During the Fall of 2015, my father was visiting West Suffolk Hospital for a checkup and I was waiting for him in the hospital cafeteria. A gentleman called Dr. Steve Ohlsen approached me to ask a few questions about my experience at the hospital. We ended up discussing my day job as a designer and how I had created many murals for community projects in the past. We agreed that a mural would be a benefit to the hospital and set the wheels in motion to start a project. In the weeks that followed he put me in touch with the Chief Executive of the hospital and eventually to Julie Pettitt, the Estates Manager.
That winter I met up with Julie to walk around the hospital looking for a good location for a mural. The Day Surgery and Eye Clinic had expressed a need to brighten up their department. The area had 6 semi-opaque windows used as a privacy divide between treatment bays and a waiting area. The windows were needed to provide extra light, so painting over them wasn’t an option. I decided to play with the idea of turning the windows into an aquarium, using inspiration gained from seeing the light shining through them in the dark treatment bay. I discussed the idea with the staff and they were enthusiastic, so I set about experimenting with printing artwork on semi-transparent film to apply to the windows giving a stained-glass effect.
Working in between my day job and travels in USA, I put together a detailed 6 panel aquarium scene, made to measure for the windows. A year later, when I was back in UK, I completed the entire design. I included a painted graphic on the walls around the windows to tie in the aquarium theme. Julie gathered the supplies for me and coordinated getting a local company called GSigns to print and install the artwork to the windows. With the install scheduled for mid-April, I went to the clinic one weekend in early April and painted the orca and wave graphics on the walls.
In mid-April everyone met up at the clinic to watch the window panels being installed. I mirrored the design to put on the reverse side of the windows. This worked out nicely, as it boosted the bright colors in the mural and allowed both sides of the windows to feature the artwork fully.
When viewed from either side of the windows, light dramatically changes how the artwork appears. With no light coming from behind, the bluer tones of the sea-scape show up, and the scene looks deeper. When viewed with light shining from behind the windows the mural glows like an indoor marine aquarium. Throughout the day in the clinic, the lights change, giving something different to look at as the day progresses.
I used Johnstone's Matte Eggshell Emulsion to paint the walls, approved for chemical saftey by the hospital team. GSigns also had to get the printed panels approved before printing went ahead. I created the artwork using Adobe Photoshop with the GrutBrush plugin, on a 21" Wacom Cintiq touchscreen monitor. It's an expensive piece of equipment, but the most reliable and verstile touchscreen monitor in existence for artists like myself. It's also extremely durable. Mine has lasted me 10 years and traveled overseas with me.
Each panel has a major species theme: seals, dolphins, rays, orcas and turtles. And each panel stands alone as a composition. But together the 6 panels form one scene. Each panel also contains lots of smaller details, with clown fish, a lion fish, all kinds of tropical fish and coral, and ship wreck details.
It's my hope that the installation has brightened the day to day experience for the clinic staff as well as the visiting patients. If you’re bored, you can sit and stare at different parts of it to discover the different creatures and details. And if you’re getting treatment in the clinic, hopefully looking at this artwork is soothing on those distressed eyes!