Drawing inspiration from the place she grew up in, artist Rachel Blackwell designed her Worcester Stands Tall giraffe featuring city landmarks.
The 34-year-old, who lives in Malvern, based her giraffe design on an imaginary world called ‘Swirly Whirly Land’ – with well-known places “swirling” across the sculpture.
Swirly Whirly Worcester Land – sponsored by the Royal Porcelain Works – features landmarks including The Hive, Worcester Cathedral and the river Severn.
Miss Blackwell painted a second giraffe for the trail – Touch the Wishing Stars, designed by singer and actress Toyah Willcox.
Find out more about her inspiration and background in our Q&A:
How do you feel to be a part of this project?
Excited and delighted! I have been hoping Worcester would have a sculpture trail ever since I was involved with Birmingham’s Big Hoot in 2015. There is such an inspiring presence to the sculptures when they are in-situ in a city.
Have you painted a sculpture for a Wild in Art trail before?
Including the giraffes, I have now painted 12 sculptures for Wild in Art trails: an owl for Birmingham, a heart for Sheffield, a gorilla for Hamilton, two bears for Birmingham, two Snowdogs for Cardiff, a Nutcracker for Portsmouth, a hare for Norfolk, a bee for Manchester and now two giraffes for Worcester!
Tell me a little bit about your background as an artist
Painting and drawing have always been an important part of my life, as a child you would most likely find me sitting and drawing beneath a tree. As I grew up, I didn’t stop making things. Even when I started working in offices, I would always be doodling whilst on the phone or making little sculptures out of blue-tack to cheer up my colleagues. In my mid-twenties I had the opportunity to go back into education, I chose to study Fine Art Practice at Worcester University. After I finished my degree in 2011, I was determined to create a career doing what I love. So, I began to experiment to find ways in which this could be possible. I have now exhibited my work nationally and split my time between personal projects and commissions. Painting murals and sculptures has become an exciting part of what I do and I have undertaken a variety of commissions for murals and large scale paintings over the years including painting a life size dragon in Malvern Library.
How would you describe your work?
I create cheerful, imaginative and whimsical paintings, which often have more to them than first meets the eye such as hidden animals or fairies. I often base my paintings in a whimsical world called swirly whirly land, an imaginary world often filled with crooked cottages, loopy chimneys, hot air balloons sparkling stars and button flowers! My paintings are often inspired by the landscape of Britain interpreted through a light-hearted and imaginative lens. I often populate my paintings with animals and mythical creatures which weave stories though the landscape. I like to think that this whimsical realm softens the edges of a world that can at times be too sharp.
What inspired your giraffe design?
My giraffe design was inspired by my experiences of living in or around Worcester for most of my life. I began with the idea of parts of the city swirling and spiraling around the giraffe. From this starting point, I considered the many different places and landmarks in Worcester that could be included. I narrowed these ideas down to include: The Cathedral with the Malvern Hills in the distance, the river Severn, the Commandery, the Worcester Royal Porcelain works, the Old Worcester Royal Infirmary hospital, The Hive and the many houses of the inhabitants of Worcester. By choosing these city landmarks, I hoped to reflect both the contemporary and historic life of the city. I also included snowdrops to reflect the symbol St Richard’s Hospice uses for its logo.
What has it been like decorating 8ft tall giraffes?
Painting both of the giraffes has been great fun. Luckily, my studio is just tall enough for the giraffe to stand up in. The most challenging part was working up a ladder to paint their heads.
What are you most excited about for the trail this summer?
I’m excited to see all the giraffes out on the streets of Worcester and finding out how each of the artists has transformed the sculptures in their own ways.
Find out more about Miss Blackwell on Facebook @rachelablackwellstudio, Twitter @racheblackwell or Instagram @RachyFaery