For the love of colour!

Eleven days into the mural in Greenwich and I am so enjoying working with acrylic on brick. It's a completely different experience to working on my regular surfaces of interior walls, canvas and board and I'm very keen to create a mural that doesn't try to mask the base - I'd like the artwork to become part of the structure. To achieve this, I am applying the colour in thin translucent layers to build up a punchy colour whilst maintaining the texture of the brick. It's more time consuming but the effect is worth it - it retains a sense of the fragility of the subject, and I am enjoying how throughout the day different lights reveal different details, such as petal folds and veins. 

Here's a sneak peek of one part of the mural, where you can see I've applied a solid colour for the petal's pattern - the other elements have been gradually built up in layers.

 Mid-way through applying the acrylic layers

Mid-way through applying the acrylic layers

How to prep an exterior wall

It took me 3 days to prep an external brick wall for the Rhododendron mural, which is still in progress. Here's how I did it:

Before you do anything...

Clean that wall! Soap and water will do, maybe a bit of sand paper. You want to get rid of any dirt, loose brick and dust. Then, leave the wall to dry overnight.

Before moving on to white paint, you may want to apply a clear sealant. This will stabilise the surface and allows paint to be directly applied to the red brick surface. I did this for the wall pictured here, for reasons that will become apparant later on in the project! 

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Must-haves

The next day, I applied a brilliant white masonry primer using a roller with a sleeve specifically designed for rough surfaces and a selection of masonry brushes - they make the application so much easier.  

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A strong, sturdy ladder is essential.

Which is just common sense, really. Oh, and plastic floor coverings to protect the pavement.

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Welcome helpers

- no matter the size! Painting a very large wall plain white is far more fun and goes a lot quicker with help.

You may need two coats of white, as I did. This is doable in one (long, sunny) day. And THEN you can move on the exciting part - adding colour!

Researching Rhododendrons

Over the past month or so I have been preparing for an exciting mural commission in south London, which I will begin painting in less than a week. The artwork will adorn an exterior brick wall, owned by a family with strong links to India, with mandala patterns intermingled with detailed studies of the Rhododendron, a plant native to Asia but now widespread and familiar to us all in the UK.  

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The are some fascinating facts and stories about the Rhododendron plant, which I will share over the coming weeks whilst I work on the mural. I've so enjoyed learning more about this beautiful plant! But in the meantime, here are a few snaps from my research phase...

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Botanical Bentley

I am half way through the Arts Council funded 'Botanical Bentley' commission - the design has been mapped out on the walls and now I am focusing on each flower in detail. This mural celebrates the history of Bentley Priory gardens - each flower I am painting was first planted on the site in the 19th century - and is being painted in the style of Victorian botanical illustrations. With a Bryony&Bloom twist, of course!

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The project officially started in April and will culminate in a series of workshops where Museum visitors were invited to co-create a temporary exhibition inspired by the botanical history of the site.

Before that point, however, there were several weeks of research (see earlier blog posts) where I delved into original garden plans, researched 18th Century plant symbolism and the 'Great Age of English Garden Design' and uncovered floral motifs hidden around the building - part designed by Sir John Soane, no less.

The outcome will be two large permanent murals that link the building with its gardens and the botanical motifs found within the galleries. As part of the project I have also designed a trail to encourage visitors to embark on a new journey around the Museum, highlighting interesting details uncovered through the research. 

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Art & Science

Kew Gardens has to be one of my most favourite places in the world. I've exhibited, visited and painted in the gardens but up until this point I have never stepped foot inside the Library. However the Arts Council supported project 'Botanical Bentley' has provided the perfect excuse to delve into the archive! This week I had the great pleasure of browsing Kew's Art Collection

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Below is a sample of some of the exquisite botanical illustrations that I came across during my visit. All by women artists from the late 18th / early 19th century, these detailed drawings and annotations have been beautifully painted in ink and watercolour. It must have required great concentration to create such accurate illustrations - the detail is completely fantastic. And I can only imagine how exciting it would have been to study a species entirely new to man! This was the time, of course, when the world was discovering exotic plants from around the world and 'Britain was in the full grip of a plant obsession'. These artists were responsible for capturing essential information that ensured that the each plant was categorised correctly, which was such an important role and easily be forgotten when admiring the beauty of these works of art.

Images reproduced with kind permission of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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