Fire place mural – Care Home, Elstree

In the dining room of the care home is an old fire place which has been filled in. Once this would have been the focal point of the room, but it had been painted over to try and blend in with the wall and was rather insignificant now. They have no plans to turn it back into a functional fireplace, but wanted to create the illusion of one.
We decided on a painted fire in the lower half as this is what would have been there were this a working fire place. We made the top section into a shelf, to include books and games, as the dining room is also used for recreational activities.
Painting on bricks was a new challenge for me, but it didn’t take me long to adapt to the new surface. There is a real difference in the dining room now. The painted fire really gives the room a more cosy feel.

Hand-painted seascape mural – North London Hospice – Whetstone.

The aim of this mural was to allow it’s viewers to imagine they were somewhere far away, somewhere peaceful and calm. I wanted to create a realistic seascape as the seaside is often associated with relaxation and feeling calm.

To create a realistic seascape I needed to create depth within the painting so there were a few things I had to consider – size, colour and detail.
As the mountains are in the distance the viewer would not be able to see much detail in the mountains, if any. I simply painted them as silhouettes in different shades of grey to portray this. Objects in the distance are much less refined and it can be difficult to see their colour and detail.

When painting the water I wanted to create the illusion that the water just below the mountains was much further away than the water lower down in the mural, just above the rocks. When looking at the sea you will notice that you see waves breaking close to the shore, but the water looks calm in the distance. This is how I painted the sea in my mural. I add some definition of the waves just above the rocks and gradually faded this out towards the mountains.
The rocks were another tool that I used to create depth. These are at the forefront of the mural so I painted them with the most detail and different tones. I used light tones of brown and grey for the tops of the rocks where the light would hit them, and darker tones near the bottoms where the rocks are laying on top of each other. This use of light and dark tones helps to create a 3 dimensional effect.
The combination of all these elements creates an overall realistic looking seascape.

Autumnal stenciled mural – Hertfordshire

The colour scheme in this room is grey, white and dark pink. I designed a simple mural to fit in with this. I wanted it to represent nature but to be fairly decorative rather scenic.
I wanted to create a feeling of movement in the mural so rather than a repetitive pattern I decided to use repeating shapes but to arrange them in a way that appeared as if they were falling.

Golden Plaice – fish and chip shop, Borehamwood

I was asked to paint some murals in Golden Plaice as part of a 2 week refurbishment that was taking place. The owner had large yellow panels along one wall that he wanted to be painted to look like water but with a waterfall in the middle. He also wanted the back wall to be painted as a beach scene. There was a wallpaper mural there before but it wasn’t in great condition. There was another board slightly separate to the rest, closer to the entrance door, which was decided that we would keep with the sea theme but have something different. They chose to have two dolphins, which was fine with me because they are my favourite animal! After lots of passers-by looking in and complementing my work but jokingly asking ‘but where are the fish?’ they later decided to add another board near the door, but on the opposite side to the dolphins, which was going to be more of a ‘fun’ design with different coloured fish!

The fish board design was left to me, so I decided that I would keep each of the elements of the painting looking realistic, to match the rest of the murals, but have the composition looking more abstract. I painted a long strand of seaweed wiggling from the bottom of the board all the way to the top, with a mixture of fish, a jellyfish and a turtle dotted around it. The owner then asked if we could extend the seaweed slightly onto the ceiling – why not!

This was my largest and most challenging job so far. I was on a schedule to be able to complete it all before the re-opening, whilst working around the other work that was taking place in the shop (new shop front being fitted etc). Two weeks seems like a long time, however it turned out the whole back wall wasn’t able to be painted on after stripping the wallpaper off, so instead some ply wood was attached on top, which then needed to be primed. I couldn’t start painting the mural until the new surface was ready. The yellow boards are made of Formica which is not the easiest surface to paint on! It is very slippery – great for being able to wipe clean, but not great for paint to stick to. This needed special preparation and sealing afterwards.

Fortunately I was able to complete all the murals in the given time and the customers were very happy with the newly refurbished shop when it re-opened after it’s two weeks of closing.

Make your own Galaxy Painting!

How to make a Galaxy Painting

  • white paint
  • 2+ other coloured paints (I recommend blues, purples, pinks)
  • A sponge
  • A paintbrush
  • A canvas/piece of card or paper
  • A toothbrush/stiff paint brush (for flicking/spraying the white paint)

If you look at an image of a galaxy you’ll notice different colours and tones, blending into each other. Where there is light you’ll see some pinks, purples and light blues. Where it is darker you’ll see some dark blues and black. The colours change smoothly into other colours and this is what we want to create in our painting too. I find the best way to get this gradual colour change is by dabbing the colour on with a sponge. Normal washing up sponges are fine to use, but as they are usually rectangular you may find it easier to cut off the corners so it’s more of a circular shape, in case you accidentally get any straight lines of colour from the edges of the sponge. I usually use the same sponge for the whole painting and just try to keep the lighter and darker colours on separate parts of the sponge, although it doesn’t matter too much – I find the mixture of colours on the sponge can sometimes help to create the colour blend as it the colour often mixes on the sponge before you have even applied it to your chosen surface.

I normally start with the lightest colour that I want to use and dab this on to where I want the lighter areas to be. Then I dab my darkest colour where I want the darker colours to be, then I do the medium colours. To make the colour blend just dab over the top of an existing colour. Try to work fairly quickly, and with plenty of paint so that it will stay wet and blend easily. The colour of the paint on your sponge will come out the strongest in the first few places that you dab, and then will become fainter and fainter as it runs out. In the area you want the colour to be the strongest, dab there first, then as the paint becomes fainter start to dab around that area, including over other parts of existing colours, which will create the appearance of the colour fading into another colour.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly as you want it to straight away- work into it and keep dabbing on different colours and tones in different areas and blending them together until you’re happy with how it looks. As you will notice in my photos, the first few images don’t look at all like the last images! As I’m working I might decide a brighter colour will look nice in a different area, so I will add it in, or a darker colour will work better somewhere else and will add that in etc.
I like to have a good contrast of colours and to get this I will layer on the lighter and darker colours until they really stand out.

If you want a strong colour change somewhere, for example adding a lighter colour over a darker colour, then you can use your paint brush to paint on a section of colour, then use the sponge to dab over as you have been doing so that you can’t see any brush strokes.
Once you are happy with this background then you can add the stars.

For the stars, I used a slightly off-white. I usually add a small amount of one of my background colours to my white paint to get my star colour.
This is the part where the toothbrush/stiff paint brush or other creative object you have found will come in handy. This is also the part that is probably the messiest.

Dip your toothbrush into your off-white paint and hold it quite close to your painting. Firmly pull your thumb or finger across the bristles so that it sprays the paint onto your painting. Keep repeating this process of dipping into the paint and then spraying it onto your painting until you are happy with the amount of stars that you have.

If you want a few larger stars then you can use a small paint brush to do some larger dots. You can even use more of a pure white paint for this as objects that are closer to the surface of a painting are usually larger and brighter than those further away, so these still will appear more in the foreground of your painting.

I have made a few galaxy paintings and each one looks different to the last – some have more colours, some have larger stars, some are mostly one colour etc.. Experimenting is the best way to find out your preference and to see what works best for you.

Hannah Roberts is a London based mural artist. Check out her latest work here or get a free quote for your home or place of work.

2 Simple – Office mural

Quick summary
Office Mural. The company makes learning software for primary schools and wanted the mural to match their brand. Rainbows are bright and colourful and linked nicely with their coloured pens (part of the software). They also have a ‘coding monkey’ who they wanted to feature in the design. I used my usual emulsion paints plus a scissor lift to help me with this job.

More in-depth info
For this mural I was asked to design and paint a wall mural that fitted in with the branding of the company, and was not only on the wall but also included their new kitchen units in the design. Quite a challenge! 2 Simple provide teaching and learning software to primary schools and have a lot of cartoon-style imagery which is what I started off by looking at. Their different coloured pens, the ‘coding monkey’ and the rainbow have all featured in their branding images and I thought these would be great to include in the mural. Once I had agreed the design with the Managing Director and one of the company’s Graphic Designers, I started planning the best way to draw out and paint the design. The company hired me a scissor lift which was perfect to reach the higher parts of the mural.
I made myself 7 identical templates for the pens so that I could make sure all the pens were exactly the same size and shape. I could arrange the templates on the wall to decide the best position, before drawing around them to get to design on the wall.

When painting the pens I used the same colours that I was using for the rainbow, to create the appearance that it was these pens that had drawn the rainbow (although I don’t recommend drawing on the wall with actual pens, but painted mural pens are allowed).  

To get the neat, straight edges of the pens, and also for the line through the middle for the highlight, I used Frogtape. (Frogtape is masking tape that’s a bit more expensive and is better at getting you those straight edges) #NotAnAdIJustLikeFrogtape

The main rainbow was probably the most challenging part of the whole mural. We’ve all drawn rainbows at some point in our lives I’m sure, but have you ever tried to paint one large scale on a wall? Not as easy as you would think! Also, you want to have smooth, neat lines between each colour, but as they are mostly curved lines in this design I couldn’t use my trusty tape and instead had to rely on my steady hand. Maybe not quite as steady as a surgeon’s hand but it’s pretty close.

I painted the main shape of the rainbow first and then used a meter rule to divide the rainbow into 7 equal parts. I painted every other colour of the rainbow and waited for it to dry, then filled in the remaining colours in between. I found this was the best way to make sure the colours wouldn’t blend together whilst painting them and it also helped to see if each colour was equal thickness.

I thought the cupboard would be difficult as it’s a much glossier surface to a wall and you need to make sure the paint will stick, but it actually was very easy once I had decided on my method. Different artists and decorators have different advice on which types of paints you should use, but the method I went with worked really well and allowed me to use the same paints that I had used on the wall, meaning that the colours match perfectly. First of all I marked out where my rainbow would go. I then lightly sanded the areas to be painted, although this isn’t a necessity. I then painted the area with a primer which was ‘for difficult surfaces’ such as these cupboard doors. This creates a less smooth surface and something that the paint could stick to. Once dry, I painted the rainbow design using the same emulsions that I had used for the rest of the mural. I didn’t varnish the top until the next day so that I could be sure the colours were 100% dry before doing so. I used a clear varnish which was for this type of surface and for interior use. Once it was dry I test  few areas to make sure this varnish had done the job and would allowed the mural surface to be cleaned if needed (I don’t know how but people seem to be able to splash tea on various kitchen surfaces, so it’s best to be safe! I’m probably also one of these people). I got a wet paper towel and rubbed over each of the colours of the mural. As expected, none of the colours smudged or came off onto the paper towel. The surface is easy to wipe clean without damaging the mural, which was my main concern, so now the tea-spillers can go about their business as usual in the knowledge that the mural is protected.

I’m really pleased with the mural, and it is my largest one to date! (December 2018). I had loads of positive comments from members of staff there and they said it really brightened up the office. It was a lot of fun to do and I have learnt a lot about painting on different surfaces.. as well as how to use a scissor lift!