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8 April 2014

Wall designs for Teenage Cancer Trust (part 1)

If you happened to spy the occasional sneaky peek on my twitter or instagram over the last few months, you will have something of an idea of this project, which I’m now able to reveal in full.

Towards the end of last year, I was sourced by Willis Newson to work with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Teenage Cancer Trust on four designs that would then be transferred onto vinyl and applied onto key walls in a new specialist Young People’s Unit at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.

Having already submitted a portfolio of work to the project team, along with a number of initial ideas for the various spaces, my first meeting with all of the parties involved already had a basis on which to discuss the direction of the four designs. A walk-through the partially built unit - hard hat on! - was an immensely useful exercise, revealing the scale of the project, the spaces where my artwork would be placed and how they would interact with the unit, as well as who would view them and when.

The unit is split across two floors, with one floor for day patients and the other for inpatients.

detail from part of one of the potential designs for the day patients entrance space
detail from the chosen design for the day patients entrance space

final artwork for right side of the entrance
The first wall space to consider was around the day patient entrance, which faced out onto the waiting room area for the adult units. It was immediately highlighted that the artwork for this space, should appeal to those occupying it, as well as introduce the viewer to the new Young People’s unit. Already on the walls were a number of close-up photographs of flowers against white backgrounds. The nursing team were particularly drawn to the nature and bird-life imagery in my portfolio. So, it made sense to tie in the colours and themes, already in the photographs, into the new artwork for the entrance.

I sketched up two roughs, one referencing optical illusion shapes and building blocks mixed with birds and another with flowers, leaves and two birds framing the entrance. I dropped by the waiting room space, incognito, and presented the two drawings to those who happened to be there at the time, to gather feedback. The latter design featuring the two birds was the clear winner, being described as restful and having the most appeal. The other did clock up some positive comments, but was deemed too “edgy” and, while possibly appropriate for a youth space, ultimately was going to be primarily seen by the adults in the waiting room. These sentiments were agreed on with the project team and I was able to move onto final artwork phase.

final artwork for left side of entrance
layout plan (the artwork on the left wrapped around a pillar and didn't run onto the door)
artwork in place (right side)
artwork around entrance (chairs etc... at time of taking photo were not quite in place)

The second wall was in the social space for the day patients. This was a side room, equipped with a computer desk, chairs and football table. The wall in question had no interruptions across it’s surface, so no concerns to be had with factoring in plug sockets or doorways. The room has one window and while this provides an ample amount of light, it was clear the artwork should not be too “heavy” in colour as it may over-power the space. It felt right to think along the lines of play and fun.

I met with a few of the patients going through treatment. This was a eye-opening experience into the trauma of diagnosis, the effects of cancer and the incredible battle and journey that they were going through. It was a lengthly but useful discussion, during which we talked a lot about the various things, activities and aspirations that had kept them going and kept them positive. One key element that came up several times was music.

I really wanted to get this amazing feedback from the patients into the artworks and a theme of music seemed like an appropriate one for this social space. Not wanting to tie into a specific musical genre was tricky though, until I considered headphone listening, which quickly led onto the idea of a silent disco. A number of characters could be enjoying any kind of music, but together as a group having fun. By bringing in animal masks, this introduced an element of fancy dress and the bright colours, against a clean white background, helped keep the overall feel of the room light.

rough of social space design
final artwork for social space
artwork in place

As the artworks were to be enlarged and reproduced, by a reprographic company, onto heavy duty specialist vinyl, I was able to produce all the artwork from my own studio space. It was important to take into account my scanner and software capabilities in capturing the final artwork, as three of the four designs I intended to produce traditionally - the fourth being a vector artwork. This meant some careful dimension calculations before I began putting paint to paper.

Each artwork (except the fourth) was painted as a single image using acrylic paint and water-soluble colouring pencils. I sized up my rough to the correct size and dimensions, to produce the artwork at, and traced this down, from a print out, onto stretched paper, which I’d painted with a base coat. I then scanned the finished artwork at a very high dpi, before cleaning it up and preparing it for print, on the computer.

I’ll be blogging about the third and fourth designs very soon.