I've been uncharacteristically blog-quiet this week, because I have spent every waking moment at the Salford Gallery, helping to get my new exhibition ready. Bit of a mammoth post now though, to make up for lost time!
Incredibly, I originally thought I would just take the train over to the gallery on Monday and Tuesday, to do the various bits of wall painting and fancy stuff, and leave the rest to the gallery's team. Well, everything always takes longer than you think...
Plus, anyone who knows me will concur that I am a bit of a perfectionist and something of a control freak to boot (John will definitely agree with that one!). Anyway, in the end there was so much to do that we both John and I were there all week, working alongside Dave, the Senior Technician, Amy, the Curator, and various other members of the gallery team.
Dave, something of a genius in my book, had already built the various 3-dimensional elements of the show (for child visitors to role-play the stories) like this ark, from A Lark in the Ark:
Children will be able to put animals in and out of the various doors and windows, plus the cupboards will be full of dressing-up gear (mimicking the animals in the story). They can look at themselves in a mirror - you can see the frame where it will go. The gallery team painted the background colours, then I decorated the hinged doors and painted details like the weather vane, rain cloud etc on the wall behind:
For weeks Amy has been collecting soft toy animals and dressing-up clothes from charity shops, as well as other bits and bobs like real washing for the washing line, decorated canal boat buckets etc. By the time we left on Friday, it looked like this:
Dave also built Mrs Duck's house, from Big Bad Wolf is Good, which will be a little den in the corner of the gallery:
I copied all the interior details of the house from the originally illustration and John and I spent all of Monday painting them in acrylics. John did all the wooden beams:
I did the duck-socks and tea-towel on Mrs duck's washing line:
I also painted Mrs Duck's spotty curtains, as it would have been very complicated for Dave to have constructed a real curtain rail on the curved walls:
We decided to paint the rug onto the floor rather than use a real one which kids might trip on (or might disappear...). It was great how various people who worked at all sorts of jobs throughout the gallery came and mucked in when they had a free hour or so. This is Mary, blocking in the floor colours:
The duck house was the one thing that wasn't quite finished when we packed up on Friday night, but luckily it was only varnishing the floor and putting on the window frames that fell off the end:
Dave's tour-de-force, I think, was his anaconda, because of it's inherent complexity, but also its amazing impact in the space. He built a massive head out of hardboard, foam and canvas, so that children can play at actually being eaten by the anaconda from Class Two at the Zoo:
I drew the body on the wall, so it ran the entire length of the gallery, then Amy blocked in the base colours:
Poor John got landed with painting the pattern. It took me long enough just to draw guidelines in pencil, it took him all day Tuesday and through until lunchtime on Wednesday, scrunched up on the floor with his fine black brush:
I gave myself the more comfortable job of painting the snake's head (what a meanie!):
Trying to work out how the pattern would go as it left the wall and went into 3 dimensions, and painting the straight lines on the undulating fabric, was quite a task though:
This is how he looked when he was done. Unfortunately it turns out one of the members of staff has a bit of a snake phobia (!):
On Thursday, Amy and I laid the artwork around the gallery walls, working out what we would hang where. Miraculously, given the number and size of the frames was determined by my previous exhibition, in a very different space, it all fitted in like a dream:
When the painting was more or less done, Amy and I set up the cases: one displaying a series of roughs (which show the idea process behind designing the big bear from Bears on the Stairs) and one for a selection of my sketchbooks:
As well as the new kids stuff, we still have the main elements from the Tameside show: the snake with the seaside-style hole in his belly, plus the stick-the-flies-on-the-warthog game, and the monkey's tea party, both based on Stinky!
It has been pretty hard work, especially given the 1.5 - 2 hours travel at either end of the day, and I still haven't shifted my cold, so was without a voice up until Thursday (it's till only half back!). Both John and I have had great fun though and I am astonished at the fabulous job that Amy and Dave have done, designing it all and making it happen. It has truly surpassed all my expectations!
You can see photos of how the finished show looks here. If you are due to be passing through Salford any time before November 6th, do try and drop in, but watch out for the anaconda...