I was commissioned by Boyne Hill Infant school to design and paint a mural wall on the outside of the school around the theme ‘Celebrating All Faiths’. I had a meeting with the Headteacher of the school who asked that the mural included the symbols for the 6 main faiths and a boy and a girl of different ethnic backgrounds. I then created a design of the wall including various colours and the schools uniform and outlined and painted it within two sessions to create the final mural.
Recently, I collaborated with a team of Film and TV students on their project ‘Maniaframe’. I was asked by them to design and paint a set of three scenic flats in the style of impressionist painting interiors. I painted sample paint pieces to show the group colour and texture variations, from which they choose a red and yellow colour scheme with large texture streaks created with palette knives. I photocopied the developed sample sheets to cover the majority of the flats on top of which I them painted colour variations to create differences between the sheets.
During our first module of Second Year, we were given the brief to design and create a full-size street set around the theme ‘The Haunted Histories of Hartlepool’, nicknamed ‘ The Street’ the idea behind it was that it had been built by ghosts of the past who had brought various buildings together to create a space in which they would live. We were given the challenge of designing shops, houses, street furniture and flooring that would then be built later in the module within our given workshop space. We could do this individually or in small teams once a final design for each feature was chosen. I decided to work individually as I wanted to push myself and see how far my skill-set could take me, as I had never attempted large-scale construction before and I wanted a challenge. I began by coming up with a range of building ideas that were influenced by historical images of the Hartlepool area as well as sketches I had done over the summer of old houses and period features and the areas maritime history. I really enjoyed this part of the work as you could be really creative in your ideas and make ‘mix-match’ houses from various parts of others.
Once I started to design, I began to think about other things that could be included within the street such as street carts, tents and movable features etc. I decided to focus on the idea of a street stall that had the potential to be collapsible and be moved around by the owner who most likely would have sold second hand wares. This then developed into my final design that I called ‘The Bizarre Bazaar’.
Once our designs had been approved, it was time to start construction. This is the part I was nervous about as I knew my machinery and tool skills would be challenged. Once I had planned and created technical renders of my final design I knew the correct dimensions and the easiest way to build my shop and this made the construction a lot easier. I also had the chance to experiment with new materials during this project such as polystyrene foam which allowed me to easily, lightweight shapes for many parts of my final build. Painting the final construction was the part I was looking forward to the most as faux effect painting has always interested me and it was great to have the chance to create various textures and weathered effects on my own building.
Above is my final building within the street. Overall I am really pleased with what I managed to create with only a few previous skills and with only me as the main builder, painter and set dresser.
The brief also required us to design characters and costumes for the ghosts that inhabit the street. We used photos from Hartlepool’s archives and decided to stick to a grey scale colour scheme with only small elements of colour. Some of these designs are currently being made by first years on the Costume course for a re-opening of the street in the next few months.
Last year, I read a book called ‘Sign Painters’ by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon and I was really inspired by their interviews of signwriters and painters across America, and their work that featured in the book. Once I had finished the book, I wanted to know more about traditional signwriting and how to do it. As I had imagined, it is quite a complicated process and requires many skills and techniques that take years of practicing to master. Still, I was determined to know more so I signed up for a course on the edge of London run by Nick Garret, professional signwriter and teacher, who has not only produced hand painted signs for many well known retail outlets and stores, but has also designed products and household objects for the UK market.
On the first day of the course we began with an introduction to signwriting, including the type of materials you will need, how to take care of your brushes, how to prep surfaces and work outside and an introduction to lettering and typefaces. After this we began drawing up our own letters whilst learning how to space them and proportion the different sections of the letters – for example the weight of the curve of a ‘P’ to it’s straight edge. This introduction would then allow me to develop my own typefaces and layout designs for a specific sign and increase my knowledge of other fonts and typefaces.
Once we had learnt about drawing up letters, we could start to paint… first of all we were taught how to hold the palette, brush and mahl stick and position ourselves correctly to what we were going to paint before paleting our brushes and controlling our breathing. We used line and curve practice stokes to get used to the brush, paint and using the mahl stick, which felt very unnatural to begin with and took some getting used to. However, this time really allowed me to fell the stroke of the brush and help my control over the direction I wanted it to take.
On the second day of the course we took print outs of various letters and typefaces and traced parts of these so we could begin painting letters and practicing curves, straight strokes and corners. I really enjoyed painting the letters as I found it easier to practice the strokes inside bigger forms and being able to follow recognisable shapes. Having only been painting for a few hours in total, it was still very challenging, especially when trying to follow large curves on letters like ‘C’ and those with many corners.
Overall I really enjoyed the course and found it very informative and challenging, however I felt like I wanted to take on the challenge and I feel motivated to continue improving this skill. After the course I started to collect the kit and materials needed including a range of specialist brushes, paint, palette etc. and although I haven’t been able to start practicing again until recently, I am very keen to improve in this area and I would really like it to be something I can translate into the area of Entertainment Design, for historical or restoration work, or period film sets etc. I am very excited to see where I could take this.
In March of 2015, several other (then) 1st and 2nd years students and I took part in a week long work experience at one of the locations for ITVs new drama ‘Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands’, based on the Anglo-Saxon poem. During the work experience, we worked with several key members of the creative team who were in the process of making props and set pieces for the indoor sets that were being shot at the same location. We were able to meet and discuss the creative and filming process with Production Designer Grant Montgomery who gave us a tour of the indoor sets which included the Mead Hall, Grendels cave and the various huts. We were also able to meet many other members of the creative team who were specialists in areas such as carving, carpentry, faux effect painting, spray painting, sculptors and material workers.
We worked closely with faux effect painter Steve Simpson who showed us various painting techniques as we aged and distressed benched, chair, tables, stools and several sets of large bellows for the impressive outdoor set.
We also worked closely with the head Set Decorator and we were given the task of making a large gold curtain that would be a prominent feature in one of the room sets. Most of the work experience team – including myself – were making this particular piece of several days and I felt that it was a great responsibility to be given due to the high profile of the piece.
As well as completing our work experience week at the indoor sets, we were also able to visit the impressive outdoor set as it was being constructed. At the time it was extremely windy and the people on-site were worried that there would not be a weather window to allow them to finish building due to one of the larger constructions being blown over during their Christmas break. Seeing the end result on TV to when we visited was very impressive and it definitely looked the part. The bellows that we painted were used by the fire pits and another work experience participant and I cut up rolls of hessian strips to be used around the joints of structures to hide construction marks which was again, good to see on TV.
Overall, I really enjoyed my work experience on the Beowulf set, it is amazing to know that I was able to contribute towards such an impressive and popular show and it has definitely made me consider working in TV and film. I hope to gain more work experience in this area to help improve my contacts and skills base.
For my Specialist Techniques module that I recently completed, I had to design the set, costumes and various props for all 3 acts within the play. One of my favourite parts of the design process was the set element. I knew that I wanted to use the idea/theme of painting frames within my design as the painted landscapes and portraits (and therefore the frames) were such an important element of many of the upper classes lives – due to the paintings showing family members and therefore their history. I took this idea and designed frames to encase elements of the described set in a semi-abstract order, so that everything was shown on an imagined ‘wall’ but within the frames and the ‘paintings’.
I also wanted to create a model version of my set, I used the skills I had learnt about Illustrator and the laser cutter from my Palladian window experiment to design and cut out the various frame and furniture pieces. I created layers so I could paint them individually and – when stuck together – they would become more ‘3D’ in appearance. I then photographed the final set pieces within out theatre model box. I had to attach the frames to a back-piece, but if built for real life theatre production they would be hung from tabs. (I only made my Act 1 design).
When we moved away from technical drawing within ‘Visual communication’ we began to look at a section about caricatures. To start this we did live observation work of facial features and the details of the face, mainly by drawing other people in the class! Before we started to alter the face to create interesting caricatures, we had to make sure we had accurate drawings of the face to learn from. I enjoy drawing facial details as I think they are very interesting, due to the fact that everyone’s face is different andhis makes for interesting observation work. I especially like drawing noses!
I also drew the facial features when they were in movement or contorted slightly, so that I got used to drawing different shapes within the face when it is changed with movement and expression – as expression is an important factor when creating caricatures.
From these observations, we then started to sculpt the details from clay, this showed me the importance of making my observation drawings accurate and including dimensions within the drawing – instead of a flat side view for example. I enjoyed using the clay as you could sculpt and re-sculpt a feature as many times as you wanted to make it correct and accurate. I would like to try this more before creating the final caricature head (which will also be made out of clay) so I feel confident enough creating the final piece.
This is some more of the work I produced for ‘Visual communication’ when we started to look more at perspective and the use of technical drawing, rather than simply sketching and observation work. I enjoyed perspective drawing as it allowed me to be very precise with angles and measurements, which I enjoy doing and I think my drawing skills started to improve as this project section continued.
We also completed a section of technical drawing – specifically isometric and axonometric drawing – where we had to learn to use the large set squares and the drawing boards to create accurate drawings. I found this type of drawing challenging at first as it was difficult to understand the angles, however after some practice I began to feel more confident with it and I now feel like I understand how to complete this type of drawing. I can also see how it would be very useful when drafting plans for theatres, sets and other designs.
In the ‘Visual communication’ section of my course (which focuses on drawing), we started by going out in Hartlepool sketching the old Victorian buildings within the town. This was partly to practice our drawing skills and techniques, but to also get used to observation work of large scale structures. I enjoyed doing this as I love the period detail within many of these buildings and it gave me a chance to improve my drawing skills of whole buildings as well as drawing smaller sections and details.
This is another mini project I was set for the ‘Specialist techniques’ section of my course, where we learn about the practical elements and the skills needed for work in this industry. This time, we had to make a scale Palladian window using illustrator and the laser cutter – rather than making it by hand like the scale room model. Before this task I had only used illustrator once before, so it was a learning curve for me with this new piece of software. However, as I began to use it more and experiment, I could see the benefits of using CAD software to help create something small and intricate like this scale window.
To create my window on illustrator, I found an existing image of an actual Palladian window and traced over the main elements to get the scale and window pane size etc. before adding my own elements, such as the layering and engraving detail. To make parts of the window more three-dimensional and to give the whole thing structure, I created several different layers that could all be combined to make certain parts stand out. Once I had created all my layers, they were cut out in mount board on the laser cutter – which was very interesting to watch as I had not used this piece of equipment extensively before – and I then stuck them together using a glue adhesive.
From this experience I learnt not to make the pieces being cut out too small, as they sometimes get extracted by the laser cutter and lost. Therefore some of the smaller elements I had drawn up could not be included as pieces were missing. But I now know this for next time! Even with this mistake, I am very happy with how my window came together. It was then photographed in a theatre model box (above) with lighting, showing how a piece like this could be used within a theatre set and how it would look on a stage.