Wednesday 9 October 2019

Jog On Mural

I have a new mural in The Centre MK called Jog On. This joins the one I painted last year there called Going Backwards. Very soon after painting Going Backwards, I was asked to submit pitches for further murals to appear on hoardings on vacant shop units. I submitted a few featuring a fictional locally based super-hero called Muscle Mum. I thought that if my artwork was going to appear on multiple hoardings then this was an opportunity to create a locally based myth, a Marvel Universe of characters and ideas set in Milton Keynes, which was very appealing to me. Unfortunately, these did not appeal to the management of the shopping centre.

Determining what the City Centre management would like was difficult. Going Backwards is quite dystopian I feel and, after only a surprisingly minor adjustment to my original submission, they accepted that. Muscle Mum, and my other pitches, were more broadly appealing, I thought, and yet they were turning those down without explanation, or explanation that I saw. Meanwhile, I continued to be encouraged to pitch by my contacts at the MK Fringe. Because creating each pitch is time consuming and I was starting to run low on ideas, I decided to re-work an old series of strips of mine, called Jog On, distilling the set down into six frames.  I surprised myself when I saw that editing the strips down in this way worked. I redrew the frames, making the jogging-character look more generic and less like me, and sent in my latest submission.

I never received a reply. Instead, six months later, I was asked to submit again. This time, I explained that I was yet to receive a response to my previous pitch, and I received a reply saying that, with some minor adjustments, Jog On has been accepted.

The work on the mural took place over three nights between September 29th and October 3rd 2019. Once again, I was helped by Simon Wright of the MK Gallery who had helped me on Going Backwards. We need to work during the night because we project the original image onto the hoardings to paint from and this, obviously, would have been an obstruction to shoppers during the day.

It's amazing to me that my comic-work is appearing in a public space in this way, and a commercial space as well. I’ve lived in Milton Keynes for nearly forty years and the City Centre has often felt like a mile-long obstruction for the locals to navigate around instead of being a town centre in which we can congregate and involve ourselves in.  Everyone I have interacted with regarding these two projects from The Centre MK to the MK Fringe staff and volunteers has been helpful and supportive. I’ve spent most of creative life longing for my work to be mass-produced and experienced by the masses; apart for some appearances in Viz, this hasn’t happened in print yet but, when you consider the huge annual footfall that The Centre MK has every year and the prominence of my two murals there then, actually, I may be responsible for the most largely consumed English-language comics of recent years.