The fun-o-gator lives! Last Autumn I was invited by Holt Community Primary school to design the new playground markings for the infants building and as winter term wound up, the fun-o-gator was unleashed.
Since my girls began pre-school in Italy I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited in to their schools to hold talks, workshops, and work with the kids designing sets and murals. Holt CP is the girls new school in the UK, a great little school with a fantastic teaching staff and thank my lucky stars they too share that all important love for art.
I was given an open brief on the design and managed to source a great local team to paint it out. Road Art Ltd are due a big thanks. Apart from hand painting out their most complex design to date they battled good against the British weather to deliver on time. And thanks too for having me stand over you and check the colour mixing. You gotta suffer for your art man, the green was worth it in the end.
I chose a friendly alligator, a civilised monster as the body of the design in and around which is an educational play area incorporating a calculator section in the teeth, alphabet spines, noughts & crosses, hopscotch, jump lines, duck duck goose game, soccer dribbling game, target practice, running relay, and chalk drawing arena. The school symbol/mascot is an owl which became the voice of the fun-o-gator with a dedicated chalk drawing area in his speech bubble.
There is a separate snail character leading the children in from the side gate with his snail trail, guiding them with his compass.
The scaled down design with 5 colour chart over architectural drawing
The original grid drawing used to lay down the design.
The playgournd was gridded out by Road Art and a chalk drawing of the design was laid down. Every shape of weather was thrown around as the design went down. Blow torches were used to prime the tarmac for dry painting which was abandoned a couple of times.
The chosen colours, Richard mixing 'that' green, and a sample of 24 carat green.
The green was hand mixed in one batch and the whole fun-o-gator needed to be laid down in one go to avoid mis-mixing another day if rained off. Weather stopped play just as the final green was laid.
Blow torch drying to prime for painting, box painting with liquid thermoplastic paint.
Thermoplastic road paint has a lovely tactile quality when dried, like cake icing or very thick, old oil paint. As the paint hardens instantly the kids got to try out the new fun-o-gator at home time. And the sun finally came out for us.
A few days after the fun-o-gator was finished I was invited in by the school for the grand opening. I cut the ribbon with my two girls and the infants classes presented me with cards, messages, and a portfolio of drawings of the fun-o-gator. It was very moving.
This was a voluntary project, and the money for the painting was raised by a small group of mums who'd organised and run fundraising projects throughout the year. It's been a real privilege working on this project and I would strongly recommend to any other illustrators a little time put aside to offer school children an insight into the world of illustration. It's a language children are familiar with, have incredible enthusiasm and talent for, and one that sadly tends to be lost as they grow older. There was one little boy though who drew me a picture and at the bottom wrote 'Thanks for the playground, it's rubbish'. I look forward to making amends next time around.
Some of the children's drawings of the fun-o-gator