First Week of Painting for the Bears of Sheffield Trail

After 1645 months in quarantine I was elated to get out and paint last week. I have craved big painting projects in lockdown. Sculptures and murals, I love them! Working on a big scale is an unparalleled creative experience. I feel expressive and a bit naughty like I am a kid drawing on a wall at home. Blooming love it though! I have been gurning to do some big painting for months. Finding out I was a successful artists for the trail during lockdown was a huge win for me. The promise of a painting project coming up was brilliant.


I am going to dedicate a future blog post entirely to this subject. Packing for painting off site is a tough thing to get totally right. Feeling a little rusty from not being able to leave the house, this took some extra thought this time. Paints, brushes, sarnies and podcasts sorted, I was ready!

Day 1

We are painting in a super secret painting space. The staff at the Children’s Hospital have done a brilliant job of keeping us socially distanced and safe. It means that there are sadly less artists together at a time, but painting alongside even just a couple of people has been totally refreshing after life in quarantine. First impression is that these bears are HUGE! I think 7 ft tall? They even have a base to paint which I wasn’t expecting. I got a start on sanding and printing and accepting that my next few weeks will be a lot of time up and down ladders!

Day 2

Getting the design right was the main theme of today. Translating a 2D design to a huge 3D an as is difficult. Not just in terms of scale but in following the sculpture shape. It took a while to work out where the components of the design were best to sit. You can never been too prescriptive in translating a flat design onto a shaped canvas. Things will need to move and change to suit the curves of the piece. The most challenging part as the bear’s head. A very flat picture is an elongated and complex shape in reality. Getting the flow of the piece right was a big focus of the day.

Day 3

I took me until the third day to get my first layer of paint down fully. I started this on day 1. On such a huge sculpture it is such a big job! Trying to get as much paint down as possible and lock in the whole design was the flavour of the day. By the end of the third day I had just started on my second layers of colour in an attempt to flatten the design and make the colours bolder.

I have another three days booked in to paint next week. This is the first time I have had such a break halfway through painting. I needed it! Months in lockdown means I need a bit of warm up time. Painting big is a really physical job. It also means I have an extra few days to get excited before going back to hopefully finish the piece. Wish me luck! 

Wallabies Gone Wild: My experience

At the end of March I traveled to a top secret location in the east of the Isle of Man to paint a 5ft Wallaby statue. It’s not your average commission project that’s for sure! The project included a lot of firsts for me as an artist. It’s the first time I’ve traveled so far for my work.

Crossing the sea for art

I’ve had some out of town fairs but I’ve never even stayed one night away for illustration. As someone who only relatively recently started sharing her art with the world, I still like to create in a comfortable space. My studio is just me and surrounded by inspiration and creature comforts. I can paint in my PJs and have Netflix on in the background, it’s very chill. Sometimes even my ceramic studio feels a bit crowded for me, and it’s still a familiar space. On the island I was in a new town with new artists and in a new space.

Luckily, and surprisingly, I felt I adjusted quite well. I wasn’t too shy to get stuck in and the other artists were really friendly. I am learning to own the weirdness of my art and not question my right to be involved in art projects. This was a great opportunity for that and I was pleased to find that this adjustment seems to be getting easier.

The challenge of painting a sculpture

The wallaby was a new challenge not just in its size but also in its shape and it’s requirement to be durable. My work illustrating ceramics and using resist techniques has well equipped me for designing difficult shapes. Although in a smaller scale, I have picked up tricks on how to paint complex shapes including painting straight lines on curved surfaces. This practice came in useful. I also found that sketching out the shapes of my design in pencil first was important to keep perspective when painting something so big.

How long is a piece of string, a pot of paint or a sufficient painting window?

This was the thing that made me most anxious before I flew to the island. How much paint should I bring? How long should I go to the island for? The paint is easy now, it’s always less than you think that you need! The time though? The reality is that it’s different for everyone. The 4 days I spent were enough for me to finish, and I would have finished sooner if I did have lessons to learn along the way. It’s benefit of booking a bit longer is to have that extra time if you need it, paint more relaxed and explore the city as well as painting!


-Sandpaper is the closest thing to an eraser you can get for paint

– Valspar emulsion paints are the best and avoid cheap acrylics unless you want to spend a LOT of time trying to perfect layers. You can even get testers colour matched

-Even big canvases need very small brushes

-Crisp lines and bold shapes are actually very difficult to paint as flat coloured, straight lines on large difficult shapes

-Primer just takes timer, sometimes it’s better just to paint

-Make pencil lines as feint as possible, they can be hard to cover

-Do lots of thin layers rather than thick ones where brush strokes become more pronounced

I am glad to have learnt these lessons. I will use them when I got to Jersey in May for the Go Wild Gorillas sculpture painting. It also means that my experience and repertoire as an artist is growing. I can prove my capability for bigger and bolder projects. My goal is always progress and this is progress to my goals 🙂