I am taking you to the backstage of my painting of “A Dodo in Shrewsbury”; a fantastic initiative of Shrewsbury BID, who has commissioned local artists – I am one of them – to paint BT & Openreach boxes to brighten up the town. The topic is animals, to link with Charles Darwin, who was born and bred in Shrewsbury.
I was allocated a box just outside the Wakeman College -Shrewsbury College English Bridge campus – next to the entrance to the Abbey Gardens by the English Bridge. Trying to relate to Darwin and the area, my inspiration came from retro science books. Derek the Dodo represents extinction, an essential part of evolution, which connects with Shrewsbury’s Charles Darwin and the academic world.
After sending sketches and getting them approved, it was just the matter of having some days of dry weather to be able to work. The project took me three days to complete, plus quick visits some days later, to varnish it.
Preparing the box: This part is the dirtiest, but very important to be able to achieve a good finish and the best end result. The box was in a good nick, but cleaning took longer that I expected, as some of the old stickers on the box had left a sticky glue which was reluctant to go!
Once it was done, I sanded it with a fine sandpaper and then, after a quick clean and dry, I applied the primer and went for lunch, to give it time to dry.
After lunch I drew my little dodo friend and started with the first coat of the background.
I have to say that I was absolutely touched by the kindness of the passers-by who have been commenting on the painting and encouraging me. I was even offered a cup of tea by a neighbour!
In the morning of this new day, I managed to give a second coat to the background and it seemed to be taking shape. I started painting the dodo and build up the colours on it.
One of the passer-by was a Shropshire Star photographer who took some pictures of the dodo and I. This pics ended up in the newspaper the next day!
I was again touched by everybody stopping to say hello, and I also got a delicious cake from the sweetest couple. A light rain, which wasn’t predicted in the forecast, surprised me; so I ended the afternoon early. I left looking forward to the next sunny day!
Today I focussed on the details. In the morning I gave another coat to everything and after lunch I returned to work on the lights, shadows and the nature around the dodo. Once again, I was thrilled by the kindness of passers-by: Salopians and tourists who stopped to chat. What a lovely place Shrewsbury is!!!
The weather was glorious, so I could stay late – giving it a push to finish the painting.
It has been an amazing experience!
I came back the following week to varnish, but it only took me a few minutes. Thank you Shrewsbury BID, BT Openreach and all of you for all the kind words.
I know that dodos are extinct, but do you know what? There is now one in Shrewsbury! If you happen to walk past the Abbey Gardens, please say hello to Derek the Dodo. And if you feel like it, take a selfie with him and post it on instagram, tagging me @giselarobinsonart with the hashtag #adodoinshrewsbury . Look forward to seeing your pictures!!!