Greenhouse Mural Sketch

I WAS LOOKING through my 1972 student diary recently (see Student Days) and was reminded that on 4 October that year, at the start of my first full month at college I drew:

‘ . . . a sketch from imagination of the proposed identification chart which I thought that I might do as a large painting – in emulsion of course!’

This ‘identification chart’, which grew into an 8ft x 4ft acrylic on chipboard mural, absorbed a lot of my time for the next three years and I was still adding details to it – I think the last thing that I painted was a leopard frog in the foreground – on the eve of the degree show.

To demonstrate the process that I’d gone through, I included the original sketch in my show but I was surprised when a fellow student – a young man from the jewellery department who would go on to make a name for himself as a goldsmith – asked if it was for sale.

Detail from the finished acrylic on chipboard painting

I was taken aback by this and explained that, as a working drawing, it was never intended to be for sale. It’s on the cheap smooth offset paper that they sold at the college shop, folded down the middle and on the back there are streaks where I’ve cleaned my brush, ring-marks from a coffee cup but at one end there are some delightful sketches of frogs in ballpoint pen, drawn by my tutor John Norris Wood when he was advising me to add some reptiles and amphibians to the painting.

I’ve just come across the sketch in a drawer in the plan chest and I can now see why my college friend was attracted to it. It’s rough and splodgy but there’s spontaneity about it that is inevitably missing in the laboriously crafted finished product.

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