The mural is at Thorndon Country Park Visitor Centre, in Brentwood, Essex. It’s in the cafe, but you can’t see it from the cafe. If you’d like to take a look, you’d have to ask to peek in the Education Room. The room is used for children’s parties too, and it’s also used to store a lot of incoming and outgoing stuff – you might notice this around the edges of my pictures (and I’ll use this as the excuse for some of the wonky angles).
Mole, blackbird and squirrel came next – and the squirrel went through a few versions before I was happy with him. See below:
I’ll be honest – I LOVE the earthworms. There’s something about their child-like simplicity that just works for me.
The interesting thing is that the mural was NOT planned down to the very last detail – as you can see from this rough sketch:And you can see that the central character wasn’t planned at all. As I painted, I realised the mural had space for something (I was thinking Fox) and then both Ailsa and Abby suggested a fox. I think he turned out to be suitably handsome and curious-looking.
I wanted to include a hibernating bumble bee and a hedgehog (maybe I should’ve also included a juicy snail for him to eat, to help fatten him up before his winter hibernation).
Then – and this is the advantage of being flexible – on my last day there were a lot of rangers in and they suggested additional inhabitants. So on the last day I added an ant’s nest, a millipede, a centipede and the tawny owl and her baby. That last one was Ailsa’s idea. I’d originally sketched a woodpecker for the hole in the tree, then Ailsa wanted a bat – and finally it was agreed it should be the tawny owl, because there are quite a few of them in Thorndon.
I didn’t manage to include a damsel fly, a robin or a soldier beetle which were also suggested. I also did not include a tiger, an elephant, an Australian fruit bat or a parakeet – although there are now parakeets at Thorndon, apparently. And what with the world warming, perhaps one day there will be Australian fruit bats…
Just to show that the process the owls went through:
I really enjoyed the whole process. Lovely people work and volunteer there, and the woods, well – they are spectacular, especially in Autumn. It was good to get out and work on a large scale with paint and brushes, and splash about a bit of colour too.