The Finer Details: We're reaching the end of this project now, even though sometimes it really doesn't feel like it. I can't ever imagine (right now) not feeling a constant giant ongoing physical pressure squeezing my brain every single minute. However, this too shall pass. Clearly it must. Which means that we have also started to think about some of the more 'fun' aspects of these plans we've had for so long. It also means that we can start doing some of those more enjoyable things ourselves.
The Ceiling is the Limit: One of the elements I've been planning for months and months, is turning our bunk room into something really special. That room could actually have been a smallish double room which would be a little cramped for a couple and definitely a bit cosy for a twin. So instead of trying to shoehorn that use of space in, we wanted to make more of a virtue of this smaller more awkwardly shaped space, and a real feature of it. When we designed the room, we had our friends' small children in mind, so that they would actually *want* to go to bed in it, rather than want to stay up with the adults (not that we want to get rid of the kiddies in any way, but I suppose to try and make bedtimes a little easier if needs be). I've always been planning to make the door to that room a hidden one, so it feels like more like a secret den than a bedroom - I've spent all year trying to design a workable Batman style bookcase door to fit into that space, before admitting defeat (I *do* think it's still possible, but I just can't work out how to make the catch just yet - maybe the next property! Or give me more time on this one). So instead we've put in a secret mirror door - so from the outside it looks like an ordinary mirror, and then with a little push it's actually the door into the bunk room. With the design of the door, and the quite literal 'through the looking glass' mechanism, Alice in Wonderland therefore seemed like a good way to go with the theme of the room. I've actually used a little 'Alice' before as inspiration before for a mural I painted in my bedroom at home after my GCSEs with a pal:
Before: The inspiration for this mural was all my favourite characters - so Tinkerbell, What-a-Mess, the cards from Alice in Wonderland, Tintin, Asterix, Pepe le Pew (love that skunk), Sebastien the crab from the Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. There's even a little Hubert the Hamster in there from Pongwiffy (Coo, vot a pong. You are Pongviffy, I come to ze right place).
Now: The tone of that previous mural was obviously a bit more childish, literal and detailed. And I absolutely don't want to bash guests over the head with the theme, especially given that some adults will stay in there, so when designing it, I had to strike the balance between a childish and adult theme. I certainly didn't want to reflect the more Disney Alice either, but leant towards referencing the Arthur Rackham illustrations or even the John Tenniel original ones; a bit more magical but still edged with darkness.
Practical Considerations: In addition - we have commissioned our friend Jack to hand make the bunk bed to go into this space (pictorially more on that anon). This bed is really robust and special, and so anyone staying in there will actually look forward to sleeping in that space, rather than feeling they've got a bum deal staying in the bunk room. I designed this new mural to work with Jack's bunk bed to (hopefully!) make the lucky person in the top bunk feel like they're actually sleeping in a treehouse, nestled amongst the branches of a slightly surreal fairytale tree. The person on the bottom bunk has sight of the tree trunk, and hidden in a secret tree knot there is a little surprise to be found by those keen of eye. Jack has made a hidden bookshelf in there too, backed by a greyscale mirror, so it really should feel like a really special and private den.
The Process: I chose the paints to work as part of the same colour palette from Farrow and Ball, so they would feel grown up and dreamy. I bought professional and very delightful looking paintbrushes from The London Graphic Centre in Covent Garden. Then I downloaded and printed off the long inspiration and reference list which I've been collecting for a few months - murals I like, Alice themed illustrations, tree designs. I then put on all my outside clothes (heating was not quite connected yet when this was painted, and it was VERY cold) and an iPod playlist (Daft Punk, Discovery is very good to paint to) and put pencil to wall and dived in. Slightly apprehensively.
First Phase: Initially the tree on its own, sans leaves or shading detail, was quite a looming wintry looking gloomy figure. Something to be seen in the dead of winter on the crest of a hill at a distance, maybe through mist (Sorry about the slightly purple passages in this post. I'm very tired). Not necessarily something for a child's bedroom. I added in shading, and texture to the wood. Then started on the fun part - the leaves. The first tree encompasses the beam, the bathroom doorway, and also the roof in places, as well as growing around the light switches and fittings.
Final Phase: Wanting to reference Alice, I also wanted to experiment a little and use a couple of different tools of expression; not just paint - I bought a few packs of cards, and thought they could function rather neatly as some of the leaves on the trees maybe. I divided the packs up between the two different room spaces - the first mural as you enter the room is slightly more traditional, and the leaf design is split between the cards, which are cut out into the shape of leaves, and glued to the wall and actual painted leaves. The other mural's leaves, which is above the bunk bed space, are purely cards in their normal uncut shape for the tree leaves, to reference the Queen of Hearts and her chaotic rose bush diktats. This mural is less transitional and goes deeper into Wonderland, much like Alice as the world collapses around her, made up of all the falling and whirling decks of cards, as she falls back through the rabbit hole into the real world, bridging the waking and dreaming worlds. I realise this explanation is hugely pretentious…however - this was the underlying reasoning in my very very tired head. And I can't find a way to write about this genuine reasoning without bringing pretension and nonsense squarely centre stage. If you're still with me - well done, and also, sorry. Now go look at the pictures.
Practical Issues: I ran out of glue (for the cards), so had to stop (probably a good thing). Also the electrician hadn't finished fitting the wall lights in this room, so I still need to return to it briefly when we're back on Friday to make the final touches to it. But in any case, I'm pretty pleased with the result as it is, and can't wait to see what it will look like with the bunk bed in situ when it arrives at the property on Friday. Also - given it's shape, it's pretty hard to photograph well. I'll keep trying.