Posted 04 February 2019
Interview by Indi Davies

How illustrator Peter Judson’s murals brightened up a building in Bloomsbury

When agency That Thing contacted illustrator Peter Judson last year, they had 60 metres and nine floors of bare stairwells to fill. Working for student accommodation company, Scape, Peter was commissioned to create two site-specific murals and bring his bright and bold aesthetic to the building’s innards in Bloomsbury. To do so, he put one foot in front of the other, and literally walked a mile in students’ shoes to capture elements of the surrounding area. Taking photos and visually interpreting them in his signature style, the result is a collaged amalgamation of recognisable local touch points. He takes us through his part in the plan, navigating not only the local area, but construction sites, surveys and the occasional crossed wire to deliver the project late last year.

Project Background

That Thing’s office is close to a couple of large scale, site specific projects I’d done previously; one for the Hoxton Hotel on Blackfriars Road and the AMV BBDO offices on Southwark Street. They got in touch in early May to ask if I was available and interested in doing a version bespoke to a site in Bloomsbury for Scape Student Accommodation.

There was a pitch involved but I wasn’t part of it. As is often the case with design agencies, various artists are pitched to a client and then an agency will get in touch to see if I’m available.

We swiftly landed on a concept, which was an adaptation of a previous project I did. In this case, the building was to become student accommodation (mainly for international students), so the idea was to reinforce the identity of the area and aid the memories that they would be creating whilst they are here!

Photos from the site during construction

Exploring the Local Area

At the start, the agency were working on building the brand identity, so they shared the influences they had been looking into. We also visited the site whilst it was under construction to get a feel for the scale and nature of the building, and how the murals could be interacted with.

It was then down to me, to explore, research, document, and draw the ruddy thing! As the concept was about absorbing and referencing imagery from the surrounding area (especially that of the journeys the students would be taking) the majority of my research was done on foot exploring the area.

Some of Peter's photographs

Collecting Imagery

I went on numerous trips, circling on maps which universities were in the local area and attempting to mimic the journeys the students would be taking on a daily basis. I took hundreds of photographs of anything and everything that caught my eye, with the odd additional trip to museums, coffee shops, shopping areas and local stations. The result being that, hopefully, the students would stumble upon the imagery from the mural in real life.

In terms of tools, I used my legs, a camera, computer and a Cintiq tablet. All of the drawings were based entirely on the photographs that I took. The visually creative bit was collaging all of these drawings into compositions that would marry and flow within the two spaces.

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Translating local touch points into graphic elements

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Translating local touch points into graphic elements

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Translating local touch points into graphic elements

Local motifs translated in Peter's style

Communicating Progress

The agency was primarily responsible for communicating with the client and making sure that they were happy with what I was getting up to. I presented two routes to the client, both with the same route concept but visualised in quite different ways.

I only met with a client representative on site visits during construction, so it was mostly the design agency who would relay my progress to the client. Generally, I was sharing progress every week or two weeks. Luckily, as the initial routes were quite well fleshed out, the project didn’t really change course at all. Later on I was responsible for meeting up with and communicating with the install team to make sure they had everything they needed to put the piece up as it was designed.

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Mural close-up

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Mural close-up

The Install

I worked quite closely with the install team, as there had been some confusion on the dimension side of things; communicating through both an agency and a client things meant things were getting a little muddled.

The execution was a bit jumpy as there were numerous issues with the various surveys. Plus, I couldn’t work that intensely without accurate dimensions, so the install took a few months overall, but the majority of that was organising site visits with the construction company and production company.

Mural excerpts
Mural excerpts

Final Delivery and Thoughts

We finally delivered assets accompanied by a super-imposed version of the site survey.

Looking back, I think communication was the biggest issue on this project. If I was to do it again I’d want to be working directly with the production company (ideally one that I had a previous relationship with). Communicating through both the design agency and client meant that things took longer than they needed to, and became confused along the way.

The client seem pretty chuffed, so that’s the main box ticked. In terms of the public, I should be doing a talk to the students soon to chat through the project and get their feedback, so we’ll see what’s what on that front.

Inside the building
The finished work on the building walls
The finished work on the building walls

Interview by Indi Davies
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