A new year, another bigger picture project. It was suggested toward the end of last year by Iain Erskine, Head of Fulbridge School, Peterborough. ‘I’ve a job I’d like you to think about,’ he said, ‘for the gable over the front entrance’. I’ve painted gable ends before but never within the confines of a triangle, so it was new territory.


The subject of the painting was to celebrate the conversion from school to academy status, as well as an opportunity to upgrade and perform necessary maintenance to the front of the building. It would also highlight and promote its reputation as a school of creativity.

The school’s mission is ‘Unlocking Potential: We believe that if we give children the roots, they will grow wings and fly’. Being an avid follower of Jethro Tull since the late sixties, this concept naturally caused their 1995 album ‘Roots to Branches’ to spring to mind and images began to fill my head. A composition I painted in 1981 also became an important source and influence too. After discussing ideas with Iain I began producing a variety of designs based primarily upon these two themes before presenting him with an initial scribble, which was then taken further as a coloured visual.


The central motif is based upon the Fulbridge oak tree logo, with entwined roots spreading far and wide. White doves are scattered around the composition which increase in size as they take to the air. The school motto reflects and softens the angle of the gable and the new academy name takes pride of place. Two small child figures are located like bookends to each side, holding a paper chain of figures. There are many cultures and languages spoken within the school, and this motif shows that all children entering the building are as one, with an equal opportunity to shape their own future.

The painting from which these two figures were taken was painted in sepia tones, and I decided I would employ a similar palette for this project. The gable of wooden boards has been in place for several years, so I felt there shouldn’t be a dramatic and stark change. After all, the school is already ‘outstanding’ and its policy remains the same, there is no need to make it appear that it has become a different place. A sepia tone would not only look similar to the wooden boards but would also have a timeless quality, which was why my original composition was painted with such a palette.


The image began life as a drawing commission from a chum to illustrate an apolitical ‘social ideal’. It is titled ‘Imagine’ and was my response to the assassination of John Lennon. It illustrates a simple but enduring message, one relevant to every generation if we are going to live together in harmony and with respect for each other. It was painted in oil on canvas and I wrote a poem to accompany it.


Imagine a time
with no mass unemployment
Imagine a world
without nuclear deployment
Imagine all people
respecting each other
Imagine them living
as sister and brother
Imagine all countries
without class distinction
Imagine world wildlife
with no fear of extinction
Imagine no hunger
no greed and no poor
Imagine no hatred
no malice, no war

It is a sentiment that is never out of date, and relocating the figures from this painting to the new composition was like passing the baton. It felt the right thing to do.