Celebration Mural at Newark Hill Academy

17 – 19.6.14

This week I returned to the Newark Hill Academy, Peterborough to complete some unfinished business. Before Easter I led a series of image making workshops which culminated in the production of a series of design ideas for a mural project. An outside wall had been identified and proposed as the site for a mural to be painted at the school to celebrate its transition from primary school to academy status, and I was asked to return during the summer term to make the idea become a reality.

SLATER-NHA drawing white

When I arrived on the morning of the 17th the wall had already been prepared, although the size and shape of the area to be painted was slightly different and a little smaller than had been originally suggested. Nevertheless, at 62″ x 110″ it was still going to be on a monumental scale as far as the children were concerned. I made some adjustments to the previous plan and set about transferring the design to the wall.

The Newark Hill school emblem has always included the image of an owl, so to illustrate a connection with the past and the developing present this established identity of the school was selected as the central element of the mural. Owls and flight had been the subject of the image making workshops and the composition was based upon three drawings in particular which had been produced by the children during these sessions.

On Day 2 the group of 12 children that had previously attended my workshops were assembled and during the course of the day 3-4 children at a time worked on a rotation basis to paint the wall. I took the role of foreman issuing instructions and directions, while the children metamorphosed into mural painting apprentices and began applying paint to the wall. During this first painting session all of the work was done by the children and at the end of the school day the mural had taken shape and progressed in leaps and bounds.

The layout has three defined layers and in order to suggest the transition and continuity of the school identity the composition follows the natural pattern of reading from left to right, and the previous school colours of yellow and green develop a transparency as they gradually transform into the emerging purple and grey of the newly established academy.

I made some tidying adjustments to the painting after the children left at the end of the school day and then on Day 3 I continued alone to bring the painting to a conclusion. Although the colours of the original drawings have been altered to adapt to the palette that had been suggested for the painting, my priority as far as was possible was to retain the shapes and style of the children’s work. It was also important when making modifications of tonal values not to lose the painted marks of the previous day either.

The end result is very much a team effort. It may be my design and layout, and my painted marks which completed the project, but the ingredients and substance of the composition, as well as the appearance of the lively paintwork, is very much that of a group of people working together.

The children from my workshop group deserve applause and congratulations for their painterly efforts as they did such a wonderful job. In addition, a special mention and thanks should be extended to Lorraine Brookes too for organising the project. It certainly wouldn’t have happened without you!

Newark Hill9