York Nutcracker Trail 2023

York Nutcracker Trail 2023

I was recently commissioned by York BID to create ten painted 6ft tall nutcracker sculptures for their Nutcracker Trail 2023. The trail runs across York city centre from 16 November 2023 – January 4 2024. The sculpture trail is the first time that a single artist has been commissioned by York BID to create bespoke designs for each of the ten sculptures. It’s also the first time I have ever painted an entire sculpture trail too! York is a magical city at Christmas, famous for it’s cosy cobbled streets and expansive Christmas market, to be asked to design an entire art trail for the city during it’s most enchanting season has been incredible.

The Designs

5 of the designs are based on York at Christmas time, featuring festive iconography such as baubles, gingerbread men and snowmen and highlighting landmarks of the city in Winter.  One design features the transformation of Merchants Hall from a blizzard at night to a snow covered morning, whilst another shows Santa and his reindeer flying over the Shambles. 

A further 5 nutcrackers were designed inspired by drawings from schools and community groups including York Mind, Wigginton Primary School, St Wilfred’s RC Primary School and Changing Lives.

One design inspired by submissions from the charity MySight features an intricate tactile snowflake design that has been devised so that the multi-sensory design can be enjoyed by members of the public with visual impairments. 

This is the first time that I have created a tactile sculpture for public display and I’m really pleased with how it’s come out and it’s role in making the trail more accessible. This is also the first time I’ve painted an entire trail and it was an enjoyable challenge to take the same shape ten times over and come up with something new to paint on each one whilst remaining true to the Christmas in York theme and incorporating the designs from the community groups along the way. 

Maps of the free trail can be collected from the Visit York information centre or viewed online on the York Bid site. 

My Sculpture Painting Journey So Far

Painting the sculptures for this trail now brings the total of sculptures I have painted up to a whopping 29 with the charity amount fundraiser through the sales of my artworks at auction now exceeds £102,000 as of November 2023. 

I absolutely love sculpture painting and seeing how much people love them when they are out in the streets is always a really rewarding feeling. It’s great to see them adding so much festivity to York’s historic streets and it makes me even more excited for the Snooks with Books 2024 trail where 22 other artists will join me in creating bespoke literary themed artworks on the characterful Snook sculpture that Make It York commissioned me to design. 

York Nutcracker Trail 2023 Gingerbread Sculpture

A Guide to Arts Trails I have Painted for in 2021

Last Friday I put my paintbrushes down after a solid two months of sculpture painting for public art trails. After the year we’ve had it was an absolute dream! I’ve been working sculpture painting commissions back to back. I am knackered but as a mural artist I wouldn’t have it any other way! So today I’m going to share with you a little bit about the trails where you can find my work on display this year.

Moor Otters

The first trail to launch this Summer is the Moor Otters trail this Friday. My Sir David Ottenborough design has already been revealed. Inspired by the great man himself and the lifelong love of learning about the animal kingdom that he inspires. This sculpture was painted back in March 2020 so the trail has been a long time coming. He’ll be on display in Dartmoor at the pannier market in Tavistock from May 28th 2021.

Cows About Cambridge

Now this sculpture has been under wraps the longest. I finished painting my cambridge Cow in November 2019. Although I do know where this one will be displayed I suspect it’s top secret currently but you can find out this Summer. The Cambridge Cows will be raising money for the charity Break and their work with young people. They will be displayed around the beautiful green belt city, inspired by the cows that roam free there. I’ve also teamed up with Thameslink and Mind to paint a second mini sculpture for the trail too.

Bears of Sheffield

As a Sheffield Based artist I am absolutely buzzing to have a sculpture in this trail! Last time there was a trail in Sheffield was before I knew anything about Wild in Art and the amazing trails they run. To work along other talented local illustrators from Sheffield, South Yorkshire and beyond has been a dream. The sculpture itself is a familiar design based on the bronze one that lives in the bear pit in the Botanical Gardens. The trail is raising money for Sheffield Childrens’ Hospital. I am very excited that I’ll be able to see my bright bold design stand out on my local streets soon. 

Worcester’s Big Parade

This design is still under wraps but I will say that this design is going to look right at home in the monochromatic tudor architecture that the city is famous for. The elephant I have painted is sponsored by Worcester News and certainly bound to make an impact. Seeing this particular design hit the streets of such a beautiful historic city is going to make my spooky little heart very happy this summer.

Big Trunk Trail Luton

The first of my double trouble parades is the Big Trunk Trail. I’ll have 2 colourful elephants hitting the streets there this year. That’s 3 elephant sculptures total that I’ve painted these last 2 months. They couldn’t all look more different though!

Stockport’s Giant Leap

These frog sculptures were bursting with character before they ever had a lick of paint! The designs are secret but I will say that they are bursting with charm. I’ve painted two sculptures for this trail and it always amazes me how different the same sculpture can look with a different paint job. 

So that’s a whopping 9 sculptures I’ve painted to be on display this summer around the UK. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ll be working on next. Keep an eye on my social media for the full sculpture design reveals and auction details later on in the year.

Navigating the Pandemic as a Creator of Public Art

During lockdown 2020 I was writing twice weekly blogs on my mural art, sculpture painting & illustration work. I was happy to be busy as an illustrator and mural artist. Although I did have a backlog of news to share about exciting sculpture trails, collaborations and street art commissions. I had been hired to create a number of painted artworks in Sheffield, Yorkshire and across the UK and I wanted to tell you all about it. A weekly blog meant that there was too much to share so I doubled my post output.

However this meant twice the work writing and in August 2020 I became an artist full time. I had to step up my game as a business woman and as opportunities began to arise again after a truly tumultuous year, the blog writing took a backseat.

Mural Art Opportunities During the Pandemic

It’s been such a relief to be so busy. In these last few months I have been working flat out, mainly on painting sculptures for a number of public art sculpture trails across the UK. This is a huge difference from 2020. Although I found some notable local painting projects to work on including the Bears of Sheffield sculpture trail and the Whirlow Hall Farm chicken shed mural this was a drastic decrease in painting projects for me. My online shop took precedence as did my digital illustration commission work. I am proud that I was able to pivot my business to refocus on these areas to survive the pandemic, but oh boy did I miss painting!

Unfortunately, with public spaces quieter than ever, events cancelled and a surge in people working from home, who had any incentive to commission a mural painting?

2021 So far

In the first 4 months of 2021 I’ve already been commissioned to paint more than twice what I was commissioned in 2020. A huge part of this has been sculpture trails. This follows Wild in Art and many other trails having postponed projects scheduled for 2020 until Summer 2021. This means that I will have 9 sculptures on display this Summer and I have already run my own recycled monsters sculpture trail in collaboration with Art Waves Bridlington and had a painted bird sculpture displayed in the town too.

I am optimistic that the Summer will bring some more mural painting opportunities. However this time I’ll make sure not to neglect my blog quite so much too.

If you are interested in following my progress and seeing where all my artworks will be on display in 2021 remember to check out my blog next week when I cover them all or visit my instagram account @sianellisartist

Week Two of Painting for the Bears of Sheffield Trail

Last week was my second and final week of painting my Bears of Sheffield sculpture. Eeeek! It’s the first time that I have started a sculpture and then had a four day break in the middle. It was a revelation! It allowed me to come back fully charged, refreshed and having missed my bear! I got right back to work. The first day after the break felt the most productive painting day. I seemed to get some much done in terms of getting all the first layers of paint down and starting the second.

Remember, the bear is like 7ft tall, so we are talking a lot of paint! It always surprise me how far a little pot of paint will go! I always finish sculpture painting with paint to take home, more than I’d expect to. 

Second layer (and third and fourth!)

It’s always a bit of a guessing game how many layers each paint is going to need to look good. But once the first layer is down, it’s all an endurance test. You just keep going until it’s done. I personally love this part of painting. It’s automatic to a degree as you already have all of your first layer mapped out. You just keep working and see your piece get better and better. I guess what I enjoy is that you see your work improve without any of the fear of making the wrong artistic choice throughout. 

The finishing touches

I got a bit anxious when it came time to add the last layer of detail to my sculpture. I knew it would drastically change the piece but the most effective way to paint it would be to add it on as a new layer at the end. It meant that I created something I was really happy with but I then had to commit to making a big change to it. So yeah, it was scary! Luckily it pai off big time. Yes the design looked different, but better!

I was sad to finish it. Knowing that it could very likely be my last sculpture of 2020. I love painting sculptures sooooo much! I am staying positive that 2021 will have some more!

What I really love about it is that it is very ‘me’. I think people will look at it and immediately think ‘that’s Sian’s!’ It is such a great opportunity that I have had to do this. This week I will return to varnish it and I am so excited to see how much the colours start to pop when I do. It’s a shame that he’ll have to then go into hibernation for over a year, but I am looking forward to being reunited with an old friend. On the streets of Sheffield, July 2021. 

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! 

New Sculpture Announcement: Bears of Sheffield

I am always excited to announce new projects. If you have read any other of my announcement blogs, you’ll know. In this current climate though, it is even better! Lockdown has been scary in that regard. Although it’s bought new opportunities too! Hearing That I have successfully been picked for Bears of Sheffield though? I was buzzing!

After painting on so many sculpture trails, the idea of not painting one in my home city would be pretty rubbish. To get confirmation of a new painting project after these last few months is amazing enough, but a sculpture trail in Sheffield is just perfect! This will be my 9th charity sculpture paint since March 2019.

Bears of Sheffield 

The trail will run in 2021 and raise money for Sheffield Children’s Hospital. In 2015 the charity ran the herd of Sheffield project with Wild in Art. Having learnt a trick or two they’ve gone solo. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but as an artist on the project I am in some excellent company. 

The sculpture design is based on the statue in the old bear pit in the Botanical gardens. A bit of a grizzly inspiration (ahem) but undoubtedly a great form. The mascot of the charity is a bear too. The statues themselves are absolutely huge. This will be the tallest sculpture I have painted and I predict a step ladder will get some use. 

My Design

The design, as always is under wraps. I can give you a couple of clues though. The piece I will be painting  is going to be bold, bright and very me! When I heard that was the shortlisted design, I was slightly shocked. It was the most experimental design I submitted, but I always like to submit a bit of a wild card. I do it in the hope that it will get picked, of course. But it’s usually a design that’s a bit wilder than your average sculpture. 

I cannot wait to bring the design to life and I think about how sweet it will be when the trail goes live. A whole year after painting! I start my work on the sculpture next week. It’ll be a dream to go out to work again (socially distanced of course!).

Follow me on social media for some sneaky peeks at the process 🙂