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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:

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

‘Alice in Wonderland’ at Titchmarsh School


To accompany the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed day I painted a large Rabbit Hole in the school playground, which greeted the children when they arrived at school that morning. Measuring approximately 36′ x 19′ it stretches from the school gate to the playground door as an anamorphic distortion, and my plan was that it would still work even if viewed from the opposite direction. Well, it almost does!

SLATER-RabbitHole1    SLATER-RabbitHole2

Chapter I – ‘Down the Rabbit-Hole

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

So she was considering in her own mind, (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid,) whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well……………………….


‘A Mad Tea-Party’ at Titchmarsh School
– The Mural


One month after the World Book Day Drawing Workshops and I returned to Titchmarsh School for an ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ day to complete the Mad Tea Party project.

On my last visit Eeyore met me at Reception, this time it was the Queen of Hearts. It was also a ‘Sharing Day’, with children from Warmington School visiting, and I worked with five age groups, six children at a time, to paint a mural in the school hall. With the wall measuring 10′ high and a width of 16′, naturally the lower half of the painting received the most attention during the course of the day. I therefore returned for another couple of sessions to paint the upper half by myself and to make some tidying adjustments to the start made by the children.

The end result is a composite project. I created the design using a variety of the images produced during the drawing workshops as the individual elements and almost all of the children made a contribution to the painting process, which I then brought to a conclusion. A truly collaborative and co-operative effort, with a successful end result too!

‘A Mad Tea-Party’ at Titchmarsh School
– The Workshops


The title doesn’t quite work but I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of including a song by The Jam on my ‘Blog Title Soundtracks‘ page.

At the end of January I was invited to a meeting with Executive Head Josie Milton and Year 3&4 Classteacher Lorna Denholm to discuss plans for World Book Day, and beyond, and I was looking forward to leading some drawing workshops at Titchmarsh School again. Yesterday, after a couple of days of preparation, I arrived armed and ready for another busy day and the children, as on previous occasions, worked with the energy and enthusiasm I’ve now come to expect from this very good school.

Alice in WonderladI carried my treasured copy of ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ by Lewis Carroll under my arm. It once belonged to my Dad, a book he won as a prize when he was a child. He loved the story, as do I, and the surreal storyline I’ve no doubt will be popular for many years to come. It describes such a curious world where the oddest things can happen. It therefore came as no surprise at all to be met at Reception by Eeyore and to be then taken to a classroom where the teacher was a Cat in a Hat.

The children were dressed as a veritable collection of characters from Harry Potter, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Superman, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, Winnie the Pooh, Treasure Island, Where’s Wally? and a host of other popular books for children. Had I been more prepared I could have disguised myself as Charlie Small‘s eccentric art daubing uncle.

The subject of my workshop was the opening lines of Chapter VII of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘A Mad Tea-Party’.

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. “Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,” thought Alice; “only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.”

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: “No room! No room!” they cried out when they saw Alice coming.

“There’s plenty of room!” said Alice, indignantly, and she sat down in a large armchair at one end of the table.

“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.

“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.

Using a combination of pastels and charcoal, five groups visited my ‘studio’ in the school hall during the course of the day to produce interpretations of the characters and ingredients within the scene.

Rather than different year groups, the children were divided into their ‘Houses’, each one comprising of 16-18 children ranging from the youngest in the school to the year 4’s.

Following an introduction to the medium, each group then created an image relating to an element within the passage, the last group of the day producing two. The sessions lasted about 45 minutes and some very successful pieces were produced.

My TA for the day was the Cat in the Hat, Lorna Denholm, who was a star. Thanks Lorna, I couldn’t have done it without you!

Here are a selection of the outcomes from each of the workshops. Stage One of ‘A Mad Tea-Party at Titchmarsh School’ is complete. Stage Two follows next month.

Workshop 1 ‘Under a tree’

Workshop 2 ‘There was nothing on the table but tea’

Workshop 3 ‘The Hatter’

Workshop 4 ‘Alice’

Workshop 5 ‘The March Hare’ & ‘Tea Party Cakes’

For pics of the children in action, take a look at the Titchmarsh School Blog

Titchmarsh Primary/Warmington School

‘Sharing Day’ Mural


‘I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner’

The words of John Lennon, and the story, as he told it, about how the song ‘Instant Karma’ was produced. It’s slightly inaccurate. It was written and recorded in a single day, Tuesday 27 January 1970, but not actually released until 13 days later however this detail is irrelevant.

The point he was making was to stress the speed achieved within a working timeframe from concept to realisation. An improvised idea was developed and manipulated, then embellished into a finished item which retained the energy and spontaneity with which it was produced. He successfully captured a moment in time as compelling today as the day it was written. Although it is not always the case, sometimes the best results can be achieved when working with impulse and allowing serendipity to play its part.

Once upon a time, in a world long ago, I worked in a design office. The name above the door, ‘Fast Art Fast Print’, reflected the nature of the activity inside the building. The nature of the job was to produce good quality design into print, and quickly. To steal a well known advertising slogan, it did exactly what it said on the tin. They were good days and the first time I’d worked in a graphic environment. The design process was alien to me, I was on a very steep learning curve but soon recognised the demands of the commercial world, and it has influenced my working method ever since.

My aforementioned graphic background and the ever-present influence of Lennon, as well as my previous experience of such large scale painting, was worth its weight in gold with this ‘Bigger Picture’ project. I received a ‘late notice’ email to ask if I was available and if I would like to be involved. The next day a telephone conversation outlined details for the ‘Sharing Day’ project and the following day painting began. Not exactly ‘Designed at Breakfast, Painting by Lunch and Finished for Dinner’ – but it came pretty close.

The mural was completed in two working days. Six different groups of children, arriving at 40 minute intervals, played their part on the first day; some worked with felt pens on paper with a view to creating a large graphic picture, others used stencils and painted directly onto the wall with their fingers. My role initially was as adviser and guide in order that the basic composition took shape, then as artist to complete the image, tidy and clarify previously painted marks as appropriate and to include some lettering.

The finished painting is a success as a co-operative project and works as an illustration of a particularly special day on the school calendar. On Friday 18th October, Titchmarsh Primary and Warmington School joined together to engage in a ‘Sharing Day’ involving Painting, Poetry, Science, Music, Numeracy and Physical activities. The mural is certainly a reflection of the energy, enthusiasm, exuberance and effort of that fast paced day. A moment in time, captured in paint. Instant Karma? I’d say.

SLATER-MondayPMMonday – PM

Titchmarsh Primary Passport

25.6 – 2.7.13


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