Back in March 2021, I received an exciting email from Christian Edwardes, Head of BA Illustration at AUB, inviting me to develop a creative proposal for a community-based mural project with BCP Poole Council.
The council were looking to commission an artist to create a series of five mural designs for the subway that links Poole train station to the town centre, brightening up the subway space and communicating a sense of identity for the Townside area of Poole.
Whilst studying Illustration at AUB, I’d always dreamt of working on a project like this: in my Final Major Project of 3rd year, I first began to explore this idea, developing and producing a series of illustrated ceramic tiles exploring the concept of ‘Home’, which I envisioned as a smaller-scale mural. Now, having the opportunity to create a larger-scale illustration beyond my imagination, and the possibility of my illustrations appearing in a public space really excited me!
Upon receiving Christian’s invitation, it was clear that this wasn’t an opportunity to be missed! The prospect of working on these murals, with the aim to both transform a space and celebrate Poole’s local communities, was a really exciting one that I was immediately very grateful to be involved with. I jumped at it, and sent in my proposal, which consisted of coloured roughs, visualisations of the designs in context, an artist statement, and a few relevant pieces of previous work.
A couple of weeks later, I was delighted to hear that my pitch had been selected by BCP Poole and I now had four weeks to produce five illustrated designs. I set to work immediately!
With walls varying from three metres to 18 metres long, this was the largest scale artwork I’ve ever worked on, and it was a unique challenge for me. One of my favourite parts of this project was working collaboratively with Cynthia and Alina, two third-year Graphic Design students. It was inspiring working with creatives outside my discipline, as everyone brought a dynamic and different skill set to the table, which was invaluable. It was from their unique design expertise that I learnt a great deal about scaling-up and resizing artwork for printing, and compositional template dimensions.
It was also really refreshing to have other creative perspectives on my artwork; after leaving uni, it can sometimes come as a bit of a shock to no longer be constantly surrounded by creative people. This has become even more prominent this past year throughout lockdown. Whether you’re still at uni, or you’ve already graduated, it's really important to make sure you connect with other creatives. Just reach out, say a friendly hello, and share some of your recent work or ideas. It’s in this sharing of ideas where I think creativity really thrives, and growth happens! For example, I spent a lot of time trying to work through the composition of birds in one of the designs; in the end, it simply took inviting another set of eyes on the work to make a world of difference for me!
This project also really challenged my habitual ways of working, pushing me to develop upon my digital skill set, particularly my use of Photoshop. Usually, my illustrative approach interweaves handmade textures with digital forms, but due to such a tight turnaround time, these artworks were produced solely on Photoshop. I now feel more confident in my ability to work in this way, which I know will be beneficial with tight commercial deadlines in the future.
I think this mural project wonderfully reflects the spirit of the BA Illustration course. One of the many reasons I loved the course so much was that I never felt pressure to conform creatively to one house style. Each student was encouraged to follow their own unique path, which meant that the studio was always full to the brim with creative curiosity and buckets of imagination! From mixed media zines to interactive paper sculptures, from meticulously hand bound books to digital moving image; we celebrated it all. I believe that curiosity is the key to creativity: it opens-up your mind to new ways of thinking. Without curiosity, we wouldn’t be able to challenge the parameters of what illustration is, and where it can be found.
It was on this course where I learnt that contemporary narrative illustration doesn’t always have to be confined to a flat page – it can be situated far and wide in public spaces. It’s really significant to me that these artworks will exist within Poole over time, received differently by the many locals and visitors who’ll walk past these in their day-to-day goings-on, and settling into the surroundings as the seasons change. I hope that if you're visiting Poole, or if you pass this subway on your daily commute, these murals brighten your journey & spark a little curiosity!
I am thrilled to have been part of such an exciting and celebratory project and want to express huge gratitude again to BCP Poole, Christian Edwardes and graphic designers Cynthia, Alina and Martin for getting me involved!