Endurance, intensity and staying one step ahead

What does your desk say about you? Noticeable on the desk of motorsport mural commissioning client Skidmarques Ltd was a black, grey and red replica car – an LMS Audi. Appropriate as building a business takes endurance, the competition is intense and keeping the technology one step ahead of rivals is vital. Business books and LMS series yearbooks on the shelf confirm all of those are a passion of co-owner Keith. It therefore had to be a part of the mural that was being designed for the workshop wall.

In 2009 I’d lived forty minutes from Silverstone and taken full advantage of being a Silverstone Racing Club (SRC) member. On 13 September 2009 I attended the Le Mans Series 1000km sponsored by Michelin to get some shots of these powerful marques in action. It was the year the Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S prototype debuted and on this occasion to be driven by a former Formula One World Champion, Nigel Mansell, and his son, Greg, plus the boss of Ginetta, Lawrence Tomlinson.

With Quifel-ASM Team leading the LMP2 Class Championship with their Ginetta-Zytek-engined car it was an opportunity to enjoy these home-grown power-houses on a classic British circuit (prior to it’s subsequent up-grade for Formula One requirements). Ginetta also being close to my heart as I was involved, actually more pig than chicken but that’s another story, with a team racing a G50 that year.

The best photos of the day came from Abbey and as the cars changed down and went under Bridge and for a leg rest towards the end of the day from the SRC stand across the Luffield curves. The spoils eventually went to the French Team Oreca with their V10 powered Oreca 01 driven by Olivier Panis and Nicolas Lapierre and for LMP2 the Swiss British collaboration of Speedy Racing Team/Sebah Automotive in the Lola B08 with its V8 Judd engine.

Also racing that day were a pair of Audi R10 turbo diesels being run by German-based Colin Kolles. The three drivers of number 14 having a mix of experience and racing backgrounds.

Narain Karthikeyan, from India, filling in racing time between his stints with various Formula One teams and (the now defunct) A1GP had a mixed season in LMS suffering a shoulder injury along the way – sustained whilst out of the car!

British Andrew Meyrick, was the youngest driver of the trio, awarded a Rising Star of the British Racing Drivers Club after dominating National Class Formula 3 in 2008 despite a virus which he had to overcome to be part of the LMS program.

The third member of the team Dutchman Charles Zwolsman Jr. a former Champ Car World Series driver is pictured in the mural car. His life having taken an unfortunate turn, having been accused of financing his racing career with proceeds from the criminal activities of his (deceased) father. Charges that Zwolsman Jr. denies.

And what of the final position of the Kolles Audi R10 TDI which is celebrated in the motorsport mural? Well it’s Diesel Turbo V12 engine took car #14 to 6th on the day and 7th in the Championship.

Despite being the car that I knew would be in the final design no matter what it was the fourth car to be painted on the wall. The painting approach for this car was kept simple. Using a palette of just eight shades plus a black and white (except helmet,flag and logos) to create depth. It is about 2.5 m long and 1 m high. The outline took a day to scale up. The layers were introduced over 5 days to build up the car to it’s final finish.

Going up the wall …

There is a famously disputed mural which graced the walls of the Ogdens, in Coronation Street. Stan thought it was the Canadian Rockies whereas Hilda thought it was the Alps. And here’s a question for true Corrie  afficienados – who named it a “muriel’ Hilda or Eddie?

Whatever it was it was a very modern mural in that it was created from printed image strips. It was not true to the origins of murals which were painted on wet or dry plaster. Although some may say that the cave paintings, from 30,000 BC, discovered in France were the first.  Many lost in the mists of time as wallpaper was introduced, churches were destroyed and the moisture in the British weather cycles took its toll.

When I was commissioned to do a mural, it was with great relief, that I was given a very open brief. The space is 20.5 m x 4.5 m at it’s highest point, and already 2.5 m off of the ground. There are no architectural features to incorporate (as was often the case in the old days when working in churches and vaulted ceilinged houses).

So the design has been bound only by a general subject area to tie in with the clients business. The method, medium and style being left to me which is lovely on the one hand and quite daunting on the other! Worse case scenario … the client does not like it and the white emulsion roller comes out …

In the process of drawing out and tacking to the wall to make sure it all works, before gridding it out and loosely transferring the design to the wall.

I’d like to have the colourful spontaneity of my usual style, but need to reduce the detail as this will be lost in the space, so a return to my more graphical colour block routes is on the cards.

Having just spent some time in Canada admiring the deco /beaux arts buildings it seems timely to be looking at poster designs and style of that age.

it’s going to keep me busy, together with a number of planned trackside visits from the end of June onwards to capture some more wheels in motion both digitally and on paper.

How to get started on a mural – ten tips

Commissioning is a strange thing. Either the client knows exactly what they want and I am left delicately negotiating something that will fit their budget and my artistic capabilities or I get a totally open brief because they love the expressionist acrylic motorsport paintings I create. So where exactly do you start when you have a blank wall in front of you and a totally open brief?

Here’s my nine nuggets :-

1. Measure the space you are painting very carefully for creating scale drawings.
2. Look at what is around the space that needs to interact with it (sight, sound, action and the people viewing it every day – it’s their space!).
3. Research what has gone before for the theme of your work … any existing murals out there?
4. Discover what the client and their customers are interested in – you want them admiring and talking about the work.
5. Go and look at murals on a similar sized space with viewing access similar to yours.
6. Talk to other mural artists about the tools and paints they use.
7. Find an artists’ group or other artist to bounce your ideas against.
8. Remember every ten minutes preparing will really save time in the final execution.
9. It’s supposed to be big and bold so get inspired to ditch the fine detail.

And the rainbow that leads you there …

10. Clear goals to ensure that you remain on target.

The latter came courtesy of some goal-mapping and coaching sessions with Elaine Proctor-Stroud and Jan King.