The Al Zahra Mural Project


The empty ‘canvas’

(Primary School side)

A 60-second slide show of details from the

Primary Wall Mural.

Click here to view a slide show of details from the Kindergarten Mural

Interesting art projects always start in interesting ways.

The Al Zahra College project came about through an associate in the St George Art Society who asked for advice on behalf of the College. It was resolved after discussion with the school's management that I would, and could, handle the work within the required time-frame. The mural needed to be ready for the opening of the new kindergarten building.

The deadline was fairly tight, at only two weeks, but the brief thankfully, was pretty well open to an interpretation of Australiana. It was agreed that this meant the dry outback, the universal icons of flora, landscape and fauna; within the context of appeal to youth.

Personal reference files, accumulated over years of snipping and filing, provided most of the material needed and provided ideas for overall design. Googling provided additional material, along with input from my librarian wife.

Reeves acrylic artist's colours were a good match for over-painting on the acrylic-coated wall surface. The tools to put the paint on with required a bit of experimentation though as the wall surfaces were bumpy rendered cement. That sort of ruled out rollers for large areas as it was too time-consuming and patchy. Brushes, ditto.

The paint was mixed with a binder medium for greater adhesion on the wall, being an outdoor situation. Additionally, two coats of the medium were applied over the work as protection against school-yard 'graffiti'.

The tool of choice turned out to large scouring pads. This gave good coverage on the bumpy surface where strong colour was needed, but also worked well for variations of colour density, for speed of application, and for creation of interesting textures. All the
se considerations, played out in practice, proved intensely interesting for the school children who gathered in droves to watch the progress by the artist/s. Two assistants were used: Jenny Wassell, an accomplished artist and Terry Hakos an adult art student. Both are friends who helped move the work along, to ensure the deadline was met.

Other help came from the students who all wanted to have a go.

Even the teachers wanted to leave their mark on the wall.

For them, I devised a snake design of many parts. A whole

classroom of children worked on that, three at a time, as well

as the grass in which it hid.

"You're a really good artist mister.

Here, this is for you."

The rewards of this project were many and splendiferous. For

example, how could one refuse the offer of a chocolate bar from

an art-loving young lad in the schoolyard. I am not sure if it is

acceptable conduct to accept gifts whilst at work but I think this

instance would pass muster; refusal to accept seemed too big a

risk of disappointment for the lad.

The progress of the mural naturally created great interest among

all the students, with a barrage of questions worthy of a secret


"Are you an artist?"  ("I'm a doctor. ...a Doctor of Art").

"How old are you?"  ("Not old. Young. 60+ years young")

"Are you famous?"  ("Around the school yard I certainly am")

"How many girl friends do you have?" ("Eight" I said, "including you seven girls")

"How long have you been an artist?" ("Fifty years!") "WOW!!!"

"What country are you from" ("Canada")

Happy to start, pleased to finish: it's just the part in between that can test one's veracity. Accuracy is different things to different folks. Artwork involves things like composition, colour / tone balance, and proportionality, not to mention specific images and their variations.

The aim on this occasion was to be interesting in an overall sense with just enough detailing and textural effects to be relevant to primary-aged children. Similarly, the kindergarten images are not over-burdened with images and a brighter colour tone is more appealing for the younger set.

All up, the Al Zahra murals were highly successful.

The children said so.

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A 30-second slide show of details from the

Kindergarten Wall Mural.

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The finished Primary School mural