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I guess one of the unsung influences on my life was a TV programme I used to watch in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Such was the appeal of this famous TV magazine show that it is still on our screens today – Blue Peter. A regular feature of the show was a presenter creating a toy from left over rubbish, the origin of the phrase “Here’s one I made earlier”, something todays youth rarely do. Back in the 60’s and 70’s money was tight and expensive well made toys were beyond the reach of the majority. Blue Peter showed us the way to make those same expensive toys for a fraction of the cost, – the famous Thunderbirds Tracey Island is a prime example.

Blue Peter sparked my interest in art and taught me skills that enabled me to create something from ‘nothing’.

Many years later those same skills came back into play when I started designing and building stage sets for an amateur dramatic group called The Square Drama Circle. All the sets were built on an almost zero budget, recycling and re using old sets to create new ones.

I have over the years created everything from Captain Hooks Pirate ship (Peter Pan) to Renee’s café from the sit com ‘Allo Allo’.

My latest efforts involved painting the back drop of London at night for ‘Bill Sykes’ death scene in the Charles Dickens classic ‘Oliver Twist’, and by stark contrast this January painting the ‘Munchkin Village’ for their production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

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Each ‘canvas’ is in reality a wall nearly 30 feet x 12 feet in size and is generally the first scene seen by the public in the show. The painting therefore must have impact and be perspectively correct or the audience won’t immerse themselves into the performance.

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Another key feature is to lead the eye, relatively easy when a yellow brick road is involved, in order to give the painting a 3D effect and make the stage appear bigger than it actually is.

To add fun for the junior members of the cast who join us once a year for the pantomime, I always hide a mouse somewhere on the painting and this has become a signature over the years.

The art lessons I have received have improved my painting and drawing skills and this latter painting received much praise.

Having gained the reputation as the group’s artist and photographer, I also design the posters used for the show, photograph the final dress rehearsal, take costume portraits of the cast and also film one performance and create a DVD so that the cast and crew can see how the show looked from the audience’s perspective.

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