Those of you who know me are already familiar with some of my contributions to charity, namely two painted elephants, a tiger and an egg. Some of these were a great learning curve. My first elephant ‘Just Joey’ was the first time I’d ever painted in acrylic paint and on fibreglass too! They were also great experiences of how public art events are good for everybody.
Newly settled into Brighton & Hove I was lucky enough to spot a call for local artists to paint a giant snail. The event, Snailspace, is a public art event to raise money for the local hospice, Martlets. The message behind the event is to remind people to try to take life at a slower pace - to ‘be more snail’.
Ever willing to do something different, and with the deadline for submissions creeping closer, I duly submitted a design.
THE DESIGN INSPIRATION
The design itself was based on my initial experience of Brighton and Hove. It began life incorporating ‘easy to grow’ local plants and flowers. I discovered that Beach roses grow locally and loved the idea of these wild roses. Then there is a plant called Fleabane, that’s very delicate and grows in all sorts of cracks in walls and pavements around my new neighbourhood. I was also inspired by Sea holly. I hadn’t actually seen any, but I liked the idea of it, this bright purple/blue prickly beauty. I also discovered that Harts Tongue Fern grows in the chalk cliffs of the south downs. All new to me and all unusual plants with a great diversity of foliage.
Adding to the floral element I decided to incorporate my first experience of living with Seagulls! We rented a house for our first six months in Brighton and discovered that when seagulls nest in the chimneys of the house opposite, and you only have single glazing, then sleep is a rare commodity. Never have I been so tired. I asked advice of the locals and the best suggestion was earplugs!!!! Apparently, Seagulls are protected – there is no moving them on and they seem to nest near food - and we were very close to restaurants. This information certainly streamlined our search for a new home!
I decided that my design would incorporate both the joy of seagulls flying high above the beach and also the fact that so many Brightonians would love to target these pesky birds!
The final addition to my design was a set of blue and white stripes. These to me represent the deck chairs which appear all along the beach. They also represent the local football team, which I confess, I was unaware of until my snail started to take shape.
Once the design was submitted it was up to each of the Snailspace sponsors to select which design they liked best. I was very lucky to have my design selected by Focus Group, one of the UK’s leading communications service providers. Based locally in Shoreham, they selected my design because they are big supporters of Brighton & Hove Albion otherwise known as ‘The Seagulls’. A good job I didn’t just have flowers!
LET THE PAINTING BEGIN
Painting began in early June when the snails arrived at an empty warehouse in Hove. It was to be an excellent collaborative experience. For the first time I would be painting with 29 other artists at our Snail HQ rather than previous occasions where my elephants lived in my kitchen!
The whole painting experience was very well organised by the Martlets team and in spite of the excessive temperatures of this summer we all put in some long days to bring our snails to completion. Because I’ve done this before I happen to know that one of the most commonly asked questions is ‘How long did it take?’ so I kept a tally. I can tell you now that I clocked up 125 hours of painting and I didn’t have enough time to include all of my selected plants.
During painting we were asked to keep our designs under wraps, but we were allowed to post ‘sneaky peaks’ on social media. If you haven’t seen them yet they can be found under the hashtag #bemoresnail on instagram and Twitter.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT...
The event launches on September 15th and runs until November 18th. Along with an official Snail Trail around Brighton and Hove there will be a number of other events happening. A pop-up shop will sell souvenirs of a selection of the snails created by local artists, mine included, and in December the giant snails will be auctioned off to raise money for Martlets Hospice.
So, the only thing left to share with you is the name of my snail - he’s called Sidney, after my father-in-law who I discovered spent his honeymoon in Brighton back in the 1950’s and who would have loved to come and visit our new home if he’d still been with us.
So, do plan your visit to Brighton this Autumn, to see Sidney in his spot-on Brighton seafront.