With communities all over the country needing vibrancy and fun during these difficult times, Illumination Wall Art has partnered with Michael Clarke of The Putrid Eye and the amazing Raven Nelson Flower of Sakura Tattoo Newcastle to bring the legend Stan Laurel into the community. This Bishop Auckland Mural Art has brightened up the drab brick walls of the town. Check out the video below for more details.

Illumination Wall Art: Stan Laurel Bishop Auckland Mural Art

Heritage and History Murals

It’s well known by now that our very early ancestors would carve depictions into rock to document their lives and day-to-day happenings. Some of man’s earliest paintings were uncovered in a cave in Spain and are said to be over 64,000 years old.

Often depicting animals hunting and handprints, this is know to be early expressionism. It is graffiti in its purest form, street art before streets were even needed.

With having such a long and fascinating history, the idea that we as a species can preserve our past on rocks is fascinating to me as this tradition still goes on to this very day. Graffiti and street art are more prevalent now than they’ve ever been. The subjects and messages may have changed dramatically over the years, but the need to do it still remains the same.

With the popularity of street art and graffiti growing all over the world, it’s wonderful to see the once sceptical and hesitant members of the community warming to the idea, and choosing to give it a chance.

Illumination Wall Art: Bish Vegas Legal Graffiti Wall (Joe 80)

Bishop Auckland Mural Art: Bish Vegas Legal Graffiti Wall

Bishop Auckland has always been a fascinating place to me. I was born in Bishop Auckland hospital and spent my teenage years studying art at the local college by day and contributing to the underground punk scene by night.

The town has some very colourful characters too, many of which I am proud to say I am friends with. The town also has a wonderful rough and ready D.I.Y attitude that encompasses the community.

This comes with its downsides though, the town has a high crime rate, unemployment and drugs sadly let down Bishop Auckland’s reputation. All of this teamed with the vibrant and often dangerous night life of the 90’s ended up with the town’s nickname ‘Bish Vegas’.

The bottom end of Bish Vegas is where the magic happens. The Smokehouse donated walls two years ago which birthed the Bish Vegas Legal Graff Wall.

A legal graffiti and street art incentive is where like-minded artists and writers practice their craft and encourage each other. This has become kind of a safe haven for practicing artists. The wall has visitors coming from all over the country to paint and look at the outdoor gallery. 

The truly wonderful thing is that this area was once the industrial end of Bishop where World War ammunition was made along with busses, kranes, cars, bicycles and most important of all trains!  

As graffiti is synonymous with trains, it is a wonderful conincidence that Bish Vegas Legal Graffiti Wall is in an area that helped build the first trains. It’s almost romantic in a way that the two are inseparable, almost symbiotic and destined to be together forever.

Stan Laurel Bishop Auckland Mural Art

Although born in Ulverston Lancashire, Stan Laurel spent a long section of his youth in Bishop Auckland. He lived in Bishop with his parents on Princes Street and attended King James School. 

He later went on to work as Charlie Chaplin’s understudy. Stan then teamed up with Oliver Hardy and formed the iconic comedy duo.

With Stan being such a huge celebrity and having an iconic look, it’s no wonder Bish Vegas finds him so inspirational. With Stan’s iconic bowler hat and fantastically expressive face, I knew he would be a great subject to paint on a huge scale.

This would be no easy task though. With this job being so time-limited I knew I had to get help with this project. 

Illumination Wall Art: Painting Stan Laurel 1

Collaborating With Artists in the North East

After acquiring permission from the buildings owner The Smokehouse and getting hold of my favorite blue cherry picker from “Planet Leisure” Dale Robinson I called my friends Micheal Clarke of The Putrid Eye and the amazing Raven Nelson Flower of Sakura Tattoo Newcastle.

Michael Clarke is a fearless illustrator who is always ready to lend me a hand and finds huge joy in helping the community.

Raven Nelson Flower of Sakura Tattoo Newcastle is a fantastic portrait painter and tattoo artist who produces beautiful realism work.

With these two on my side, and the community keeping us motivated and hydrated, this mammoth task wasn’t so intimidating.

Illumination Wall Art: Painting Stan Laurel 2

Painting an Iconic Bishop Auckland Mural

On July the 16th, myself and two very talented friends set out to paint a huge portrait on the gable end of Chester Street in Bishop Auckland. 

As the sun beat down on us in our little blue scissor lift, we were roasted in the uncomfortable 30 degrees heat. However, the mountains of masonry paint dried in minutes, and soon we had primed the whole gable end of the building. 

The two main colours we chose for the background were sky blue and turquoise. These two colours work well together to create an ombre. This leads the eye up the building and compliments the dark grey tones in the back and white portrait. They also coincide with another of Bishop Auckland’s treasures, the football team Bishop Auckland F.C. who wear the “two blues” with pride.

Stan’s image was found online and was projected on to the wall. It was key that we found an image with good contrast and sharp enough detail. This means that it would transfer well onto the highly textured wall and not distort Stan’s features.

Raven broke down the image into simple lines that we could spray on to the wall and use like a stencil much like how a tattooist would work on a portrait.

Illumination Wall Art: Painting Stan Laurel 3

Bishop Auckland Mural Art: Stan Laurel Mural Two Days Later

The following two days with a lot of the heat off us and the cherry picker running correctly, we were able to unload several cans of Loop Spray Paint onto the wall.

The vast amount of grey black and white we used was a great way to cover large areas. It blocked in key areas like Stan’s suit, sleeves and gloves.

Michael Clarke completed the hat. Although he was armed with a long handled roller, he still wanted to take the cherry picker higher and encouraged me to do the same!

After rollering with long pile sleeves the brick work was still rough and ended up patchy. However with several black cans in hand, we soon had the classic bowler hat fully saturated and looking crisp.

By now, the mural was really starting to take shape. The suit, hat and hands were all blocked in and the window boarded up. Raven worked her magic adding the final details and soft shading to the face and hands. This gave Stan the depth and emotion he radiated through his hilarious face. 

To say we were over the moon with this collaboration would be selling it short. I think the three of us worked so well together and had a great time doing it. Although the sun was hot and the days were long, we all worked very hard. In the true spirit of Stan Laurel, we were in high spirits and never stopped laughing over the long weekend.

Illumination Wall Art: Painting Stan Laurel Finished

What Now?

This is probably our most iconic mural yet as it means so much to so many people myself included. However, I think this is just the start. So many small North East towns are full of derelict shops in dire need of brightening up and we would love to help.

We would love to hear from volunteers, to help paint, donate paint and find us funding for more community projects like this.

If you have a building that you would like to donate to our cause please get in touch below, or if you would like a mural for your business, home, or anywhere else, you know where to find us!

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