Making banners for Canons House

I’ve just completed a community art project at Canons House, Mitcham, which was a pleasure from start to finish. Back in November I ran workshops at this historic house with two schools, as well as drop-in sessions for families and adults after work. Here are the completed banners, hung this week… keep scrolling down and I will show you how they were made!

The workshops began with mixing colour and creating painted sheets of colour to use for collage later, using classic ready-mix school paints… I had forgotten how good these paints are for the money, just £2.99 for a huge bottle that lasts forever (which is making me re-think how I use paints for my illustration work). We also went out into the 18th century walled garden to look at the colour and texture of bricks for inspiration:

While the paint dried, everyone made drawings of characters who might have visited the house over the centuries. I brought Robert Selbie’s ‘The Anatomy of Costume’, illustrated by Victor Ambrus, for inspiration and reference which led to some excellent characters.

Next step was to make collages of plants from the materials made earlier – one of the evening participants actually runs a lavender farm, so she made a stunningly accurate botanical sample. I also finally got the chance to meet Syvebonne from Little Ark. During lockdown I joined her project to make masks, caps and bags for NHS workers, but we never met in person until now and it was a real treat! My mum joined in the sewing project too and was much more productive than me – here’s me, Syvebonne and one of the bags my mum made that Syvebonne kept as an example of best practice.

Finally I took everything home and did LOTS of scanning, then put all the artwork together in two massive Photoshop files, moving the layers until I had the right design. For a finishing touch, I made a collage of the house itself – and I am sneaking it into the picture book I am working on at the moment as part of the scenery! I got the artwork printed onto canvas by Bannerbuzz, who did a good job and delivered the artwork amazingly quickly considering that they were posting it all the way from Mumbai.

I’m looking forward to doing more work at Canons House this year – thankyou Amy!