Friday, April 2, 2010

When I grow up I want to be a Superhero!

Oh it's been a long, long time since I posted here but with good reason! I was asked by the primary school I teach in to create an outdoor mural at the entrance to the school.

I'm taking a career break at the minute so it seemed like the perfect way to go back and see all the kids I used to teach again.
The school is a brand new super-school. It's amazingly colourful and friendly and well equipped. It's called Mary Mother of Hope National School and is in Littlepace, Blanchardstown, Dublin.

The mural wall is an outside wall which is just at the entrance to the school. It's 50 feet long and is broken up by pillars into four panels.

I decided to create four different images on each panel. One would be about what the kids want to be when they grow up, another would feature the school crest and the two remaining panels are at the foot of the school garden (which is currently being sown at the moment..look out for the wheelbarrow in the photos!) so those two panels would feature illustrations to do with bulbs growing and flowers blossoming.

I made up a worksheet for the four 3rd classes, exploring the idea of what they wanted to be when they grow up and then called in to have a chat with them about it. I made a sketch of lots of different jobs (pictured above) and what the mural might look like and showed it to them on the interactive whiteboard.

They had amazing ideas for jobs! One boy wanted to be a half-video game maker and half-farmer. Another kid said he wanted to be a superhero when he grew up. His super power would be that his hands would be able to grow really big so he could "squish stofe", and his superhero name would be Black Face! Here are some of their drawings:

Black Face

Half-video game maker, half-farmer. He decided just to draw the farmer

But look at the farmer! What a brilliant drawing.
It reminds me of The Moomins.

This kid wrote that he wanted to be an airplane pilot
because he was "up for a challenge"

I read through all the worksheets and came up with this sketch.

Although, I had to reduce the number of jobs from 10 to 5 in the final image because otherwise the wall would have looked too busy.

Here's the wall beforehand, kindly painted Brilliant White by Carl. Though I'm not so convinced about the brilliance of Brilliant White...the glare of the sun felt like it was searing my eyes. For all my squinting, tears streamed endlessly down my cheeks behind my sunglasses. Apparently my eyes couldn't handle the intensity of the light.

Brilliant white.
Not so brilliant after all...

Hurray for cream paint! I went to MRCB Paints on Thomas Street and they were really helpful. I got outdoor, masonry paint and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had such vivid colours for exterior paint in stock. A lovely lady called Stella matched all the colours in my final sketch to colour swatches and gave me heaps of great advice. Turns out that she makes murals too!

I painted a navy and baby blue frame around the cream rectangles to match the colour of the school uniform.

Actually, in the last month I feel like my mind has swelled with D.I.Y advice, all the crafty tricks and tradesman's secrets gleamed from the mouths of handimen and craftspeople I've come in contact with. Sometimes, quite creepily, I feel like there might be a film crew behind me, that I've unwittingly landed in one of those D.I.Y programmes that my Dad loves, and that maybe I should make an aside to the camera about the amazing advice I've just been told! And people are so generous with their advice too. They really love to pass on the practical knowledge that they've learned through experience. For instance, measure twice - paint once; choose brighter coloured paints because darker colours fade faster and my personal favourite, snuggle up in the high winds with a hot-water bottle under your coat!

They're concrete bike stands in front of the wall. Useful for reaching those hard to reach places, though I keep getting my ankles stuck in between them!

I used a projector to throw the text and images onto the wall and then traced around them with a permanent marker. There was a blitz of beautiful weather for the first week and when the weather broke my heart nearly did too....turns out the permanent marker I used wasn't so permanent after all...

Black streaks of marker started running down the wall. I tried to soak up the black rivers streaming down the wall with kitchen towel and all the while it was still raining. Thank God for Séanna, the care taker, who came to the rescue with enormous sheets of plywood to rest against the wall and ward off the rain.

While I considered the merits of abandoning the whole thing and just going back to bed, I found myself in a hardware shop buying anti-graffiti spray and varnish. I came back, the weather had cleared, and so I started cleaning the streaks of black marker away with that amazing, life-saving can of anti-graffiti spray. When it dried I varnished over the permanent marker. Catastrophe avoided. I had some lunch, a heap of biscuits and was back painting after lunch.

Here's the finished mural. I finished on Friday 26th, 3 weeks after starting. This part of the country gets some intensely broody, dark clouds on really bright days.

Here are some close up photos of the wall:

School kids

A teacher. AH yes, and that's an interactive whiteboard. Bye bye blackboards!

The first Irish Astronauts on the moon...

An Artist

A Footballer

A Ringmaster

My old class said that when they grow up
they want to be an elephant!

I love doing this mural. My favourite bit is when the kids rush out from school and come over to have a look and a chat. "It's coming along real well," they say. "What's that?" What are you doing next? What are you doing now? You know what I want to be when I grow up? You're not a teacher anymore, are you?.... Brilliant!

I'm doing the school crest next and then the school garden mural. After that I'm making a mosaic for pillars at the entrance to the school. I'll put up photos of these as they develop over the next few weeks.


  1. Wahoo! Looks deadly Maeve - really looking forward to seeing the rest!


  2. Oh dear, just lost a big comment there!
    Great project! The mural looks fabulous and what a brilliant involvement from the kids. Great to see kids able to think laterally about their careers too - to see that it is possible to be half farmer and half video game maker - I think it can be very restricting picking one career!
    Well done, internet friend!

  3. Maeve!!

    I love it - you're great.

    See you next week at our house I hope.


  4. YAY!!!!! Looks GREAT! Loved the commentary too! Does the ringmaster have red hair because I have red hair? Does he? Does he? Does he?

  5. Maeve! It makes my eyes stream like brilliant white blindness to read this all the way over in Amerikay. There is so much wonder in what you're doing and besides it all the pictures just look amazing! I am so happy for it all, and so happy when I read about you eating lots of biscuits. Well done! xxx

  6. Thank you, thank you! What kindnesses. I'll put your words under my coat next to my hot water bottle!

    Would it be strange if I did this?:

    Thanks Brendan! I should have mentioned that were it not for your tremendous strength, lifting those giant sheets of plywood away, the mural never would have got finished!

    Caroline! I'm all for a Jack-of-all-trades kind of existence. Nearly all the kids wanted hybrid careers. None of them conceived of the brilliant half-knitter, half-builder though!

    Michelle, I can't wait for Saturday! Wild horses couldn't hold me back!

    And Carol, yes that Ringmaster IS you! Yeah! I knew you'd figure it out!

    Fink! from all the way in the U.S.A., your comment made me gush to my sisters, "Look! There she is! It's Fink! It's our lovely friend in a very different country." I can't wait to hear about your adventures and to see the white blinding beautiful pictures you're taking. x