Monday, 31 December 2012

Scaling Up

Until January of 2012 I had only ever painted illustrations on paper at my desk. But about a year ago I was asked by Brad Hammond of the Orange Regional Gallery to paint a mural for the children's ward in the new Orange hospital. It's been up on the wall since about February of 2012 but I've finally got some work in progress images together.

Here's the wall that needed cheering up:

Brad had mocked up a visual of the wall with images from a book I had illustrated called No Room for A Mouse. Essentially the mural needed to be bright and cheerful and interesting to children and their parents and tolerable for hospital staff! 

I went off to think of ideas but it was Ivy who came up with the best idea. She wanted to see a crocodile doing a handstand. Naturally. So this became the basis for the mural design - a procession of animals and children heading toward the seaside.


And from that, I produced a drawing in finer detail and to scale:

After this concept was approved, I had to somehow make the drawing into a 6 m x 1.77m painting!

The mural was to be painted on MDF panels and installed when completed. This way I could work in my studio rather than in the ward, getting in everyones' way. 

I primed the boards, and then applied a wash of raw umber to give a base colour. I'd rarely used acrylics before so decided I'd just treat it like I would a watercolour painting, but on a BIG scale.   

I then used an old style projector to project the original drawing onto each panel, using charcoal to trace the linework. I fixed the linework with spray fixative and then started painting, learning a great deal along the way about drawing with charcoal, painting with acrylics and various acrylic mediums and that spray fixative causes chemical reactions with most sealers! Eeek!

I also got help from my mum, Katie and some lovely friends, Laretta and Jen.

 Here are the finished panels photographed separately before installation:

And installed in the hospital:

And a few nice details:

This project was the highlight of my year - challenging, super fast, rather gorgeous and for a lovely purpose. I'm a little bit proud! 

If you'd like to read more about Brad's work at the hospital, installing artworks to bring warmth and interest to the otherwise sterile and alienating environment, click here.

The photographs in this post were taken by Kate Blackwood and Brad Hammond.


  1. Hi Freya,

    This is just incredible. You should be proud - what a huge challenge and fantastic achievement. They look beautiful. I nursed kids for many years and I know how much something like this will lift their spirits and bring joy to an often difficult time for some. I'm a huge fan of your work. You are a great inspiration for me. Great job.


    1. Thanks Lynn! It was fun - tiring, but lots of fun and very liberating to work at such a large scale. And yes, I've had a few lovely comments from people who've seen it while in hospital with their kids. It does feel like a very special project.
      Best wishes,

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Christian. Hee hee... thinking of the things you would have come up with. Hope to see you sometime soon.

      Freya x

  3. The crocodile doing a handstand is a classic. It looks like it came out of a story. The tiger is handsome and looks determined, as sick children often need to be. Well done.

    1. Yes, my Ivy takes the cake with the crocodile idea. Hoping she doesn't grow out of this and instead just gets better at thinking of off the wall ideas!


  4. Totally gorgeous work Freya, and interesting insight into translating working on the page to such a large scale.

  5. Dear Freya,
    Congratulations with all my heart! What a wonderful project!! Your work will be a great joy for children, patients, parents and staff. I really admire you.
    All the very best, Sadami