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The Fulbridge Academy Sistine Chapel Project – The Movie……….

Sept ’14 – Mar ’15














West End


Abbey Road

The Fulbridge Academy Sistine Chapel Project – The End……….

9.12.14 – 27.3.15

The Fulbridge ‘Sistine Chapel’ project has reached a conclusion. On Friday 27th March I put away my paints for the last time. The mobile scaffolding tower has been returned and the large central space of Fulbridge Academy High is no longer ‘under construction’. It has at last become ‘a room’.

I began painting the walls on Tuesday 9th December and before I started work the original completion date I’d suggested had been the end of January, but with the possibility of perhaps ‘spilling over’ into Feb. However, after only the first few days the scale of the task became very clear, it would take much longer than I’d anticipated. I knew I was taking on a big job but now I was faced with the actual reality of it. It would be a serious challenge, both physically and mentally, but the only way it would be accomplished would be by consistent and determined effort. I just had to have my head down, stick with it and dig in for as long as was needed.

My last day of work before the school closed for the Christmas break was Friday 19th December and at that time all that had been achieved was the rendering of the painted background texture outside each of the studios but already a significant change had taken place. The cold atmosphere of the ‘whiteout’ had disappeared, the application of colour had lightened and generated warmth, with reflected colour onto the ceiling being an additional and interesting bonus too.

Following my original completion date prediction Iain had set in motion plans for an Opening Ceremony to unveil the new building, with guests being invited to the special event on 30th Jan. This being the case, I began painting the central area of the corridor first where 4 separate designs worked closely together. The mural was still far from finished by the time the ceremony took place but it still gave a fairly clear indication of how the end result might appear once completed. The truth of the matter however was that at the end of January I still hadn’t even reached a half way stage.

At this time I was already over half a stone lighter than when I’d started the project but still pleased with my physical condition. I was feeling tired but I wasn’t flagging. It was good to know that I was obviously a lot fitter than I thought I was. On the evening of Thurs 5th Feb I saw ‘The Agony & the Ecstasy’ playing on the big screen as part of the Classic Films season at the Castle in Wellingborough, which felt very appropriate. Having painted and climbed up and down scaffolding day after day for so many weeks I felt a pronounced and distinct affinity with the role played by Charlton Heston. I’m not making comparisons with myself and MichelAngelo by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly counted my blessings that Iain didn’t bear any relation to Pope Julius II played by Rex Harrison. Not once did he exclaim “When will you make an end?!!!”

The painting didn’t just ‘spill over’ into February, it continued beyond the Spring half term break and then into March which was to cause me a predicament due to an overlap of projects. When I painted a mural with children at Warmington School last November, based upon Monet’s large water lily Grand Decorations for the Musée de l’Orangerie, Executive Head Teacher Josie Milton had asked if I would return to work with the children again ‘in March’. She invited me to lead some drawing workshops at Warmington as well as at Titchmarsh Primary School where I would also paint a mural on the wall of the library. At the time the invitation was made the thought never occurred that my Fulbridge ‘Sistine Chapel’ would still be unfinished.

At the beginning of March I therefore took a two week break in order to keep my promise to Josie but returned to Fulbridge on Friday 20th, and completed the painting as the school ended the term to begin their Easter break.

So how long did it take? An accurate measurement is difficult as time spent included visits to the school to discuss the project and to see the Fulbridge High construction site, research and development of the designs and making necessary modifications and adjustments, preparing the artwork to assist the drawing and transfer of design to the wall, and although I may keep a diary of these background activities I didn’t record an account of actual hours. I don’t think any artist does. A mural project is much more than simply turning up and painting on a wall. However that figure is one that can be measured with accuracy, it took 45 painting days.

The final stage of the painting was to complete unfinished features, repaint an area to repair the wall where a sign had been removed and to unify the painting by means of a painted graphic texture. Four sections of the original long white walls had remained untouched and from a distance this gap suggested a French Tricolore at one end with an Irish one at the other. I had not foreseen this implication at the design stage so felt a sense of relief when at last the starkness of these previously untouched areas were painted. The inclusion of a collection of spontaneous and improvised ‘dancing’ graphic shapes as a third layer of the painting, especially within these four still vacant spaces, had always been an essential and integral element of the original design plan. Circles and stars of differing sizes were painted as a light and unobtrusive linking strategy, and what an important ingredient they are.

It was the addition of this graphic texture which provoked the most questions from the children, and there were many questions covering a wide range of subjects during my 10 week tenure. ‘Why are you painting circles?’ ‘What are the bubbles for?’ ‘Why are they different sizes?’ ‘Why are they that colour?’ ‘Why are they there?’ ‘How do you know if they’re in the right place?’ Pertinent questions, but not easy perhaps to understand the reply which related to the balance of the composition. It is simply a feeling, a sensation, which is as near to impossible to express in words as any explanation can be. It’s a very personal thing. It either feels right, or it feels wrong. That’s the best I can do.

It’s interesting that this feature of the painting attracted such close attention but nevertheless proves my long held belief that the smallest cogs in the biggest machine still play a very important and necessary role, regardless of what that ‘machine’ might be.  If they don’t work, then nothing does. It’s all about being a part of a team. In this case, in this big painting, despite the larger elements taking centre stage, once again it’s the smallest of ingredients that’s made it all come together.

And at last it has all Come Together. Right now. Over me. And I’m very proud of it.

Side A:

Side B:

The Fulbridge Academy Sistine Chapel Project – The Middle Bit……….

9.12.14 – 27.3.15

The Re-designs:

The Painting:

The Fulbridge Academy Sistine Chapel Project – The Designs……….

Oct – Nov ’14

When Iain initially discussed the ‘Sistine Chapel’ brief he gave me a fairly free rein over the design of the mural. As a collection of designs had already been produced and had begun to be employed by the staff who would be working in the new studios, he asked that I didn’t move too far away from the original concept presented within the architects drawing. The designs worked within a regular rectangular shape but he suggested that I didn’t have to be confined to this format and was able to extend beyond these boundaries if I wished.

Also, as the new building would house the year 5&6 children, another stipulation was that the appearance of the mural should be suitable for an older age group and therefore a little more ‘grown up’ as a contrast to the corridors of the Keeton Road site of Fulbridge Academy. With this in mind my intention was to achieve a style more ‘graphic novel’ than ‘storybook’.

I certainly wanted the mural to appear as a painting rather than a flat graphic image and made it a priority that mark making and texture would play a prominent part in its production. I also wanted it to work as a complete and continuous image and not appear as a piece in four separate sections. Within the architectural design of the building the ‘break out area’ is an important and very large connecting space, and it was imperative that the mural enhanced that unifying structure and not create a series of abrupt divisions.

I produced a series of designs with a palette defined by the colour scheme of each studio and which would be painted in three layers. The first would be a background texture using the appropriate colour, the next a composition of simple but boldly presented images and the final layer would comprise of a series of repeated surface graphic elements, which would continue as a connecting device along the full length of both walls.

The original ‘Studio’ designs and my re-design proposals:

Hollywood Original    Fulbridge Hollywood

Broadway Original    Fulbridge Broadway

Pixar Original    Fulbridge Pixar

Universal Original    Fulbridge Universal

Bollywood Original    Fulbridge Bollywood

Disney Original    Fulbridge Disney

West End Original    Fulbridge West End
West End

Abbey Road Original   Fulbridge Abbey Road

Abbey Road

The expansive and sweeping ‘Sistine Chapel’ space I walked into at the beginning of December was an overpowering and very white room, clinical and impersonal. Cold. Pallid. Unlike anywhere on either Fulbridge campus. It was like an Arctic Whiteout. The sooner colour appeared on the walls the better.

I had two clear but contrasting frontrunners for my ‘Blog Title Soundtracks’ page. Should I choose Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin (touched for the very first time)’. Or Procul Harem’s ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. No contest.


The Fulbridge Academy Sistine Chapel Project – The Beginning……….

Sept – Dec ’14

Shortly after completing the Fulbridge Diner mural I received another message from Principal Iain Erskine. He had a proposal to discuss with me in relation to a new building being constructed close by the original school.

This new facility, much needed as student numbers at the Fulbridge Academy were expanding rapidly, would accommodate children in years 5&6. Iain had a very clear idea of what he wanted and had made specific suggestions with regard to the design of the building, which the architects had delivered, and the construction was entering its final stages.

A Wayfind Strategy

I was aware of this extension to the school as Iain had spoken to me about it on several occasions during the past year and I had been shown the architects drawing about a year ago. The message I received on the 25th September however suggested that Iain had considered a change of plan with regard to the appearance of the long corridor at the centre of the structure.

It was more a spacious ‘break-out area’ than a traditional corridor, being approx. 10′ wide and with a 12′ high ceiling, and had the potential to be divided into several smaller work areas as required. There were double doors at each end of this large space, one set leading to and from the entrance hall and the opposing end opening to an outside play area, and 8 classrooms could be accessed from it. However, as each room also had doors to outside, this space wouldn’t be the only route of entry to the classrooms.

FAH Plan

Rather than ‘classrooms’, Iain preferred that each would be referred to as ‘studios’ in order to reflect the emphasis on the creative arts, drama and performance led curriculum at the school. Each pair of rooms were to be furnished in bold colours (green, yellow, red and blue) and a series of large adhesive flat colour graphic images had been designed to fill the walls around the doors. The names for the studios were to be Hollywood, Broadway, Pixar, Universal, Bollywood, Disney, West End and Abbey Road.

The proposal received from Iain was that he’d had second thoughts about the graphics destined for the large central area and asked if I’d be interested to paint the space instead. He suggested that we meet up to discuss things further, with an invitation to make a visit to the construction site of the new building too.

On Weds 1st October we were greeted at the Eaglesthorpe entrance by the Carillion site manager, donned hard hats, high vis. ‘Kenny’ jackets, gloves, eye protection and site boots and taken on a tour of the building. It was taking shape but far from finished, however the sight of the large central corridor where the murals were to appear really whet my appetite. The sensation of this space already felt immense and overwhelming, and I felt the scale of the challenge immediately. Nevertheless, I dared myself to take it on. I’ve had many ‘Sweet Dreams’ of walls like this, but never thought I’d ever be offered the opportunity of painting them in the real world. Of course the walls weren’t finished yet, but I could imagine in my mind’s eye the dramatic effect of paintings on such a scale. It was a commission I had to accept, this was my one chance of fulfilling the dream of a lifetime.

Over the course of the next 7 weeks I made a series of drawings for the 8 sections of the corridor and on 27th November returned to Fulbridge to present my proposed design ideas to Iain. Following this meeting he took me to visit the construction site again and this time the building was nearing completion.

Once more we dressed in regulation Health & Safety construction site attire and upon entering the building, as carpeting had now been revealed, were asked to place elasticated plastic ‘covers’ over our borrowed ‘site boots’. The central area, with walls now in place and painted, looked even larger than I remembered and the thought flashed across my mind whether I’d made the right decision in accepting the commission. I tried my best to prevent an avalanche of feelings turning into a deluge of self doubt. Although I was very aware of the scale of the task ahead, suddenly it hit me as an immediate reality staring me boldly in the face. It wasn’t only the question of whether I possessed the ability of turning my designs into monumental sized paintings that had been circling around in my head, another ever-present nagging thought concerned the timescale of start to finish which I felt was impossible to predict.

FAH Whiteout1

As the design stage developed I had begun referring to this painting as my ‘Sistine Chapel’ project and a well known fact about the original MichelAngelo version was that it took him just over 4 years working with a team of assistants before his ceiling was completed. He began work in July 1508 and the frescoes were unveiled in October 1512. It measured over 5000 sq.ft. In comparison, my two walls measured approximately 12′ x 105′ each, a total area of 2520 sq.ft and I would be working alone. As I was steering well clear of employing a fresco painting technique the best prediction I could offer to Iain was that I felt fairly confident that my ‘Sistine Chapel’ would be completed in less time.

The following week I began making alterations to a selection of my drawings having found during our site visit that some of the studios had changed position from the original architects plan, and which had caused compositional implications with the designs I’d presented. I also began preparing artwork which would assist the transfer of design to wall.

Then, on Tuesday 9th December, I returned to Fulbridge Academy High and began a very close and intimate relationship with a mobile scaffolding tower and a sponge………….


Titchmarsh Primary School Library – the ‘BFG’ & Roald Dahl Storybook Murals


Since the beginning of December I have been painting the largest mural of my career at the Fulbridge Academy, which I have affectionately referred to as my ‘Sistine Chapel’ project. When Executive Head Josie Milton asked me last November if I would work with both Warmington and Titchmarsh Primary Schools “in March” to lead some drawing workshops and to produce a mural for the Titchmarsh School library, never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Fulbridge project wouldn’t be finished by the time that date came around.

Therefore, in order to fulfill my promise to Josie, I have taken a 3 week sabbatical from the ‘Sistine Chapel’ and I will return there later this week. I have changed place and scale from one extreme to the other, the contrast couldn’t be more different. At Fulbridge I’ve spent 10 weeks clambering up and down scaffolding working in a space that, despite its appearance, would be better described as a ‘break out area’ than corridor whereas the intimate surroundings of the library corridor at Titchmarsh is another world completely. It’s cosy. Very cosy.

I’ve always received a warm welcome at Titchmarsh and it’s felt good to be working there again. At the end of last week I spent a day filling walls in the library area with pencil scribbles and during the last 3 days have been applying paint.

One side of the library corridor now features a large BFG, a small Sophie by his side, surrounded by 9 compadres from Giant Country and all the characters were designed by children during the drawing workshops. The walls facing it, designed by myself, comprise of a variety of well known individuals from other Roald Dahl stories.

A library area which last week had some ordinary and plain coloured walls at its entrance, now has a very colourful, exciting and stimulating atmosphere. Hopefully the paintings will encourage the reading of some magical and imaginative stories too!

Titchmarsh Primary School Library – the ‘BFG’ & Roald Dahl Storybook Murals


I’ve altered my ‘song title = blog title’ habit this time and decided to include the group to whom the track belongs as well, the combination of the two couldn’t be more apt.

During my teenage years it was my good fortune to be surrounded by some terrific music and my soundtrack of choice tended to lean heavily toward the progressive rock idiom. Therefore, considering this entry is a reflection of two mural painting projects, the first based upon the book ‘The BFG’ by Roald Dahl and the second an interpretation of other stories by the same author, what better choice could I have than to remind the world of the lesser known but nevertheless wonderful Gentle Giant. Vivid memories of reading bedtime stories to my daughter Maria many years ago were obviously also dancing around in my head  – and what great memories they are – so I had the perfect track title to use too.

Earlier this week I presented drawing workshops to children at both Warmington and Titchmarsh Primary Schools, details of which can be found by clicking the appropriate school, and a selection of the drawings produced were to form the basis of a mural for the Titchmarsh School library.

Library Mural DesignDuring the last couple of days I made a selection of the drawings I felt would work well within the context of a mural inspired by ‘The BFG’ book and developed a design using Adobe Photoshop to present to Executive Head Josie Milton. Following our discussion of the proposed design I made a few alterations and today began the process of transferring it to the wall.

The second painting, located on the opposite wall, was a late request as a mural project and so appeared as an improvised composition during the second part of the day. Josie asked if I would produce a companion piece to the main project which would reflect a selection of other familiar Roald Dahl stories, so I have chosen to include James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Fantastic Mr Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits and The Witches.

‘The BFG’ Image making workshops at Titchmarsh Primary School


Yesterday Warmington, today Titchmarsh. The location may have changed but the activity was identical, and I presented the same introduction and drawing exercises. Not exactly a Groundhog Day, but I definitely recognised some similarities.

Therefore, rather make a similar entry here, I would suggest a perusal of yesterday’s ‘Funny Face’ blog for an outline of the activity which was presented to children again today.

TitchYr1&2PortraitsOutcomes had a familiar ring too. The Yr 3&4 group and the Yr 1&2 group produced some very successful drawings, both with the introductory exercise of a disciplined and well proportioned portrait as well as with the more expressive and exaggerated representation requested for illustrations of the cast of characters from ‘The BFG’ book.

I now have the very difficult job of making a selection from the drawings produced during the last two days in order to design a composition for the painting of a mural in the Titchmarsh School library. With so many good drawings to choose from, I know that making a shortlist is not going to be an easy task at all.

I thought Gnarls Barkley was the perfect choice to add to my Blog Title Soundtracks page. The title is not only a perfect description of many of the portraits the children have produced today but also of the Titchmarsh Primary School welcome I’ve received too!

The Portraits:

The BFG cast:


3 Parts Dirt! 10cc Abba AC/DC Achille-Etna Michallon Ajaz Akhtar Alberto Giacometti Albrecht Durer Alice in Wonderland Amsterdam Andrew Wyeth Andy Warhol Antonio Vivaldi Arctic Monkeys Art History Atomic Rooster Banksy Beatles Benjamin Marshall Bernard Cribbins Black Black Sunday Blondie Bob & Marcia Bob Marley Boxing Brushes app. Caesar Cambridge Camille Corot Cancer Canned Heat Castle Caverstede Early Years Centre 'Bigger Picture' Chalk Pastel Charcoal Charles R. Knight Charlie Small Children's Books Christo Claude Monet Coldplay Corinne Bailey Rae Coventry Creative Partnerships Crete Cricket Daniel Lambert Darren Fraser David Bomberg David Bowie Deacon's School Dennis Creffield Diego Velάzquez Discovery Primary School Django Reinhardt Dogsthorpe Academy Drawing Dr Strangely Strange Edgar Degas Edvard Munch Egypt Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun Elton John Elvis Costello en plein air Epping Forest Europe Eurythmics Evolve magazine Exhibition Fitzwilliam Museum Floella Benjamin Foo Fighters Football Forest Schools Fosse Mead Primary Francesco Guardi Frank Auerbach Fred Astaire Frida Kahlo Fulbridge School Garage Door Gary Moore Gene Wilder Gentle Giant George Bellows Georges Braque Georgio de Chirico Gerry Rafferty Gian Lorenzo Bernini Gingerbread Man Giovanni Bellini Gladiator Glasgow Boys Glenn Frey Gnarls Barkley Greece Gruffalo Gustav Klimt Haiku Hands Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Hercules Brabazon Brabazon Hiroshige Hokusai Ian Anderson Impressionism iPad Iron Curtain Jacob van Ruisdael Jacques Brel James Abbott McNeill Whistler Jamiroquai Jazz Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Jean-Francois Millet Jethro Tull JMW Turner Joe Cocker Johannes Vermeer John Constable John Lennon Johnny Kidd & the Pirates Juan Sánchez Cotán Jurassic Way Killer Shrimp King's Cliffe Endowed Primary School King's Cliffe Primary Kit Downes Quintet KT Tunstall Lanchester Polytechnic Landscape Landscape painting Lascaux Laurel Barbieri Leningrad Lenny Kravitz Len Tabner Leonardo da Vinci Lewis Carroll Little Red Riding Hood Loch Craignish Lonnie Donegan Luke Steele Lynyrd Skynyrd Mad Hatter Madness Manfred Mann's Earth Band March Hare Marvin Gaye Meadowside Primary School Media Media Archive for Central England Michael Jackson MichelAngelo Modest Mussorgsky Mosaic Moscow Mural Muse Music National Gallery Newark Hill Primary Nickel Creek Nick Ward Nina Simone Oasis Obsidian Art Gallery Owl Painting Panda Panorama Paul Cezanne Paul Gauguin Peterborough Peter Paul Rubens Picasso Pieter Bruegel the Elder Pirates Pleurisy Pneumonia Portrait Procul Harem Queen Radio 3 Essential Classics Rafael Alberti Rainforest Ray Charles Red Hot Chili Peppers Rembrandt van Rijn Rene Magritte River Nene Roald Dahl Rock Music Rod Campbell Rodrigo y Gabriela Rod Stewart Rogier van der Weyden Rolling Stones Romans Rome Rowlatts Hill Primary School Royal Academy Roy Clark Russia Salvator Rosa Sarah Walker Scotland Seascape Self Portrait Sheryl Crow Sistine Chapel Small Faces Sport St. Brendan's Primary School Steppenwolf Stereophonics Talking Heads Terry Jacks The Automatic The BFG The Crooked House Himley The Editors The Jam The Killers The Moody Blues The Red Deltas The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Thin Lizzy Thomas Faed Tina Turner Titchmarsh School Titian Tom Jones Totem Pole Trompe l'oeil Tuscany USSR Venice Vienna Vincent Van Gogh Volcanic Voyager Academy Warmington School We Are Scientists William Hogarth William Law Primary School Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club YouTube

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