About the Project
A few months after graduating, whilst working a day job in a tote bag printing factory, I discovered an online open call from London & Associated Properties PLC, inviting Sheffield-based artists to submit a proposal for a public artwork project at Orchard Square shopping centre. After submitting a proposal outlining my idea, I was then selected to install the colossal mural onto the external walls overlooking the square.
The clients wanted a public artwork piece that related to the city of Sheffield and complimented the world of retail. I chose to reference Sheffield’s vast industrial heritage, alongside capturing the colourful ‘can-do’ attitude of the people that live there.
Research for this project involved discovering the industries, machinery, architecture and objects that have shaped the city of Sheffield into what it is today. During this process I learned that Orchard Square was originally the site of John Brown & Co, a small steel foundry.
The entire 30ft x 50ft mural was painted by hand in many, many litres of brush and roller applied masonry paint.
To paint the exterior brick, I first washed the surface with a fungicidal wash, then primed with a white stabilising undercoat, then applied the masonry paint on top. The project comprised of three separate fixed scaffolding bookings, which allowed gradual access whilst the shopping centre remained open to the public.
The sheer scale of this project provided it’s challenges. To access the highest levels I initially thought I would use a cherry picker. But after acquiring my Powered Access licence, I soon discovered that the ground level surface was on too steep a gradient for safe usage. We opted for fixed scaffolding in the end, and my licence is something I can save for another job I guess!
I feel like that since I completed the piece, I’ve really improved how I communicate as a business. The project involved working with a wide range of people from all disciplines. From management at property investment companies, to paint suppliers, to scaffolders, to the cleaners on the square. I’ve learnt that if you just keep up an air of confidence (even if you aren’t 100%) and positivity, the majority of interactions will go smoothly.
I quit my day job for this commission and just about managed to live off the 50% upfront payment whilst I painted the piece. I can remember substantially reducing life costs and turning down multiple social events so I could definitely afford the next batch of paint. I wanted to live and breathe illustration, but didn’t quite realise to what extent I was willing to go to until now!
I started to do the maths on how many hours me and my team put into this piece the other day, including design idea generation, email admin, buying materials and actually painting the piece. At 35 hours a working week, I estimate upwards of 500 hours went into the piece for sure.
I’d ask for more help. I realised early on that the less assistance I got, the more money I’d have to keep me going after the job was finished. I’ve learned now that you obviously need to be realistic, but money comes and goes. I think I could have afforded a little more assistance alongside Georgia, James and Callum and everyone would have had a little more fun if there was less pressure.
Be physically present. I know it’s been tricky with in-person events over the past months, but now that venues and events are starting up again, I highly recommend that you attend. The majority of my creative opportunities have been born out of real-life conversations with real-life people. Show the world that you’re talented, approachable and passionate about the industry you want to work in and start conversations.
Since the completion of Orchard Square I’ve continued to run my business which specialises in creative facilitation. The past year has involved painting many more murals, working on illustrative projects, signwriting and even teaching for a plethora of prestigious outlets. I plan to continue to grow and keep working in areas I’m genuinely passionate about.
I have many dreams, but a standout dream commission would be to work with Levi’s on either an illustrative design for clothing, or a bespoke mural for one of their offices or stores. The brand has really resonated with me with its overall style and engineered quality.
Favourite Thing to Draw
I’ve always been fascinated with how things work. My favourite things to draw are objects and machines that imply movement or show the inner workings. I’m heavily inspired by engineering, design and technology.
I work from a home studio and a workshop in my garage at the moment. I’ve recently moved to this space so I’m just starting to work out ways in which I can utilise my new workshop space, it’s massive. If anyone has a creative idea that requires fabrication, then please do hit me up! Then when I’m out on a job I work out of a red three door Renault Clio, with my own set of ladders attached to the roof.
It’s been an extremely humbling experience winning this award. I’d like to first thank the people of Sheffield, for welcoming me into the creative community when I arrived 6 or 7 years ago. Then specific thanks go out to Nicola Blake and her team at London & Associated Properties, Sheffield Museums, Angela and the facilities team at Orchard Square then also Georgia, James, Callum, Andrew & Joe for helping me capture and paint this colossal public artwork piece. I can’t wait to see where this opportunity takes me.