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Library Mural at Meadowside Primary, Burton Latimer

July – August/September 20

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

Library Mural at Meadowside Primary, Burton Latimer

July – August/September 20

‘When dark clouds pull the sky
I have cast my eye
To the path where we are treading

Oh I could wrack my brain
Trying to explain
Where it is I think that we are heading’ (Dr Strangely Strange)

It’s been a strange year. We’ve all had to adapt to a new world situation. No-one has been able to follow a regular routine. We’ve had to be flexible and inventive in our working practices, and I’m no exception. Over recent weeks I’ve been reminded of a track from a much played album of my youth, Nice Enough To Eat. As Dr Strangely Strange said at that time, and which feels just as relevant now, it’s been ‘Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal‘.

The pandemic and lockdown, and the sudden sale of my studio, also created a domino effect with my timetable. My previous project had to be painted in two blocks which caused this project to follow in the same vein. This meant that, for a while, I actually had two projects underway at the same time. This has never happened before and I was very uncomfortable about it, so I feel a great sense of relief that both have had a happy ending.

In July last year I completed my first project at Meadowside Primary, the ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ mural painted in a busy corridor. I worked with adults and children walking around me each day, and had conversation with those interested in my progress. But the world was a different place then. This time around circumstances had changed and I’ve painted in relative isolation.

The location was a computer room/library, however as the subject was similar to my previous project, which it overlapped, I have to admit to having feelings of déjà vu. I’ve now painted 6 mural projects with a story book theme, (‘Gruffalo Wood & Dear Zoo‘ at Fulbridge Academy, ‘Gentle Giant‘ at Titchmarsh Primary, ‘Once Upon A Time‘ at Rowlatts Mead, ‘Land Of Make Believe‘ at King’s Cliffe and ‘Vivaldi‘ at St. Brendan’s) and the challenge has always been to ensure that each had an identity of its own. Hopefully I’ve succeeded in producing something distinct, fresh and original each time.

I developed ideas for this design during the lockdown, when I also met with Head Josie Garnham to discuss it and began painting shortly before the end of the summer term. Then I returned in September so, for the second project in a row, it feels an unusual amount of time passed between start and finish date.

An enclosed space this time, with one wall much taller than the other three. Since I’d measured the dimensions of the walls some renovation work had taken place on the roof and I found the ceiling had been lowered, so needed to make an on-the-spot decision and slightly alter the layout of wall 4. The shoulders of the Iron Man should have been the same width as the new bookshelves so that they became an extension of the giant’s body, but in the end this wasn’t possible. In order to maintain the scale of the giant the compromise was to not only lose the top of his head but also to suggest he was standing behind the shelves instead. Despite this unexpected modification I think the design still works.

As with other designs, I prefer not to simply paint a parade of characters, but to suggest a new world for them to occupy, as if they all lived together and know each other. My belief is that this might stimulate children to invent storylines of their own. In this continuous composition I have consciously selected poses that incorporate a variety of facial expressions to encourage descriptive terms and help expand vocabulary, as well as situations offering opportunities for ‘How Many …..?’ and ‘Find The ……?’ games.

When I first visited the Computer Room/Library it was perfectly acceptable and functional, but feel it has now evolved into a completely different learning environment, adorned with characters which were suggested by the children and which all year groups might be motivated to investigate. The bright colours create a warm, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The room feels much more inviting and a very enticing place to sit and quietly read. There’s a world of imagination to be explored within the pages of books, and what a wonderful space it’s become to spend time in.

Yes we’re living in strange times, but they’re oddly normal too. Sometimes it feels like it’s just a bad dream and that we’ll eventually wake up to find that nothing’s changed. But it has. We have to adapt to the new and odd normal, and blunder on till we emerge safely on the other side. The world isn’t the same place, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s not easy to keep spirits up. Everything has changed, for everybody, so it’s important we surround ourselves with simple pleasures that can make things feel better.

Little things can make a big difference, and I feel very pleased with how this little thing turned out. These are strange times. It’s important to try our best to make good things come out of them.

Story Book Character references:

Owl Babies (Author: Martin Waddell  Illustrator: Patrick Benson)

Harry PotterQuidditch (Author: JK Rowling Illustrator: Chris Wharton)

Jack & the Beanstalk (Fairy Tale) (Illustrator: CB Canga)

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

The Sheep Pig (Author: Dick King-Smith Illustrator: Melissa Manwill)

Stick Man (Author: Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Axel Scheffler)

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

Percy the Park Keeper (Author & Illustrator: Nick Butterworth)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Author & Illustrator: Beatrix Potter)

Stig of the Dump (Author: Clive King Illustrator: Edward Ardizzone)

Three Little Pigs (Fable) (Illustrator: Stephen Cartwright)

War Horse (Author: Michael Morpurgo Illustrator: Rae Smith)

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant (Author & Illustrator: David McKee)

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

James & the Giant Peach (Author: Roald Dahl Illustrator: Nancy Ekholm Burkert)

Treasure IslandHispaniola (Author: RL Stevenson Illustrator: Rowland Hilder)

The Iron Man (Author: Ted Hughes Illustrator: Chris Mould)

The Chronicles of NarniaLamp post (Author: CS Lewis Illustrator: David Hohn)

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

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

 

References:

Cave

Neolithic

Egyptian

Mycenaean

Byzantine

Classical Greek

Middle Ages (Romanesque)

Gothic

Kettering Artists

Romanticism

Impressionism

Post-Impressionism

Expressionism

Cubism

Surrealism

Modernism

The Gruffalo 1999

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