Monday, December 8, 2008

London Skyline Canvases

I finally managed to finish this series of three canvases depicting the London skyline. I know it's not accurate - I used quite bit of artistic license to position the landmarks where I wanted them.

When positioned together as shown they are about 7 ft wide

My studio (garage) has been freezing of late so I made any tiny excuse not to venture in there to complete the painting.

On the plus side we have been given planning permission to extend the house and covert the garage in a studio - this means lots more upheaval next year but there is now light at the end of the tunnel (it's still a long tunnel though..)

Also as an addition to my lifeguard training and examination I have passed my First Aid at Work examination. I have been lifeguarding at Basildon & Wickford pools as well - including a session at 5:30 in the morning (not one I wish to do that often).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back Spasms & Lifeguarding

It's been an eventful couple of months. I have not been 100% of late - mainly due to a injury to my lower back. I stupidly done the damage whilst trying out my new maul axe to chop up some firewood ready for winter - I used the wrong posture and coupled with the large swing of the axe it was a painful combination.
The trouble with these sort of injuries is that it takes a little while for it to hit you so after chopping up the wood I felt fine.

The following day my back felt a bit sore but otherwise OK. I then went down to the riverside near our home to find some more firewood - I couldn't believe my luck when I found a whole tree trunk & happily dragged it back to our back garden and set to work on it with the chain-saw.

I paid dearly for all this the following morning - a Monday morning (I hate Mondays). My spine was completely twisted out of shape, I had to walk on tip-toes as I was not able to put my feet flat to the floor, it took me about half an hour to dressed and then another half hour to get my shoes on (I may be exaggerating). I was in a lot of pain though and truly believed I had slipped a disc.
Luckily my father-in-law was able to drive me to the doctors where I was informed that it was a muscular injury rather than a slipped disc - this came as a great relief. All I needed to do was to keep walking to ease the pain and help the muscle to repair itself. Gradually I was able to straighten up after a few days although it did have a habit of relapsing again. It did mean that I had to turn down some commissions, especially one that involved scaffolding over a swimming pool, so that did frustrate me a tad.

A few months before my self inflicted injury I had volunteered to be a lifeguard for my son's swimming club and my training started whilst I was recovering - swimming however is probably the best medicine for my back and has worked wonders.

The training involved CPR, first aid and water rescue skills including timed swim rescues and spinal injuries. I passed Unit 1 of the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) on Sunday 23rd at Harold Wood, Essex. Unit 2 will be continually assessed over a minimum of 7 hours training to make sure I can apply the skills from Unit 1 successfully in a work-related environment.

It basically means that when I take my son swimming I can now be pool side rather than sitting on the badly designed spectator seating which really aggravated my back.

Don't worry - I am still painting and have nearly competed a series of three canvases with a London skyline. I will post the pics up soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blast from the Past

Ok - this is an interesting painting of mine with a story attached.

I painted this mural as part of an art project many (many) years ago.
Back then I was a student at the Southend-on-Sea School of Art & Design doing my one year Art Foundation course.

The premise behind my project was to produce a work of art with indications and symbols referring to the year it was painted. It was then to be concealed with the intention that it would be re-discovered many years later and would be able to be dated by deciphering the clues.

I painted it at my home in a heiroglypic style and used a lot of the Egyptian symbolism as well as make up a few of my own to fit the bill. It probably only took me about half an hour to paint.
Once finished I photographed it for my project (to prove I had painted it) and then it was hidden away behind a few layers of lining and wallpaper.

And then I just forgot all about it.

Six years later I got married and moved out and then in 2004 my mother sold the family home to move into something smaller.
Then about 15 months ago the house came onto the market and my wife & myself took the plunge and went for it.
Now I am back in the home that I grew up in with my own young family.

This all brings us neatly full circle to that art project many years ago.
I am now in the process of decorating our office and have stipped off all the layers of paint and wallpaper in the room to reveal my heiroglypics painted nearly half my lifetime ago.

I do wonder though what someone else's reaction would have been if they had discovered these symbols hidden beneath the wallpaper.

As for the year in which I painted it - the clues are all there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long Distance Trompe L'oeil

Over the last few days I have been helping a distant student paint a trompe l'oeil mural as a surprise for her husband.

I say 'helping' but Diane, from Newfoundland (Canada), has proved to be a very capable artist and despite my interfering she has produced this wonderful stone arch window for her stairwell wall.
Diane also painted an Australian Galah Bird perched on the window sill.

I'm so glad I was able to help - Diane had originally ordered my books to help her in completing the project but when she realised that they would not turn up in time she got in touch with me.
She gradually worked on the mural and emailed photos as the painting took shape - I was then able to make suggestions to help the mural along.

I have also just heard from Diane who informs me that her husband was very impressed with her trompe l'oeil - she was very worried as to what his reaction would be - but how could he not be happy with such an artistic surprise.
Diane also gave the mural a more personal touch by adding the date 1958 chiseled into the keystone - the year they were married.

Thank-you Diane - you are an inspiration

x x

Thursday, October 9, 2008

More Glow in the dark stuff

I'm still playing with those glow paints (actually I should say 'working' as that sounds much more professional).

I painted this a couple of weeks ago onto an MDF panel - I thought it would be fun to try something a bit OTT and seeing as I've already done stars, planets, moons and comets I thought I'd try my artistic hand at the Big Bang !

I have also just completed a bedroom ceiling for one of my daughter's school friends. He came upstairs to see me whilst I was halfway through - it must have seemed odd because yesterday was bright sunshine and I had darkened his room with blackout material to help me see what I'm doing (trust me - that makes sense).
He was concerned about the paint getting in my eyes and insisted I wear a pair of his goggles to protect me :)

My next project is for a London skyline painted across three canvases and I will be using some of the glow paint so you can have both a day-time & night-time scene on the same painting. It is all experimental but then that's what art should be about - wish me luck.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Gordon Collett, my associate & partner-in-crime on "DIY SOS", will be at the Windsor Contemporary Art Fair at Royal Windsor Racecourse on 7th - 9th November.

Here is a link to the website

He will have some new work on display & for sale including this fantastic "pop-up" corner trompe l'oeil piece based on Van Gogh's sunflowers.

If you are at the show, please seek him out and be sure to tell him I sent you - that way he will owe me a pint or two.

In case you haven't already seen his website you can find it here -

Saturday, September 20, 2008


If you missed the show you can see it here -

DIY SOS Gosport

Gordon & myself turn up about 16 minutes in.

Friday, September 19, 2008

DIY SOS Murals

Now the show has been aired I can post the photos of what Gordon & myself painted.

Gordon painted a fantastic trompe l'oeil statuette in the corner of the dining room. This is a style I have yet to try myself - it is very effective as you can tell from the photograph.

I painted the stone-blocking although Gordon did chip in and help with the highlights. On screen the effect was too subtle for the wider shots although close up it looked fine. It blended into the room rather than shout for attention.

The dinosaur was actually sprung on us at the last moment by the lovely Julia. We did consider Barney the Dinosaur but the copyright and lawsuit implications were a minor concern. In the end we opted for a cuddly dino who is definitely not Barney (or purple).

Gordon painted the dino - I did the trompe l'oeil bit with the missing block & cracks. I think we managed to paint it in about 25 minutes - our time spent on "60 Minute Makeover" had paid off.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

DIY SOS Murals & Trompe l'oeil

The long wait is over and I can at last tell you that the DIY SOS episode featuring Gordon & myself will be on your screens (for those of you in the UK) on Friday 19th September at 8:30pm on BBC1.

I thought you would also like to see a group photo of Gordon & myself with Nick Knowles, Julia Kendell & the rest of the DIY SOS team.
Some of you may recognise Julia from ITV1's "60 Minute Makeover" - as I mentioned in a previous post - Julia was the featured designer on the three shows that Gordon & myself participated in last year.

I have also been busy updating my website and there is now a section devoted to Star and Cosmic Ceilings.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Star Ceilings Forum

As you know I have been experimenting with those glow-in-the-dark UV paints and I have found this fantastic forum which is overflowing with advice and techniques for painting your own star ceilings.

If you have ever wondered how those star and cosmic ceiling effects are achieved then have a look at It isn't rocket science to get these effects but it is great fun.

I also thought you would be interested to see a photo of a glow-in-the-dark planet & stars with the light on.

Here it is -

And this is the same painting with the lights off -

Monday, September 1, 2008

Patricia's Palette

Patricia Buzo is another mural & trompe l'oeil artist based in Minnesota, USA. Please have a look at her blog at and also her fantastic website at

It was after seeing her blog site that I decided to start up my own

- thanks Patricia.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More Star Ceiling Murals

I have been busy experimenting with those glow-in-dark UV paints so I thought I'd show you a couple of recent effects that I have tried out.

At some point I will have to update my main website with all these new images - I have noticed that there are a lot of companies offering these glow-in-the-dark UV star ceilings so its probably about time I threw my hat into the ring.

Let me know if you have any ideas for a star ceiling effect and I will see if I can paint it & post the picture up here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


It shouldn't be long now before the DIY SOS program that features Gordon Collett & my good self is finally broadcast - keep an eye on Friday evenings on BBC1. I will let you know as soon as I have a definite date and will fully understand if you would prefer to watch another channel that evening :)

The show was recorded back in March in Gosport, Hampshire. We were brought on-board because we had both worked before with Julia Kendell (the new designer) on three shows for ITV1's "60 Minute Makeover" last year (see my website for more details).

I usually dread watching myself on television - mainly because of my Essex accent and the fact that filming usually coincides with a bad hair day. For most of the filming I probably looked a bit of a wreck but on the plus side I was in very good company.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Glow in the Dark Murals - Star Ceilings (revisited)

As I mentioned in an earlier post I have finally pulled my finger out and painted my son's ceiling with UV glow in the dark stars & planets.

I started at about 8pm last night but didn't actually start painting till gone 10:30 - this is because I have to make sure that any surface that I do not want painted has to be covered.
If you look at the photos you will see that some of the paint is splattered on and this tends goes anywhere & everywhere. All the walls needed to be covered with plastic sheeting & the floor covered with dustsheets.

Once this tricky part is complete the easier & more enjoyable bit of painting the planets & galaxies can begin.

I didn't finish till after 1:00am and went to bed aching & exhausted but I was positively glowing and if my wife had woken up at that point she would have got the shock of her life.

Photographing the ceiling posed another challenge - I set up my camera on a tripod because of the long exposure needed, lined the shot up, charged the ceiling with a UV light and then clicked the shutter the second I turned off the light. I managed to get just two reasonable photos in the end and they still fall far short of the effect of seeing these star ceilings in the flesh.

Now I am thinking of ways I can combine this type of effect with my murals and trompe l'oeil work. If you think of any good ideas let me know.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Students Work

I thought you all would be interested to see some of the work that my latest students have produced.

The first piece is by my daughter Hannah and depicts her favourite subject matter of blue skies, green meadows & yellow flowers.

The second piece is by my son Adam and is entitled 'Gary'. Anyone who is familiar with 'Spongebob Squarepants' with recognise the famed sea snail in a rather psychedelic portrayal.

I am without a studio at present (due to moving house) so these masterpieces were painted out in the garden using the trellis as a makeshift easel. They also had to be finished in some haste as the weather decided to take a turn for the worse and it has pretty much stayed that way over the last week.

Things are in motion to rectify the studio situation and hopefully I will have something to report soon.

I look forward to continuing my mural & trompe l'oeil classes again as they were extremely enjoyable (not to mention hard work).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Glow in the Dark - Star Ceiling Murals

I have just finished painting the ceiling in our daughter's bedroom with glow in the dark galaxies & stars. I recently saw the effect on BBC1's DIY SOS (which I will soon be on) so decided to give it a try myself.

To my surprise the effect is quite astonishing but unfortunately my daughter will not appreciate the full effect until the nights draw in as it is still daylight when its her bedtime.
My wife & I did wake her late in the evening so she could see the stars but in the morning she could not recollect anything - oh well, roll on winter.

Our son is now very keen to have his ceiling painted - it was my intention to do a glowing star ceiling in his old room in which I painted a space/Dr Who theme but then we went & moved house.
At present he has Winnie-the-Pooh wallpaper which hardly bodes well with an eight year old boy's tastes in interior decor.
His ceiling is smooth as opposed to artexed like my daughter's so I am planning something a bit more ambitious and will keep you posted on how it goes - hopefully with some photographs.

Oh, and just a word of warning if you every get the chance to use these UV paints - keep them away from children !
They are non-toxic so no worries there but my son was curious about the paints and decided to open one to have a look. This fact was unbeknown to us until we tested the ceiling at night by charging the paint with a UV lamp and found that not only did the ceiling have stars & galaxies but so did the carpet, walls and our son's face & hands.

I believe that is known as a 'smoking gun'.

Monday, July 14, 2008

MiniBeast Mural

Over the last few days I have been helping a group of children from the Rettendon Primary School paint a backdrop for their school production of "Mini-Beast Madness".
The whole mural is about 12ft across and the children have also painted various bugs & creepy crawlies which have then been cut out and attached to the scene.
The mural was installed on the stage wall in the village hall.

For some reason lots of the children opted to paint ladybirds & snails and as all the snails, bar one, were facing the same direction I felt it appropriate for them to be racing each other (as snails do).

This backdrop was the second one the children painted - the first was started outside in the playground and, despite our weighing it down, the wind suddenly picked up & caused quite a mess with spilt paint.
Mark two was painted inside as soon as we managed to commandeer a suitable area to work - beng a small school of about 100 pupils space is scarce, especially when painting a 12ft mural.

I tend to help out at the school a couple of times each year with various artistic assignments from painting castle windows to garden design.
I am also keen to introduce the children to perspective drawing in due course - I just need to break it down into manageable chunks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Hello and welcome to my new Weblog.

My name is Chris Westall (or Christopher if you prefer) and I am a muralist and trompe l'oeil artist based in the commuter town of Wickford, Essex (UK).
I work on all kinds of large and small commissions for businesses, shopping centres and restaurants as well as for private homes. My website has an extensive portfolio of work so I'm sure you will find something that is to your taste.

If you care to indulge me I will tell you more about myself.
I was born in the County town of Chelmsford, Essex, United Kingdom in the year the Beatles split up.
I was passionately into art at an early age - I used to enjoy drawing my own comic strips and throughout my school years I delighted my friends and peers by drawing caricatures of the teachers. Fortunately, to the the best of my knowledge, the teachers concerned never traced the drawings back to me.

Although I loved drawing from a young age I kept clear of paint brush. Painting, as far as I was concerned, was very messy, difficult to correct and involved lots of tedious clearing up. I found the whole thing pointless and would avoid painting in my art classes with a vengeance.
Luckily my art teacher managed to twist my arm and showed me the light - otherwise I would not have got through my O' and A' Levels and more than likely would now be working as a retail manager or financial advisor which were two alternative career paths I ventured down.

There is loads more I could tell but it would take too long to put into words - and besides, it would mean I would have less to write about later on.

My intention with this weblog is to keep you all posted on what I am working on, maybe with insights into my painting techniques. I may even try some step-by-step projects as I did for my two books "Trompe L'Oeil Interiors" & "Trompe L'Oeil Bible". I'll have to see how the mood takes me.

But realistically this blog will probably be full of inconsistent ramblings intersected by the occasional rant and for that I would like to apologise now in advance :)