Earlier this year, I popped in to see my agency dot-art and Lucy said that she’d be sending out an opportunity right up my street which was a client who wanted a repeating design based on the form and shape of the windows painting down the corridor of their refurbished offices in Oriel Chambers. Repeating pattern, bright colours, painted directly on the wall and ceiling? She was right.
I don’t usually post initial sketches online, but I think it’s important to share this to show exactly how ideas can evolve from a very rough idea into a finished product.
As you can see, the shapes are pretty much there, but the client suggested doing a slight redesign based on the window frames instead of the panes of glass. Less than ideal due to the positive and negative space in the new design, but give me something to do and I’ll find a way to do it! So I ended up cutting a large stencil of the whole outline, figuring I could spray the whole thing in grey first. What I’d then have to do was mask off the grey outline with FrogTape then paint the panes of glass in white again. After these were dry, I would pick out the parts of the design where two frames overlapped and spray them in yellow. The moment of truth would be peeling the FrogTape off to reveal a perfect outline and intersected areas! Simple right?
I originally budgeted for 1 day of preparation and 2 days painting, but as the first day went on, it was becoming more apparent that this wasn’t going to be the case. It took 4 days to complete, along with 7 cans of spraypaint, 2.5l of emulsion and 300m of masking tape.
I wish that I had videoed the big reveal, as it was the most satisfying feeling in the world! The client loved it and asked me to paint something similar on the corridor above when it was finished. More about that below:
When I was painting the first mural, I was trying to figure out ways to make a stencil where I could paint just the outlines of the windows and leave a sheet of cardboard in the middle. Even just thinking about it now, I could have used double sided tape or something! But one of the ideas was that I could create the frame design out of circles, which would hold the middle in, and probably end up looking a bit like a stamp. It sounded much cooler in my head, but I blame the solvent fumes…
When asked to come up with a slight redesign, I figured the frames could either be at right angles to each other, or the frames could be yellow and the intersections could be grey, or we could go for that circle design. I drafted something up in Photoshop (using shapes and Smart Objects. The decision to not rasterize it saved me hours, keep reading!) When the client said they loved the circle idea, I was delighted; no more painting, masking, painting, peeling. But cutting the stencil? I had over 200 perfect circle to cut out for each stencil…
I went on Instagram and, by chance, saw one of my favourite artists fnnch comment on one of his posts that he uses a laser cutter for his designs. There is also a laser cutter at DoES Liverpool! So I popped along and was told I could go to one of their free Maker Nights to learn how to use Gerald the Gigantic Laser Cutter. And maybe more importantly, which files you could use.
This is where the subconscious decision not to rasterize my design saved my sanity. I could just open up the file in Illustrator, et voila, save it as a .dxf. While I had some teething problems getting the machine to recognise the file, with a bit of help and tinkering, I managed to cut 4 stencils in a couple of hours. Not only that, but I got thinking about some other projects that were now possible with this technology at my disposal.
So I took the stencils, paint and ladders back to Oriel Chambers, put on a new mask and some headphones, then cracked on with the job in hand. I’d managed to do a fair bit within the first couple of hours, and I was half finished by lunch time. The only issue I had was that the conduit for the smoke alarms was already installed on the ceiling, and these were directly above the doors. As per my previous design, it was flowing down the corridor in a wave. Turns out it was pretty each to cut the middle of the stencil out and position it over the alarm and wiring to paint the design around it. Literally nobody else in the world is going to realise that I did there, but it looks good and that’s all that matters! Remembering how disappointed I was that I didn’t film the making tape coming off the wall on the previous mural, I decided to create a timelapse of the process which I have uploaded below.
Lucy emailed me a few days later saying “I am also pleased to say that [the client] loves it and tells me that everyone he has spoken to prefers it to the original – and that we had better get thinking about how to improve it even further for the 3rd corridor!” so I’d best crack on…