You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Art History’ tag.

‘Vivaldi’ Mural at St. Brendan’s Primary, Corby

Completed August 20

St. Brendan’s Primary School, Beanfield Avenue, Corby NN18 OAZ

‘Vivaldi’ Mural at St. Brendan’s Primary, Corby

18 – 24 August 20

Following a 5 month interlude, last week I returned to St. Brendan’s Primary in Corby to complete the ‘Vivaldi’ mini hall mural. On the one hand it felt like no time had passed at all and yet so much has happened. It was good to be back, I’ve never experienced such a long interval within a project before and coming back to the painting was like meeting up with an old friend.

It took a short time to pick up my momentum again but the Spring themed wall, which was the last to be painted when the Coronavirus lockdown placed a halt on proceedings, has now reached a conclusion.

Although I say it myself, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of the mini hall reveal a remarkable transformation. The change that has occurred in our world this year has made many feel uncomfortable and some children may feel apprehensive about their return to school next week. However I’d like to think that this combination of storybook characters within a collection of art history related landscape settings has created very a bright and happy atmosphere, and one that will be enjoyable to live with.

27 March…….

24 August………



Spring Book Characters & Paintings

Almond Blossom 1890  (Vincent Van Gogh)

Horrid Henry  (Author: Francesca Simon Illustrator: Tony Ross)

Day the Crayons Quit  (Author: Drew Daywalt Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers)

Kameido Plum Garden 1857  (Ando Hiroshige)

The Gingerbread Man  (Animation: Barker Animation)

Peter Rabbit  (Beatrix Potter)

Little Red Riding Hood  (Publisher: Usborne Books Illustrator: Stephen Cartwright)

Springtime 1886  (Claude Monet)

Cherry blossoms in the Grove of Suijin Temple and View of Massaki on the Sumida River 1856  (Ando Hiroshige)


Summer Additional Painting

Woman with a Parasol facing right 1886  (Claude Monet)


The whole story……………with a happy ending!

St. Brendan’s Primary School, Beanfield Avenue, Corby NN18 OAZ

‘Vivaldi’ Mural at St. Brendan’s Primary, Corby

Feb – March 20

Once upon a time…….

A new location, St. Brendan’s Primary in Corby, and a school with a musical reputation. Therefore when Headteacher Leanne Brydon invited me to design a painting with a collection of children’s book characters in four sections for their ‘Mini Hall’, the Red Priest came to mind immediately so I suggested illustrating a season for each wall. The working title for the project therefore became ‘Vivaldi’ from the very beginning. I considered calling it ‘Frankie Valli’, but somehow felt that didn’t work so well.

Leanne provided me with a list of 25 characters and I almost managed to include them all, Thomas the Tank Engine being the one that missed out. Rather than painting a simple procession of figures I created compositions of them within a landscape setting, which offered the opportunity to introduce and investigate images of various styles from differing eras of art history.

There’s always a story behind a picture, and of the person who produced it, and much to learn. For example on the Autumn wall I purposely selected the ‘Tree of Life‘ section of the Palais Stoclet frieze by Gustav Klimt. On the one hand I wanted to suggest a link to the world of decorative arts and surface design rather than another figurative representation of a natural form, but it wasn’t only that, there’s an important current affairs narrative to explore too. Klimt died in 1918 during the Spanish flu pandemic which swept across Europe and the world, which was one of the deadliest in human history. Bearing in mind the trauma of the current Coronavirus outbreak which has now brought this project to a halt, its selection as a comparison was well founded.

This project began with a presentation to a whole school assembly in which I introduced myself and a brief outline of the wall paintings at Altamira, Lascaux and the Sistine Chapel ceiling, as well as the designs I’d proposed for the walls of the Mini-Hall. During the course of the last 23 days I’ve also spent time meeting with several groups of classes and individual children.

However, despite working for the last week in an empty school and being so close to completion, the current government physical distancing advice has forced me to a halt, so unlike previous project overviews, this one is different as the painting is still unfinished. I’m very disappointed but don’t want to be irresponsible, and in any case I must be careful. Although I don’t want to admit it, my recent medical history places me very close to the vulnerable category, an experience which was the subject of a previous blog.

To coin a cricketing metaphor, I’ve decided to pull up the stumps. This blog therefore is only a latest summary of the scorecard as I’m now back in the pavilion. It’s not a declaration, simply a break in play. When conditions allow my innings will continue. It’s very frustrating and I’d like to be able to blame it on the light-meters, or the sort of rain you don’t get wet in, but it’s a tad more serious than that.

Hopefully, once the umpires are back out and considered conditions to have improved, the heavy roller will be ordered and play will resume. Till then, I’m having to take an early tea and dive into a Victoria sponge.

The story so far………


SUMMER Book Characters & Paintings

Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs  (Author: Ian Whybrow Illustrator: Adrian Reynolds)

Wheatfield with Crows 1890  (Vincent Van Gogh)

Winnie-the-Pooh & Piglet  (Author: AA Milne Illustrator: EH Shepard)

The Tiger Who Came to Tea  (Author & Illustrator: Judith Kerr)

Noon – Rest from Work (after Millet) 1890  (Vincent Van Gogh)

Pippi Longstocking  (Author: Astrid Lindgren Illustrator: Ingrid Vang Nyman)

The Cat in the Hat  (Author & Illustrator: Theodor Seuss Geisel)


AUTUMN Book Characters & Paintings

Elmer  (Author & Illustrator: David McKee)

Tree of Life 1905  (Gustav Klimt)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Author & Illustrator: Eric Carle)

Peter Pan  (Author: J M Barrie Illustrator: Bob Brackman)

Ejiri in the Suruga province 1830-32  (Katsushka Hokusai)

Mog the Forgetful Cat  (Author & Illustrator: Judith Kerr)

Cruella de Vil (Author: Dodie Smith Illustrator: Marc Davis)

Paddington Bear (Author: Michael Bond Illustrator: RW Alley)

Plop – The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark (Author: Jill Tomlinson Illustrator: Paul Howard)

Biff, Chip, Kipper & Friends (Author: Roderick Hunt Illustrator: Alex Brychta)


WINTER Book Characters & Paintings

The Gruffalo  (Author: Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Axel Scheffler)

Hunters In The Snow 1565  (Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

The Big Bad Wolf  (Aesop)

Three Little Pigs  (Fable)

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland  (Author: Lewis Carroll Illustrator: John Tenniel)

Burglar Bill  (Author & Illustrator: Janet & Allan Ahlberg)

Winter Landscape 1811  (Caspar David Friedrich)

#111 Drum Bridge and Sunset Hill, Meguro 1857  (Ando Hiroshige)


St. Brendan’s Primary School, Beanfield Avenue, Corby NN18 OAZ

Remembrance Mural at Rowlatts Mead Primary Academy

Sept – Oct 19

‘When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate’. (Dido’s LamentHenry Purcell)

Same place, but with a new name. Since my previous visit to Rowlatts Hill the school has now become Rowlatts Mead Primary Academy, but other than the change of logo nothing looks changed.

It was a swift return, having been only a short time since the completion of the Rainforest/Under The Sea themed corridor but in truth this project was actually an unfinished element of that previous visit. I had left in order to fulfil a promise of completing a painting at Meadowside Primary in Burton Latimer before the end of their summer term, but with an assurance that I’d return immediately afterwards so that this one would be finished before November.

The completion date of this project was critical as the subject I’d been asked to illustrate was the theme of Remembrance. It was a significant challenge and a subject I’d been faced with a few years ago, at Warmington School, but this was different and the design posed a succession of difficult decisions and dilemmas.

The location identified was the entrance and reception area of the school, the first impression to any visitor, therefore it was important that the appearance of this very serious subject was given the sobriety and gravitas it deserved. Any memorial to the fallen has an air of solemnity however I was determined it would appear neither clichéd or dour. The visual language of the composition needed to convey a dignified presence, incorporate a recognition of activity both past and present in the theatre of war but also that the sacrifice made has been in order for the world to be a better place.

I devote many hours to the design stage of any project. Being a fixed and permanent feature on a wall the painting of a mural is a tremendous responsibility. It’s a big investment and located in a public space, it’s so important to get it right.

The easy option would have been to paint a mournful memorial with a subdued palette, but the end result would have been predictable, unimaginative and dull. Fortunately I don’t work that way. My priority is always to create a stimulating image with underlying stories to investigate. I felt more was possible. In my mind’s eye I could see something brighter.

I preferred to approach the subject through the eyes of an Impressionist and present a contemplative landscape, as well as implementing the full spectrum of colours. A hostile critic once famously characterised Impressionism as, ‘the crude application of paint, the down to earth subjects, the appearance of spontaneity, the conscious incoherence, the bold colours, the contempt for form’. I feel this description identifies my painting technique perfectly.

The allocated space had four definite divisions. First, a self-contained vestibule; Second, a short wall which then turns into a corridor; Third, the corridor wall itself; Fourth, the wall between two office doors.

It was a significant problem to overcome. Not only to find a way of piecing together a design that flowed and linked naturally across four sections with built-in barriers, such as doors, a 90º corner and window frames, but also one that could be enjoyed as a painting in itself, and able to successfully communicate a serious underlying message.

Following several unsuccessful attempts the composition I eventually settled upon to present at a design meeting at the school was well received. Only one alteration was requested, that being the replacement of one of the historical figures for a contemporary one. (My original design included Subedar Major Thakur Singh Bahadur of the 47th Sikhs, who was among the first to receive the Military Cross for gallantry in action on October 27, 1914 at Neuve Chapelle).

My predominant influence and inspiration was the late work of Claude Monet. In particular, that which led toward and included his last great masterpiece, the Grandes Décorations for the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

The painting begins with an image based upon one of Monet’s Saule Pleurer (Weeping Willow) series of paintings, and the theme of his garden in Giverny continues to include two interpretations of the Water Lily pond. There is no horizon, simply a reflection of sky on the surface of still water.

At the corner, where the wall turns into the corridor, a solemn statue of a soldier stands in front of a monumental poppy based upon a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe.

Another painting by Claude Monet, his Coquelicots (Poppy Field), forms the basis of the composition on the corridor wall and the admin office door, towering over which stands a landmark of local interest, the Arch of Remembrance in Victoria Park, Leicester. Two military portraits emerge from this landscape, the first a contemporary figure, Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC, the second an historical one representing Asian involvement with the British Army, Khudadad Khan VC.

The final figure which completes the design is one that illustrates the caring side of conflict, that of nurse Edith Cavell.

(A more detailed commentary of all of the design elements can be found at the foot of this blog).

The elements in detail:

Claude MonetWeeping Willow 1918 (Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio)

Monet painted a series of 10 paintings depicting this majestic tree growing beside the lily pond in his Giverny garden. Painted toward the end of the First World War the tree has great significance, it is a symbol of sorrow, as a lamentation on the state of the world. French deaths in WW1 totalled over 1.4 million with 4 million wounded, a quarter of all French men born in the 1890’s had been wiped out.

These paintings were an expression of grief, Weeping Willows were seen a symbol of death and mourning, a common sight in French cemeteries and often personified as a woman or used to symbolise female mourning. The tree was the subject of ‘Élégie’, one of the prose poems by JJ Grandville in his book Les Fleurs Animées (Flowers Personified) published in 1847. “Come into my shade all you who suffer, for I am the Weeping Willow. I conceal in my foliage a woman with a gentle face. Her blond hair hangs over her brow and veils her tearful eye. She is the muse of all those who have loved…….She comforts those touched by death”.

Claude Monet – The Water Lilies: Clear Morning with Willows 1915 – 1926 (Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris)

The vertically structured Weeping Willow paintings were ultimately overtaken by the expansive horizontal format of his final monumental Water Lily series. In these he dispensed with the horizon completely to focus solely on the reflections of the sky, the surface of the water, the flowers and lily pads floating in a world seen upside down. This series known in English as the Water Lilies is a translation of the French word Nymphéas, which is related to Nymphes (Nymphs), female spirits who live in sacred places. The water lily is closely related to the lotus which the Egyptians identified as a symbol of birth and immortality, while in Buddhist and Hindu philosophy it represents the mind rising up from the mud and opening itself to wisdom and enlightenment.

A collection of these great paintings were eventually donated to the state and are now permanently housed in the Musée l’Orangerie in Paris. They fill two large oval rooms, a collection which Monet hoped would offer beauty to wounded souls, calm nerves and offer the viewer ‘an asylum of peaceful meditation’. He felt his late paintings were an attempt at healing – his artistic response to the traumatic events of the war. They were intended as an invitation to sit and observe the painted reflections in the water as one might the continual turn of waves on a seashore, or the flames of a living room fire.

Ambrose Neale – Serviceman from London and North Western Railway War Memorial 1921 (Euston Station, London – Memorial designed by Reginald Wynn Owen)

The central figure is derived from one of the four bronze figures representing an infantryman, artilleryman, sailor and airman, located on each corner of this memorial. He stands, head bowed, hands resting on an upturned rifle, which is reversed in mourning.

Georgia O’KeeffeRed Poppy VI 1928 (Private Collection)

“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time”.

“So I said to myself, I’ll paint what I see, what the flower is to me, but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it. I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers”.

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not”.

“I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty”. (Quotes by Georgia O’Keeffe)

Claude Monet – Coquelicots (Poppy Field) 1873 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

A field strewn with poppies continues Monet’s presence and influence of the composition. Although having no connection with the theme of war, I felt nonetheless it was an appropriate choice. It continues the Impressionist theme around the turn of the wall into the corridor and implies an atmosphere of loss and melancholy. A young family walks through a poppy filled landscape, the father figure is absent.

Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC

Private Norris was just 19 when she was recognised for her bravery for her actions during the war in Iraq in 2006 and became the first woman ever to receive the Military Cross. I selected this portrait to replace that of Subedar Major Thakur Singh Bahadur, MC which featured in my original design.

Khudadad Khan VC

At the age of 26 Sepoy Khudadad Khan was the first native-born Indian to be awarded the Victoria Cross. His bravery was also the subject of a play, ‘Wipers’ by Ishy Din, performed at Leicester’s Curve Theatre in 2016. It was written to ‘honour the contribution of the million South Asian soldiers who fought alongside their British brothers during the First World War’.

Sir Edwin Lutyens – Arch of Remembrance 1925 (Victoria Park, Leicester)

A recognisable and identifiable local landmark, the arch is situated on the highest point of Victoria Park. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens an inscription above the north-east arch reads: REMEMBER IN GRATITUDE TWELVE THOUSAND MEN OF THIS CITY AND COUNTY WHO FOUGHT AND DIED FOR FREEDOM. REMEMBER ALL WHO SERVED AND STROVE AND THOSE WHO PATIENTLY ENDURED

Sir George FramptonEdith Cavell Memorial 1920 (St Martin’s Place, London)

The final element of the composition is a portrait of Edith Cavell, a British nurse working in German-occupied Belgium during the First World War and celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination. She also helped British, French and Belgian soldiers escape by arranging for guides to smuggle them out of Belgium into the neutral Netherlands. For this she was arrested, tried and found guilty of ‘assisting men to the enemy’ and executed by a German firing squad on 12th October 1915.

Rowlatts Mead Primary Academy, Balderstone Close, Leicester LE5 4ES

Gruffalo Wood & Art History Timeline Mural at Meadowside Primary

May – July 19

It was six years ago when I first worked with Josie Garnham. Back then she was Head of Titchmarsh Primary School and had a different name. She then became Executive Head of both Titchmarsh and Warmington Primary Schools and over the next couple of years she invited me to lead several art workshops with children as well as to paint murals. In fact there were seven ‘Bigger Picture’ projects in total. It’s been three years since our last collaboration and a lot has changed in both our worlds in that time. I was so pleased when she made contact to work with her again.

It’s a school that’s new to me, Meadowside Primary in Burton Latimer, a place I’ve always referred to as Weetabix Town, and Josie was appointed Head last year. Having spent much of the last couple of years working with Fulbridge Academy and Rowlatts Hill the first thing that hit me as soon as I walked in the door was the empty magnolia painted corridor. During a tour of the school she outlined her vision to significantly improve the appearance of several areas, but top of that list was that first seen corridor as one enters the school.

A ‘Gruffalo Wood’ reading/retreat area next to the admin office was beginning to be established, and Josie asked if the corridor leading towards it could bring the subject of landscape within the walls of the building, with ‘meadow’ being the predominant theme for the painting. Rather than invent an imaginary pastureland scene I suggested that we could transform the area into a space that presented a potted history of landscape painting.

I’d made a couple of visits to the school and taken measurements of the walls in order to make a plan, however as I developed my design ideas they became more than a little ambitious. Me being me, and to make my job even harder, because that’s what I do, I decided it would make a much more interesting painting if I divided the composition into three sections, which reflected the shape of the corridor.

The first section was already established, being agreed that there would be a Gruffalo Wood with a landscape theme leading to/from it.

The final section would naturally be at the opposite end of the corridor, where there was another entrance/exit door, and in this portion I thought a short art history lesson could be incorporated as a timeline.

The area between these two sections was an opportunity to identify and celebrate local artistic achievement. As the school is less than 5 miles to the centre of Kettering, I felt this section could give prominence to the work of a trio of Kettering artists (Alfred East, Thomas Cooper Gotch & Walter Bonner Gash) who had quite a reputation in their day. The Alfred East Gallery is located in the centre of the town and so included in the design are interpretations of some paintings from the permanent collection which are sympathetic with the corridor theme.

The project began with a request to paint a landscape themed painting, the composition I delivered is an edited illustration of the development of image-making through the ages stretching back 40,000 years. All the images I selected have a back story that can be explored further, so the inclusion of QR codes are also an additional feature for personal investigation.

Featured on the walls are Cave, Neolithic, Egyptian, Mycenaean, Byzantine, Classical Greek, Gothic, Romantic, Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Expressionist, Cubist, Surrealist, Modernist and even Spiritual examples, before contemporary Children’s Book Illustration gets a mention. Oh, I forgot the Middle Ages, there’s the arrow in the eye of King Harold section of the Bayeux Tapestry thrown in for good measure too.

Out of a molehill I made a mountain. Do I make things difficult for myself or what!!!!!!!!

Meadowside Primary, Park Road, Burton Latimer, Northants NN15 5QY








Classical Greek

Middle Ages (Romanesque)


Kettering Artists








The Gruffalo 1999

Warmington School/Titchmarsh Primary ‘Monet’ Mural


Four years on from Black Sunday and what better way to celebrate my recovery than by spending the anniversary painting a mural and participating in another ‘Sharing Day’ with Warmington and Titchmarsh Schools. This time there was a French theme, with the children coming together to experience a day filled with a variety of activities, one of which being to work with me to paint another mural. This was our third mural collaboration, having joined forces last year to produce a celebration ‘Unity’ mural and a few months ago to create a very large ‘Mad Tea Party’.

Earlier in the week I had given a presentation of ‘The Story of Impressionism’ and led some drawing workshops, both in the classroom as well as en plein air. Josie Milton, Executive Head, suggested Claude Monet as the subject of our mural on this occasion, in particular the large water lily paintings produced toward the end of his life which formed the monumental Grand Decorations series now housed at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

Claude Monet Studio 5With this being the centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War the subject seemed very appropriate. Monet painted the Water Lily Pond at his garden in Giverny as well as the Weeping Willows repeatedly during the war years, employing the latter as the motif as an homage to the fallen French soldiers. After the horror of the First World War, the purpose of the Grand Decorations series was to encourage the visitor to gaze in endless contemplation. Monet wanted his work to take on a poetic dimension and provide a haven for peaceful meditation. Our mural was intended to act in a similar fashion in the school, to be seen as a meaningful and thought provoking image, but also to commemorate the anniversary of this event.

The object was not to paint a slavish reproduction of a Monet painting but to enjoy the Impressionist technique of applying pure colour in an active and spontaneous manner, and to create a landscape which is constantly moving. The structure of our composition was loosely based upon ‘Le Matin aux saules’ and ‘Le Matin clair aux saules’, but includes influences of other paintings within the Grand Decorations too.

It was a very enjoyable day with energetic mark making and daubs aplenty, regardless of the age group involved. Within the confined area of the corridor not all of the children in each group could work with me at the same time, so I devised a second activity to take place in the Main Hall. During the course of the day the children had not only participated with the painting of the mural located in the corridor leading to the Main Hall but had also contributed to a separate composite image produced on paper too.

Monet explained that ‘Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one’, and this project certainly followed that example. The painting measures approx. 92″x196″ and was produced in a very short space of time, one day was spent with all the children making painterly marks and I spent another working alone to bring the painting to a conclusion.

photo 3

The end result is a not a copy of a Monet, it’s a painting inspired and influenced by Monet. I’d like to think that if he saw us working, that it brought a smile to his face and that upon completion he’d give our ‘Nymphéas’ a nod of approval and a thumbs up too!

Image making workshops at Warmington & Titchmarsh Schools

17 & 18.11.14

Not the most accurate of weather forecasts. It wasn’t really very cold and both days began by being misty and dull, however the sun did shine brightly during the afternoon session of the first day and made a fleeting visit on the second. Nevertheless, this slight exaggeration of the truth is still a good excuse to include the Foo Fighters on my Blog Title Soundtracks page.

This week I have returned to work with children at Warmington and Titchmarsh Schools following a invitation from Executive Head Josie Milton. I was asked to give an art history/appreciation talk using the Impressionists as my subject, lead some drawing workshops and to paint a mural during a French themed week.

I met with two groups at each of the schools, years 3&4 during the morning sessions and years 1&2 in the afternoon at Warmington school on the first day, with a similar timetable at Titchmarsh School on the second. The schools would amalgamate at the end of the week to participate in a ‘Unity Day’ when we would paint another mural together. So watch this space to see how it turned out.

After my short talk about ‘The Story of Impressionism’, to which all of the groups listened very well and even contributed by asking several questions, I invited the children to work with me en plein air. First we made a small ‘sketchpad’ by folding an A4 piece of paper to A7 so that it would fit in the palm of the hand, and after some preliminary advice in the classroom about ‘taking a line for a walk’ using an HB pencil, we bravely ventured outside. A collection of small drawings were produced, accompanied by descriptive words which might trigger and reignite memories and sensations at a later date.

Titchmarsh Church

With this being a new experience of drawing outside the classroom, as well as it being the third week of November, our time was naturally determined by the temperature, however all of the groups made some very successful notations which involved careful looking and a high level of concentration. The year 3&4 groups walked a short distance to work at nearby churches, the Church of St Mary for the Warmington group with a different Church of St Mary for the Titchmarsh group, while the Year 1&2 groups worked on their respective school fields and play area.

Returning to the warm and controlled conditions of our ‘Studio’, we then worked together to produce a more finished version of one of our outdoor scribblings on a larger scale. Some good drawings were produced as a result and hopefully the working method I introduced might even encourage personal and individual work in the future. The note taking process was so simple and unfussy, and illustrated that the act of drawing is comparable to keeping a diary, and can be just as private.

As usual, I was far too preoccupied to take any photographs on either day, so many thanks Josie, Cathy, Mikayla, Lorna and Gill for taking these:

Warmington Year 3&4

Warmington Year 1&2

Titchmarsh Year 3&4

Titchmarsh Year 1&2

Diner Mural at the Fulbridge Academy

 July – Sept ’14

………..Job done………..

Diner Mural at the Fulbridge Academy

Diner Door 3

The Brief
Just over a year ago Iain Erskine, Principal at the Fulbridge Academy, set me a task to consider a design for a mural for the corridor leading to the Dining Hall. He asked if I could produce something with a ‘Healthy Eating’ theme which might influence the children as they lined up for their lunchtime meal. I mulled over a variety of ideas for several months while engaged with other projects before I found an idea I thought might work and then began developing the concept into something a little more tangible. I generated a series of drawings producing variations on the theme of transforming the corridor into an art exhibition.

The Design
My research entailed making a selection of paintings which would not only have ‘good food’ as its subject but which might also be appropriate as an learning resource, so to employ a broad timescale and include a variety of contrasting styles was very important. On the one hand the exhibition might present an introduction to Art History, but it could also present other opportunities too, suggesting possible openings to literary, political and general knowledge, as well as toward other genres such as music and film.

Fulbridge Model 1

My selections for the exhibition was revised from one drawing to the next but eventually I made a commitment to a final choice and although I had expressed my idea verbally with Iain, at this time he had still seen none of my working drawings. We arranged to meet on 7th Feb and I laid out a cardboard model on the table in his office to show how I envisaged the corridor would appear. It would be transformed into an art exhibition comprising of 9 paintings, 1 Graphic print, 1 sculpture, 2 ‘graffiti’ images and a line of text, with an attendant in place guarding the artworks as one might find in an actual gallery situation.

Fulbridge Model 2

Iain was enthusiastic about the idea and the model was shown to several staff members and children as they passed by the office door to assess their reaction and opinion. With thumbs up approval, over the following weeks while still completing other large scale projects, I made further preparations in order that the idea on paper could be realised.

The Painting
At the beginning of July I began making the first marks on the wall and painted for the remainder of the month. As Iain likes the children to witness the painting process and the change taking place, rather than have it appear as though by magic, I took a break during August and resumed painting in September. It had been such a busy first half of the year, I was more than grateful for the rest!

Working on site in the corridor, the transformation of blank walls to Healthy Food Art Gallery took a total of 31 days to complete. My research, design development and preparation time is impossible to measure, but it was considerable. It would however have taken much less time had I not been so punctilious with my selection and layout – but as with all mural projects, it’s a permanent painting and on a monumental scale, and it had to be right.

I would describe the individual ‘exhibits’ as Souvenirs, a term I have ‘stolen’ from the Victorian artist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821-1906), who used it to describe his lively and energetic watercolours and drawings produced as a result of working from the Masters. Notebooks form the backbone of my regular working practise and, like HBB, see personal interpretation of original compositions as an essential and beneficial learning experience.

It is not unusual for artists or composers to make interpretations of work that has touched them in some special way. It was an important working practise for Vincent Van Gogh and some of his finest works were translations of the work of others, about 20 of them being by another artist represented in this exhibition, Jean-François Millet. A section of my personal website presents a small collection of my Souvenirs, paintings that have made a particular impression on me and which I admire. For the Diner project therefore, it was not my intention to make bad impressions of the work of others but rather to produce my own version of them.

With every image I had to get inside the head of the artist and I learned a great deal about how they worked and thought. Each was a challenge and without a shadow of a doubt the most difficult to paint was Vermeer’s ‘Milkmaid’. The man must have had the patience of a saint. There were times when I just wanted to scratch the plaster off the wall in frustration as I painted and repainted the pose of the figure time and time again. I strived in vain to achieve the same sensitivity in both poise and action. Millimetres made such drastic differences in the composition and these small discrepancies caused the figure to be devoid of her balance, control and grace as she pours the milk. Accuracy was key, there were no half measures. It was either right or it didn’t work at all. Vermeer was the hardest of task masters and very unforgiving. I tried my best but know this is the least successful of the group. All artists have their different skills but to rework Vermeer required some that I simply do not possess.

At the other end of the scale however, not counting Warhol’s ‘Banana’, Vincent was an absolute pleasure. Painting ‘The Potato Eaters’, a group of close knit working people enjoying their warm meal under the only light in their simple darkened room, was a complete contrast. The image appeared on the wall as though it was painting itself and any exaggerations, distortions or miscalculations didn’t alter the overall ‘feeling’ of the composition in comparison to the original at all.

The Corridor – Before & After

The Artworks

Wall 4

Diner Wall 3BanksyCaveman
Many children are already familiar with the work of Banksy, a graffiti artist and political activist. His work can employ both humour as well as a serious message. Further research would reveal many and various contemporary issues for debate.

The scale of this image is intimidating and can be seen the full length of the corridor.Diner Door 5







Diner Wall 2

Slatey – Oliver
My Banksy-esque ‘Oliver’ image works as a partner to the colossal Caveman. One of the most memorable lines of Charles Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’ (subtitled ‘The Parish Boy’s Progress’) is when Oliver holds out his empty bowl and asks ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’ In a ‘twist’ to the original, my Oliver holds forth a bowl of healthy, colourful fruit instead, incidentally ‘stolen’ from ‘Still Life with Crystal Bowl’ by the Pop Artist Roy Lichenstein. The image could be an introduction to the chapter in the Dickens novel which describes the dining hall of the workhouse and the diet presented to the boys in the workhouse, the 1948 ‘Oliver Twist’ David Lean film or even the musical drama directed by Carol Reed from 1968.

Wall 1

Diner Wall 4MagritteThe Son of Man
Photographs of the surrealist artist René Magritte often show him dressed in a black suit and tie wearing a bowler hat, and this was painted as a self portrait.

The Surrealists presented the world as a place of dream and fantasy where conventional rules of logic and reason no longer applied. In this case the apple could be simply a mask such as many of us hide behind when we present ourselves in public. The apple is also a symbol of temptation and often appears as a mystical or forbidden fruit. It’s certainly an image to provoke discussion and an introduction to the world of the Surrealists, which developed at the end of the First World War. The worlds of Sigmund Freud, Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Ernst, Dali, De Chirico, Duchamp and Buñuel are but a mere step from here.

I find it interesting that the cartoonist Hergé, who is also Belgian, illustrated the incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson in the adventures of Tin Tin wearing the same attire as Magritte.

Diner Wall 5Gauguin – Still Life with Apples, a Pear and a Ceramic Portrait Jug
Perhaps the first name which comes to mind when looking at a still life painting with fruit would be Cezanne and it has caused me serious disquiet that I didn’t include him. He was the bridge between the Impressionist era and the radical modern movements of the twentieth century. His work opened the door to Cubism and profoundly influenced the direction of modern art.

It was a tough decision to omit such an influential figure (one which I’m still not certain I got right) but I decided to include this still life by Paul Gauguin instead. Gauguin is not only included for his association with Vincent but because of his influence upon the direction of art in the twentieth century, and also to establish a link with ceramic art which is one of the oldest arts practices. The earliest evidence of the use of pottery dates back 20,000 years and Gauguin was one of many artists, such as Daumier and Picasso, who worked with clay as well as the more familiar medium with which they are better known.

In this composition Gauguin includes a ceramic portrait jug and a similar ‘self portrait’ jug, also referred to as a ‘severed head’, is well documented. During his time in Tahiti Gauguin produced large figure paintings as well as ceramic works which had a powerful impact on Picasso. One piece, Oviri made in 1894, stimulated particular interest. This knowledge of the art of Oceania via Gauguin, and his interest in African tribal masks, were to influence the development of his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907.

This landmark painting was both revolutionary and controversial as known form and representation was completely abandoned, and is widely considered as the piece which sparked the beginning of the Modern era.

Diner Wall 6Velάzquez – Old Woman Cooking Eggs
I have a long list of favourite painters and the name of Diego Velάzquez would be high on that list. A few years ago I was fortunate to be able to spend a long weekend in Madrid where I visited the Prado and fulfilled an ambition see the black paintings of Francisco Goya and to stand in front of the magnificent ‘Las Meninas’. Fortunately this masterpiece ‘An Old Woman Cooking Eggs’ is closer to home and can be found in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

It is difficult to believe that Velάzquez painted this picture when he was only 18 or 19 years old, he was already so remarkably skilled in the accurate reproduction of the different textures and surfaces in this composition that it is almost photographic.

A simple meal is being prepared and like many of his early works it demonstrates the influence of chiaroscuro, a dramatic lighting effect which was exploited by both Velάzquez and Caravaggio.

With the other paintings in this project I was not concerned with reproducing my interpretations the same size as their counterparts, however as I had the opportunity to work on such a large wall I wanted the size of my souvenir of Velάzquez to be as close as possible to the original. I also placed it alongside the still life by Cotán as it had a similar appearance to a bodegόn, with the various elements in a line and having such a dark background. Like many still life paintings there may be a degree of symbolism with respect to the transient qualities inherent in the composition, but this is speculation. The two characters appear in other paintings produced by Velάzquez at this time, the old woman (and the mortar and pestle) in ‘Christ in the House of Martha and Mary’, and the young boy in ‘The Waterseller of Seville’.

Diner Wall 7Cotán – Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber
Juan Sánchez Cotán established the style of Spanish still life called a bodegón, which is often composed mainly of vegetables. The tradition of still life painting has been very popular for many centuries, classic trompe l’oeil presentations of fruit was common in ancient Rome. Some believe still life painting to be merely a straightforward depiction while others consider it to have have much deeper significance.

Although not in this example, still life paintings may include the word Vanitas in their title, suggesting the work is symbolic of the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. The precise, mysterious and accurately observed work of Cotán, with deep black nothingness in the background, may even have religious overtones. He walked away from the world to spend the rest of his life in a Carthusian monastery after painting this picture.

Diner Wall 9Millet – Woman Baking Bread
There are two paintings after Millet that are included as souvenirs and this one, of a Woman Baking Bread, looks very much like the now more familiar sight of baking a pizza.

I chose this image for its link with another work Vincent copied after Millet, The Sower. After sowing the seed and harvesting the corn, next is the making of the bread, one of the oldest prepared foods and the forth of the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer – Give us this day our daily bread.

Millet’s modest background had a great influence on the subject matter of his works. ‘I was born as a peasant and shall die as a peasant’, Millet once said. Millet’s works are a nostalgic tribute to farmers and labourers, he felt great compassion for people who worked the soil with their own hands and it is here that Van Gogh and Millet connect.

‘I say again — Millet is — PÈRE Millet, that is, counsellor and guide in everything, for the younger painters’. Letter from Vincent to Theo. Nuenen, Monday 13 April 1885.

Diner Wall 8Warhol – Banana
Easily the most straightforward souvenir to paint was the illustration of a banana by Andy Warhol. A leading figure in the Pop Art visual art movement, Warhol was interested in American popular culture and as well as painting used silkscreen and other reproductive processes. He made paintings based on newspaper title pages, advertisements and other mass-produced images, and used silkscreen for a series of paintings of ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’, ‘Coca-Cola Bottles’, portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy, and later also car crashes, the electric chair, flowers etc, sometimes with rows of repeated images.

This image is taken from the The Velvet Underground & Nico’s debut album released in 1967, which was printed as a sticker and when peeled back revealed a ‘nude’ flesh coloured banana underneath.

Wall 2

Diner Wall 10Millet – The Angelus
The Angelus refers to a Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation but its original title was ‘Prayer for the Potato Crop’ and is a typical example of the work of Jean-Francois Millet. The planting and harvest of crops and the hard life endured by peasant farmers in nineteenth century rural France was a favourite subject. The labour demanded to provide food illustrated the delicate balance between success and failure and an important reminder of where food actually comes from.

Millet was a source of inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh, as were other painters whose subject celebrated the work of the countryside such as Herkomer and Lhermitte, and he mentioned this painting by name in a letter to his brother Theo in January 1874 ‘Yes, that painting by Millet ‘The evening angelus’ that’s it. That’s rich, that’s poetry.’

The Surrealist artist Salvador Dali was fascinated by this work and was convinced the couple were praying over their dead child rather than to the Angelus. An x-ray may have revealed Dali to be right as it was found that the basket of potatoes was painted over a geometric shape similar to that of a coffin, which suggests that Millet may have changed his mind about the meaning in the painting.

Diner Wall 11VermeerThe Milkmaid
By far the most difficult souvenir to paint was this beautiful contemplative painting of The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. She appears lost in her thoughts as she carefully pours milk from a jug into an earthenware bowl.

The humility and concentration captured in this composition makes a deeply poetic statement about the life and routine of a domestic servant in seventeenth century Delft. Tracy Chevalier described this world in her 1999 novel Girl With a Pearl Earring which was adapted into a film in 2003 starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

Diner Wall 12Van Gogh – The Potato Eaters
Although the composition is loyal to the original, my Potato Eaters is much brighter.
This painting made a big impression on me when I began at art school. I remember reading references to it in the letters he wrote to his brother Theo and comparing the many drawings and painted sketches leading toward the final composition.

‘You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labour and — that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours — civilized people. So I certainly don’t want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why.’ Letter from Vincent to Theo. Nuenen, Thursday, 30 April 1885

It was also at this time that I read the Irving Stone novel ‘Lust for Life’ for the first time. His graphic prose describes how the Potato Eaters may have been created and the scene is portrayed in the film of the same name, with Kirk Douglas as Vincent in a role he was born for.

Wall 3

Diner Wall 13Benjamin Marshall – Daniel Lambert
With the subject of the painting being ‘Healthy Eating’, I decided I would include references to both over and under indulgence too which might act as a trigger for discussion.

As far as over indulgence was concerned I decided to use a local personality as an example as his life has been so well documented, and my souvenir is based upon A Portrait of Daniel Lambert painted by Benjamin Marshall in 1806. Lambert is buried in St Martin’s Churchyard, High Street, Stamford and Stamford AFC, ‘The Daniels’, are nicknamed after him.

When he died Lambert weighed 52 stone, his size very unusual for the early nineteenth century. The most likely cause however was over eating and lack of exercise.

Diner Wall 14Giacometti – L’Homme qui marche
My original choice for an under-eating image was to be Picasso’s ‘Frugal Meal’ with its under weight figures, but there’s a big difference between having no food and preferring not to eat.

I’ve always admired the work of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, whether it be his drawing, painting or sculpture. With his ‘Walking Man’ I had the perfect excuse to include the most expensive piece of sculpture ever sold when it was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2010 and an artist it is impossible to pigeon hole, which brings the opportunity to introduce the concept of Existentialism with which Giacometti has been associated.

A dictionary definition clarifies the term as ‘a philosophical theory or approach that emphasises the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will’ and there are many individuals who are difficult to categorise, whether they are adults or still of school age.

To gain an understanding of Existentialism, examples of can be recognised in the cinema, in films such as Ikiru, Taxi Driver, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, Groundhog Day, where characters act independently of the world around them.

Diner Wall 15Sleeping Artist Self Portrait
There was much debate about the sleeping figure. In my original design I had drawn a sleeping gallery attendant but suggested to Iain that I also had in mind that this figure could be a sleeping Head Teacher or Principal. Iain however preferred that it should be a portrait of me at rest after my toil.

As all the other ingredients of the painting have an art historical reference I naturally wanted this to have one too, therefore the pose I adopted was important. However, as it also had to work in relation to the doorpost I was supposedly leaning up against it had to be modified a little. The pose is taken from the painting ‘Worn Out’ (1868) by Scottish painter Thomas Faed. Although it is not a well known piece it was especially admired by none other than Vincent Van Gogh and was mentioned in one of his many letters to his brother Theo.

Rather than being separate this element is therefore connected with the rest of the composition and as I worked from a photographic reference works as a possible introduction to both Photo Realism as well as to Oscar Wilde. This could be me as Dorian Gray. For all one knows, I might no longer age – but this painted version might!

Diner Mural at the Fulbridge Academy

 11 Sept ’14

………..and finally, Wall 4………..


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 Athletics 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 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 Iain Erskine 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 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

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.