid afternoon.


Tuesday 1st November
Day max. 10°
Rang weather bureau for advice after yesterdays fiasco as I’d asked my chum Jeff Veitch to take some photographs of me. Forecast was scattered showers, occasional sunny spells and a high possibility of rain around the middle of the afternoon. Began work at 10.00, decided the task for the day would be to cover the ‘orange’ colour of the two main buildings. As these two areas were mapped in with a wash on top of a Brilliant White Weathershield the colour Russet looks to be a very bright orange. The idea is that these two buildings should match and blend with the brick colour of the rest of the building. The main problem was my lack of red, the building is basically a very red-bricked one and the only emulsion near to a red was the Russet, a rust colour. A lot of problems occurred mixing the emulsions, the colours mixed didn’t give the colour I expected, but a more dirty version of it. This is something of which I had been previously warned. Nevertheless I painted in these large areas with more a colour of brown than red but still I felt was a closer match to the rest of the building than the Russet wash. From down the street and viewing from the Poly, the match appears to be reasonably good. It becomes more obvious however the closer to the building you are. Russet runs out, instead of buying more decide to buy a Matchmaker Flame Red to give more scope in mixing with the rest of my colour range. Sky becomes threatening, decide to break about 3.00. Begins to rain 3.45.


Thursday 3rd November
Day max. 13°
After a night of heavy rain and high wind the morning is sunny, clear sky and reasonably calm. ‘Borrow’ taller step ladder from college to reach parts of ‘stretcher’ as yet out of my reach, and intention to change its colour and put in darker colour behind. By 11.30 wind becomes stronger and colder. At about 1.00 decide to return to college for a soup and cup of tea as beginning to feel decidedly cold. After eating soup head begins to feel light and dizzy. Return to wall, still feeling ill, at about 2.30 to finish ‘stretcher’. Then dark colour used to pronounce depth within the building and under folds at the top to make them appear more convincing. Finish work about 4.00. Return to college feeling extremely cold and windswept, headache returns and eyes ache. Definitely need at least one beer to put things right, and some jazz. Tonight I’m taking Denise Thomas out to the Earlsdon Cottage.

Friday 4th November
Day max. 11°
Clear sky, light wind, very sunny but still cold although not as yesterday. Begin work 9.30, intention to complete ‘stretcher’ and paint in area behind. As yet there are two struts which up till now have been out of my reach, the step ladder was borrowed again. Soon as I was balanced precariously on top of the step ladder, the wind became strong again and I had my biggest fright so far. Previously I have put my foot down the gap between wall and scaffolding, saving myself by hitting my shoulder against the wall and holding myself up. Today I was on the second layer on the top rung of the step ladder and reaching for the roof of the building, holding a long guide stick in my left hand and chalk in my right, so basically as I hadn’t hold of anything I was asking for trouble. A sudden gust caught me and I was knocked backwards, my shoulder blades hitting the planks of wood on the third layer, which saved my fall and held me at an angle till the wind died and I was able to regain balance. I then climbed down to ground level and sat on the car park. It was a shock and disturbed me a great deal. Regardless, stretcher is now complete and background almost mapped in, a slight misjudgement of paint has left a small area unfinished. Have had key to actual Vine St. building cut so I will be able to work over the weekend. I think concentration now must be towards the lower half of the painting which seems to have been neglected.

Saturday 5th November
Day max. 14°
Very dull sky, high wind. Arrive at wall at 9.30, indecisive whether it will be worthwhile to begin work or not. Within half an hour it begins to rain. By midday rains very heavily. Rains on and off till about 3.00 and decide to call it a day and continue tomorrow.

Sunday 6th November
Day max. 11°
Still very windy but quite sunny and reasonably warm. Decide to pick up car from car park in town, bring it back to Vine St. car park and spend day there. Find car in vandalised state. Door handles sawn off, driver side door hanging on its hinges, boot attempted to be prised open, roof rack wrenched off, foot marks and scratches on roof and bonnet, scratches along driver side of car. Engine looked untampered and started first time but decided to check wheels. Back wheels okay but after taking hub caps off front two wheels found that all wheel nuts were missing. Found door handles, clamps and rubbers to roof rack and 8 wheel nuts scattered in hedgerow next to the car. Felt too upset to work.

Monday 7th November
Day max. 14°
Heavy rain all day, which pleased me. Took car to garage for repairs. Getting the car put right was the priority today. Forgot to mention yesterday that inside the car was my paint, my brushes, diary and my camera, the film inside containing the documentation of the progress of the painting. Maybe luck was on my side that ‘they’ didn’t actually get into it.

Tuesday 8th November
Day max. 12°
Weather good so an early start was necessary, the weather bureau forecasted heavy rain, perhaps thunderstorms for the afternoon. Task for the day was the folding windows top right and to put the folds right that come from top right to middle bottom of painting. The folds proved to be a bit tricky as I kept having to move betwen the first and second layers. Colin Saxton, my HOD, came up to have a word for 5 minutes this afternoon and pointed out several things that were wrong. Finished work about 4.20, painting pulling together quite nicely now although a lot of time still needs to be spent on it in order that it will be considered in terms of illusionary painting rather than a theatre back drop.
A conversation with a girl from Sidney Stringer School:
“What are you doing it for?”
“My degree”
“Bet you don’t pass!”

Wednesday 9th November
Day max. 16°
Very stormy sky, slight drizzle, low cloud. Rain continues all day, not heavily but as a fine mist. Will continue work tomorrow all being well.

Thursday 10th November
Day max. 15°
High wind, slight drizzle again. Decided to drive around the ring road today to see if the painting could be seen from there. It could and looks okay from that distance.

Tuesday 15th November
Day max. 7°
I’ve been neglecting the log the last couple of days so I’ll take over from now. The last couple of days have been so cold I can hardly believe it. Today I’ve had to give up because I feel so frozen. Hailstorms were expected today, also thunderstorms and I experienced both. The strong to gale force winds predicted were true and again I found the planks on the top layer had been blown around and were balancing precariously. The maximum temperature forecast by the weather bureau was 7°, which I don’t think was reached. Had a phone call from Saths Moodley toward the end of last week who told me he would like to do an article on me for the Union of Students in Ireland newspaper (USI News). Have sent written work and photograph to him today.

Tuesday 22nd November
Day max. 7°
Log has been neglected again but perhaps it will become boring reading as the things I have to do now are merely tightening up and finessing, and from down the street no major changes will be seen anymore. The main parts I have been trying to change are the large areas of red/brown which form the main part of the design. John helped me again last Saturday and dropped in to see how things were going Sunday afternoon. The plan now, which I didn’t include in my drawing, is to paint every brick and match the colours with the brick colour of the rest of the building. This has proved to be very difficult. On Sunday afternoon the painting seemed to be pulling around slightly although not much has yet really been done, only the bottom part, but already from the edge of the car park one can relate this series of painted bricks to the rest of the building.
The weather of late has been awful. The wind has been strong and the temperature has barely been reaching 5° according to the weather bureau. Also I have been snowed and hailed on this last week.
My health also hasn’t been up to scratch just recently, I’ve been feeling dizzy again when I come back into the warm and have felt like passing out on several occasions. I put the blame on the fact that I am going too long without enough to eat, working for too long in the cold and not having enough rest. My own fault entirely but everyone is encouraging me to visit the doctor.


Wednesday 23rd November
Day max. 9°
Saw the doctor today. Says I must improve my diet if I want to finish the painting. Have collapsed several times recently and have been told I’m pushing myself too hard and should have more breaks. I associate myself with the labourers on the building site across the road, they work in all weathers so I see no reason why I shouldn’t. Doctor suggests I suck boiled sweets, that I’m burning up too much sugar to keep warm and also suggests I don’t work all day long without a break. I told him I’d heed his advice. He also suggested I wore a hat of some description as I am probably losing a lot of body heat through the top of my head. Began work later today but the building on left hand side really pulling together. To illustrate the temperatures I’m working in, I left a tub of a particular colour on the scaffolding while I worked with another and when I returned to it found the surface of the paint had slightly frozen over.


Tuesday 29th November
Day max. 5°
Since the clocks have been altered my working day has become shorter and shorter, I now cannot work after 3.30 because it is too dim. An early start on a fine day is essential now, by 3.00 my blues appear purple. Apart from the snow the weather has been fairly clear, the wind is still extremely strong and blizzards and hailstorms attack at regular intervals. Every night I suffer from dizzy spells, bad headaches and ‘hot aches’ but the painting will soon be finished. I wonder if I will remember the cold pains and the exhaustion I am feeling now when the painting is at an end. I still ache all over and feel fairly washed up. I’m now referred to as the College Tramp, the clothes I am wearing distinguish me as a breed apart. I now wear a cap, neckerchief, two vests, shirt, jersey, jacket, one short scarf, one long scarf, one pair fingerless mittens, one pair gloves, tights, ordinary socks, two pairs woolly socks, one pair rugby socks, trousers, boots, old overcoat. The wind has also blown a lot of paint on me and have been asked if my clothes were designed by Jackson Pollock! The weather has completely wrecked my schedule. October was going like a dream but since the weather turned I’m struggling to keep time, I hope I can finish before the end of term. Henri now brings me dinner at the wall everyday and several chums constantly ask after my health. I do still suffer from dizzy spells but not so often. Was told yesterday that the building is due to be demolished next Easter. I couldn’t believe my ears and the news has shattered me. Have decided to dedicate the painting to the Queen for her Silver Jubilee. Might hold things up a bit.

Thursday 15th December
Day max. 11°
I have declared the painting finished today even though there is still work to be done on it. The cold weather has beaten me, I cannot work in it any longer. The bricks have almost all been painted in, the unfinished area is within the building on the right about 12′ from the floor either side of the window. I have battled against the weather for a long while now, the wind however is still strong and the temperature is freezing all day long. I feel very disappointed but too ill to continue. I shall remove the scaffolding tomorrow.

Friday 16th December
Day max. 6°
Would you believe it, it felt milder today! Still cold but more mild than of late. Firstly I notified the Coventry Evening Telegraph the scaffolding was coming down and they arrived at the wall about 10.30. John helped take the scaffolding down, as usual his help was invaluable. I then saw the painting for the first time and it felt strange seeing nothing in front of the wall. I took some more photographs and walked away to college. Looking back at the painting I felt a big empty hole in my stomach, what I’ve been wanting to do since a year last Easter had now been completed. Odd thing, I didn’t feel elated at all, in fact quite tearful and upset. I’d done what I had set out to do and now I was feeling empty. There was no big unveiling ceremony and no celebration, the painting was just doing what it was meant to do – stare down the street. Over this 8 weeks I’ve become really attached to the painting and I think that is what has upset me. Now that the scaffolding has gone, it looks lonely.


(Day max. temp. forecasts supplied by Meteorological Office, Terminal Building, Birmingham Airport 1977)


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