Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo!


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Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo - Ingrid Sylvestre North East Artist Giraffe Artist
'Nextra-terrestrial' giraffe - finished before varnishing - in the giraffe house at Colchester Zoo
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I have just been working on one of my most exciting projects ever!
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This year is Colchester Zoo's 50th birthday and to celebrate the Zoo has launched Stand Tall for Giraffes, a mass appeal large scale public art event. For 12 weeks during the summer, Colchester's streets, parks and open spaces will be taken over by 2.5 metre high giraffes! Artists have been commissioned to create designs to go on each giraffe, and I was overjoyed when my design 'Nextra-terrestrial' was selected.
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The giraffe house - my  wonderful 'studio' at Colchester Zoo while working on Stand Tall giraffe sculpture 'Nextra-terrestrial'
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My stay in Colchester, which is over five hours train journey from Durham, was very pleasant indeed. I booked in at the Red Lion Hotel in the town centre - a marvellous historic building with the original wooden beams, great character and atmosphere, wonderful friendly staff and fabulous food.

My 'studio' was at the Zoo - in the giraffe house itself! Never would I have imagined I would be creating a work of art on a giraffe sculpture in the presence of real live giraffes!
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Giraffe artist Ingrid gazing in awe at the giraffes outside from the window of the giraffe house, Colchester Zoo!
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The giraffe sculptures are created from fibre glass and mine was waiting for me, ready primed in white.
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Nextra-terrestrial - Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo
Primed with white and ready for Ingrid to paint with the design  - 'Nextra-terrestrial' giraffe sculpture Colchester Zoo
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The window beyond the sculpture looked out to where the giraffes were during the day.
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The back of the giraffe house, Colchester Zoo with one of the giraffes. Ingrid's workspace was just inside the window over the giraffe.
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My workspace was situated overlooking the giraffes when they came in at tea-time. I had step ladders to reach Nextra-terrestrial's high head, and a sign was positioned telling the public that I would be working there.
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Nextra-terrestrial - Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo - first layer of paint
Ready to be watched by visitors to Colchester Zoo - 'Nextra-terrestrial' giraffe sculpture with her first pink layer of painted design
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I couldn't wait to get started on my design! Time was at a premium as I only had from Tuesday to Friday to paint the sculpture, and my design was quite complex, featuring a scene from my Giraffe World in Camelopardalis constellation, with Necky Knoll House and its inhabitants and their friends!
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Nextra-terrestrial - Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo - first layer of paint
Ingrid has painted the first stage of her design in pink acrylic paint. You can see Necky Knoll House, the hedge and some of the giraffe characters emerging!
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First of all I painted the main components of the design in pale pink. I used artists' acrylic paint, which went very smoothly over the primed surface.
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Nextra-terrestrial - Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo - detail of first layer
Close up of Necky Knoll House and its steps in pink acrylic paint
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The familiar landmark of Necky Knoll House appeared, with its steeply curving front steps.
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Nextra-terrestrial - Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo - 2nd layer
Next Ingrid has added yellow to the design picking out the highlights on the knolls
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Next I added yellow to the designs, picking out the highlights on the knolls where the Camelopardalian sun shone! The lower part of the giraffe was painted in yellow ochre mixed with white, for the drive area of Necky Knoll House.
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Ingrid Sylvestre Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo
Giraffe artist Ingrid Sylvestre working on her Stand Tall giraffe 'Nextra-terrestrial' at Colchester Zoo, with a giraffe in the background!
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Painting a coat of pink on the neck, I realised I was being watched by the giraffes! The giraffe house had a very distinctive smell, which permeated all my clothes. Pleasant - a little like riding stables, but much stronger.
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Giraffe at Colchester Zoo looking at Ingrid's Stand Tall giraffe Nextra-terrestrial
This giraffe seems intrigued by Ingrid's giraffe sculpture!

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Nextra-terrestrial - Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo - detail emerges on back
Detail emerges on Nextra-terrestrial's back. A winding path curves between the knolls.
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Working on the details on Nextra-terrestrial's sloping back and neck, I stood on the ladder to shape the stars.
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Stand Tall for Giraffes artist Ingrid Sylvestre at Colchester Zoo
Ingrid Sylvestre giraffe artist appropriately clad in giraffe patterned top and belt!
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The head received a coat of blue paint over the pink, which I gradually changed to magenta lower on the neck, delineating the stars.

The audience of the multitudes of visitors to the Zoo appreciated that I wore giraffe-patterned clothes! I love interacting with the public while I work, and everyone was so interested in seeing the characters and hearing about their lives and adventures. Talking to people does slow down the painting process, but it is such an important part of creating public art and so immensely enjoyable.
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The hedge around the garden at Necky Knoll House is added
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It was now time to add the hedge which runs around the perimeter of the garden of Necky Knoll House. Working on a three-dimensional 'canvas' shaped like a giraffe was challenging and needed to be planned so that each area had interest, and looked good from all angles.
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The shadows on the sides of the knolls appear
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Adding the shadow sides of the knolls gave a 3D effect and a sense of rhythm to the design. I used process blue for this, instead of the ultramarine blue which I had used on the head and upper neck. (To save carrying too much weight on the train, I purchased most of my acrylic paint in Colchester at Tindalls art shop, where the staff had kindly ordered the colours I needed).
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Giraffe character Necky Becky  and her neckshund dog become clearer as detail is added

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Giraffe artist Ingrid Sylvestre painting Stand Tall for Giraffes sculpture
Ingrid adds giraffe pattern detail to the trees. Are those giraffes on the back of her jacket?!

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Highlights are added to the hedge, creating mysterious shapes and the knolls look swirlingly rounded
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I worked on creating the happy yet mysterious atmosphere of Giraffe World, with its ethereal light on the knolls. Visitors enjoyed looking at the hedge and imagining all kinds of shapes in it. The music playing in the giraffe house added to the atmosphere - so evocative, rhythmic and joyous.
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Ingrid has started to add giraffe pattern detail to the path that winds between the knolls on Nextra-terrestrial's back
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Designing the imagery for Nextra-terrestrial's back had to accommodate the curves and angles of her neck, and I was pleased with the result, with the path winding mysteriously into the distance between the knolls.
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The early stages of the giraffe characters outlines: from top left, Girth, Necky Becky and Hals the Neckshund, Raph G. Neckmann and Maureen Treeging, Neko and Nexi,  Nukkle and Sgruff of The Stiffnex band
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Here you can see the many giraffe characters I painted on Nextra-terrestrial. (If you click on any of the images on the blog, they enlarge.) These are all characters that feature on Raph G. Neckmann's blog which many of you are familiar with!


Further detail on Neko and Nexi at the front

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Close up of Raph G. Neckmann and Maureen Treeging, with Littl' Nicky brushing his teeth!

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Almost complete - The Stiffnex prepare to play a gig to celebrate!
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Working to a very tight deadline, one always wonders if one will finish on time! It was with a great sense of celebration that I put the final touches to Nextra-terrestrial knowing that I would be able to meet the deadline, completing the work to my satisfaction. I am a bit of a perfectionist and like to do a 'nexcellent' job!
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Nextra-terrestrial - Stand Tall for Giraffes at Colchester Zoo
Stand Tall giraffe Nextra-terrestrial complete and varnished - left side
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The last part of the painting was to add the giraffodils around Nextra-terrestrial's feet. I remembered to add my signature too!
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Nextra-terrestrial by Ingrid Sylvestre - Stand Tall for Giraffes
Stand Tall Nextra-terrestrial giraffe complete and varnished - front
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The acrylic paint dried very quickly in the hot giraffe house, and I was able to varnish Nextra-terrestrial after a short break for food.
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Stand Tall for Giraffes sculpture Nextra-terrestrial by Ingrid Sylvestre
Stand Tall giraffe Nextra-terrestrial complete and varnished  - right side
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I took these last 3 photos on the Saturday morning, while Nextra-terrestrial was being professionally photographed - I was standing to the side so the backdrop is not central, but I think this gives a kind of ethereal 'floating off in space' effect!

It was difficult to tear myself away, and I patted Nextra-terrestrial on her neck and wished her a fond farewell. I'm so looking forward to seeing her when she is on show in Colchester during the summer!

During the painting process I had been far too busy to see the rest of the Zoo, so job complete, I spent the few hours before my train journey home exploring. What a treat! Everything about Colchester Zoo, from the friendly enthusiastic staff and well-cared-for creatures to the interesting layout, the imaginative horticultural plantings and the scrumptious food, is a delight! But best of all is the giraffe house, with its lovely long-necked inhabitants, its atmospheric music and its giraffy smell that still clings to my jackets!
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North East artist Ingrid Sylvestre Giraffe Artist Durham UK
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6 comments:

RuneE said...

This must have been a great experience for you (not to mention the giraffes!).

You have reason to be proud indeed :-)

Mark and Gaz said...

A beautiful and fun work of art Ingrid! Thanks for sharing with us the progress of your work, really fascinating to see how one of the artists go about creating the piece they are allocated with :)

Phoenix C. said...

RuneE thanks! I'm standing tall - and the giraffes did look as if they were enjoying watching Nextra-terrestrial being created! :)

Phoenix C. said...

Thanks Mark and Gaz, I'm glad you enjoyed seeing the work process. I relive the enjoyment every time I see the photos!

Barbara Martin said...

An exciting project, and to be watched by curious giraffes! Very nicely done.

Phoenix C. said...

Thank you Barbara. It was indeed a wonderful experience to be watched by giraffes while painting!