Check out mural led by an artist-in-residence at Bermondsey’s Boutcher Primary School

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Rotherhithe artist Ed Gray, one of London’s chief chroniclers of the capital’s life and people, has been spending a lot of his time tutoring and mentoring local children at Bermondsey’s Boutcher School, writes Michael Holland...

“This is my third project as Boutcher’s artist-in-residence working with years 4, 5 and 6, whose ages range from 8-10 years old, and it was funded by the Dyers Guild,” he tells me as he prepares to leave his studio and the painting he is currently working on of Remembrance Sunday at the West Lane War Memorial, to make his way to the Grange Road school for the unveiling of his students’ latest end of term work – A mural called Outside In.

“We wanted to celebrate the beautiful Peace Garden just outside the main school hall and visible through a long series of windows.

“I took inspiration from the windows and created canvas panels to mirror them,” he says while showing me photos of the pupils’ progress throughout the project.

I could see their development in the images taken over just a few sessions.

“We spent a few weeks drawing plants and insects in the garden which we collaged into larger studies and eventually enlarged onto the 1m×1.5m canvases to create a mural that is 9m long by 1m high.” 

What did the young people put into the artwork? 

“Pupils painted their own section of the mural and with four pupils working on each panel they had to be very aware of what they were each doing… They included all the urban wildlife and as a group we played around with scale and viewpoints to create drama within the mural.”

Which artists did you use as examples for this kind of art?

“We took inspiration from Henri Rousseau, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Philip Guston and Jacob Lawrence.

“The students learnt about observational drawing, scale, composition and painting techniques such as colour mixing and brush use.

“Most importantly we focused on idea development and cooperation.”

Are you happy with what they have achieved?

“Absolutely! The long term results are a beautiful mural celebrating the school and its urban flora and fauna, plus, their increased confidence in creativity and problem solving.” 

What next for Boutcher?

“We’re working now on a new project involving sculpture and animation with years 3, 4 and 5.”

Headteacher Eilidh Verhoeven said: “It’s a privilege to have Ed Gray, a working artist, sharing his passion, knowledge and skills with our children. They learn so much more than art skills – history, science and maths to name just a few.”

Can people get to see the mural displayed?

“The public are welcome to visit the school to view the new mural in the main hall by appointment with the school office.”


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