Going Large : mural painting with Steve PP

mural 001I work in a school where the management is supportive of the arts. The Expressive Arts Department thrives, with performances, productions and workshops happening frequently throughout the school year. While our current education minister, Michael Gove,  is doing his best to stifle artistic, spiritual and technological learning with each new government directive (you can read more about this here) our pupils don’t realise how lucky they are.

Three sheep grazing contentedly in the school garden were painted by a group of 16 year olds a couple of years ago. A giant daffodil in reception was decouppaged by a group of talented 13 year olds last year. An all singing all dancing production of Calamity Jane was last year’s drama show and this Easter we’ll be tackling A Man for All Seasons. On Armistice Day, a 15 year old trumpeter played The Last Post up on the school roof; it was probably the most moving performance of that piece I’ve ever heard.

steve PP & buster
Steve and Buster in the studio in Woolacombe

To continue this tradition of excellence in the arts, this week the school has welcomed local artist and plein air specialist Steve Pleydell-Pearce into the fold. Steve PP, as he is best known, lives and paints a few miles up the road in Woolacombe, where in the summer months he can be found near the seafront next to The Red Barn selling his paintings, driftwood art and tikis and often playing ukele at his old blue campervan, The Waikiki Tavern (Renault Trafic – he’s looking for a replacement if anyone has one lying around. No MoT necessary). Steve has spent a week in school working with groups of children aged from 10 to 14, most of whom attend our school and others who will be joining us in September when they graduate from their primary schools. They have painted a huge mural on plywood boards which will soon be attached to the exterior of one of our school buildings.

mural 018The theme is Coastal Sports, and celebrates the many and varied activities that kids in North Devon get up to on our beautiful beaches, such as surfing, beach volleyball and surf lifesaving. Painted in exterior masonry paint, the mural should be able to withstand anything the weather throws at it.  click on any picture to view large ….

Day 1 was mostly concerned with getting the colour-blocking done to cover the background with paint. The very youngest pupils were involved in this stage.

Mural day 3 004Day 2 was about adding some texture and shading to the large areas of sand, sea and sky. Shadows applied below the boat and the wave really helped those features to jump out of the picture. Most of today’s artists were 11 and 12 years old. It was a challenge to get the paint dry before adding more layers. A hairdryer and small fan heater came in very handy.

Mural day 3 017Day 3 was when things really started cooking. Light and shade was added to the sky and clouds and a lot of patient blending and dry-brushing was called for. The sea was given a lot more depth colour-wise as well as some glassy reflections. The boat was shortened somewhat to accommodate a window in the wall which will eventually be home to the mural. The skate ramp got some texture and shape and all outlines were generally crispened up. Today’s artists were all in year 7 (11 and 12 years old). Now the background was fully completed, Steve drew some of the characters ready for the next day’s session.

mural day 4 009Day 4 Steve was joined by pupils in year 8 (12 and 13 year olds). The eight characters were painted in as well as the surf board and its foam trail through the wave. By the end of the session the mural was very nearly finished. It just needed a volleyball net, some shadows on the sand and some facial features. It’s great to see how it has developed over the week, and its causing quite a buzz amongst the pupils, who have been taking sneaky peeks at the progress.

Day 5 saw the final final finishing touches applied by pupils in year 9, mainly faces and highlights. They also had an extra task; to draw and paint four 8ft.x1ft. boards with tikis. Tikis are carved wooden or stone carvings of humanoid forms originating from the South Pacific. Our versions are two dimensional, and will be used to clad a rather dull concrete pillar at school.

In its temporary home. (Black bags of sand are preventing slippage)

The whole process of this weeks project has been captured as a series of digital images, one taken every 30 seconds, and those will be edited and made into a stop motion film.

For more  on Steve PP you can visit his surfy website and his blog and online shop for fine art. Steve’s work can also be seen at The Frame Shop in Braunton, North Devon and at Waves Ceramic Studio at Woolacombe Bay Holiday Park. From time to time Steve runs workshops and courses in North Devon and also takes commissions. The pupils and staff thoroughly enjoyed having Steve at school last week; I couldn’t wish to meet a more positive, good humoured, witty and all round top notch human being. What a brilliant way to start the year! Efkharistó!



http://surfyart.blogspot.co.uk/ for the low down on the designing process and the technical stuff.

(Warning: I don’t advise taking a skateboard to the beach. The sand plays havoc with the wheel bearings)


3 thoughts on “Going Large : mural painting with Steve PP

  1. That pain in the ass at work! February 1, 2013 / 9:49 pm

    Lovely artical. Captures the essence of where we work very well. x

    • Bridget February 1, 2013 / 10:00 pm

      Thanks. I really enjoyed writing it too!

  2. Zoe bateman February 1, 2013 / 10:14 pm

    thanks for writing this Bridget, it documents the week so well. I can’t wait to see it up in position and to be able to invite all involved to an official reveal!

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