LARGE SCALE ARTWORKS FOR GRANGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
(Commissioned by Studio Response)
"We saw in Katherine’s drawings a warmth, texture and intricacy that we felt would translate well to the context of this commission. Katherine fully grasped the brief and the complexities of working at the scale required for large clinical and public areas. She ensured that her work was site specific by referencing local landscapes and the subtle pops of colour that draw the eye but don’t overwhelm the artwork’s serenity.
The artworks have been very warmly received and we would be more than happy to work with Katherine again."
When I was commissioned to create two bespoke drawings for the walls of the maternity ward at the Grange Hospital in Cwmbran, I was delighted. I was even more excited when I heard that Studio Response would be turning my drawings into six-metre long prints.
I was approached by Studio Response who thought my pen and ink art would be suitable for the maternity unit. They liked the warmth of the drawings and felt the textures were reminiscent of a baby's blanket.
Studio Response and the team in the maternity ward wanted a water-based theme for the birthing pool walls and the corridor that adjoins it. They came to me with a few ideas: willow trees along a river, and the view of a pond within the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board geographical area.
They asked for the artwork on the adjacent wall to be a continuation of the waterscape, and asked me to include a white stork. The landscape would be printed on magnetised wallpaper with lily pads and willow leaf magnets, featuring the names and dates of babies born in the birthing pool. They also asked for blue colours to run throughout the artworks with a peppering of yellow.
Creating the pen and ink art
Based on this brief, I carried out some research into the local Welsh landscapes which informed my sketch proposal (image included above). My proposal was based on the Cwmbran boating lake and the Afon Lwyd – which is the river that runs through Cwmbran. I chose distinguishing built structures from these to work into the design and anchor the landscape around.
The intention behind the first panel was to depict the Cwmbran Boating Lake. The second panel was based on Llanyrafon Manor, which sits along the river in Cwmbran. The third drew inspiration from the Afon Lwyd Weir and bridge (at Pontymoile).
When it came to the fourth panel for the corridor, I proposed something a little different. I thought the storks could be prominent within the landscape itself. I also suggested drawing them in the style I use for animals and birds – outlined shapes with tiny detailed patterns.
The client agreed to my proposal, so I grabbed my pens and got started.
All four panels were tied together with the same style, colour scheme, water and patterns. The drawings are built up in layers with water, trees and bushes in the foreground and the wider landscape in the background. I was able to keep the blue theme running throughout and I added pops of yellow within the flowers and bills of the storks.
Creating this Welsh landscape art came with its complexities
The project threw a few challenges my way. Throughout the development, I had to consider the trunking within the hospital room and how to work around that. To overcome this, we decided to break the drawings in line with these fixed elements on the walls.
A further challenge was considering the size of the drawings, knowing they would be turned into large scale pieces of art. From early on, we took great care to ensure we had a process of scanning the drawings at a high enough resolution to make them large enough for the walls.
I also had to consider how the original pen and ink drawings would be presented, as the hospital wanted to frame these and display them on the ward.
Despite these considerations, it was a wonderful project, and everything worked out well. I loved seeing the drawings coming together and going up on the ward corridors. It was also a lovely way for me to link my bird drawings to the surrounding landscape and place them among local architecture.
The final design:
As inspiration, I drew on nearby bodies of water and fairy-tales of storks delivering babies. Storks are also significantly important in the UK, as after 600 years, they have recently been reintroduced in a successful breeding programme at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex.
The backdrops of the drawings reference Cwmbran boating lake, and locations along the Afon Lwyd river. The 450-year-old Llanyrafon Manor also features, as does the Afon Lwyd Weir and bridge at Pontymoile.