In his 22 years managing the Plymouth Crown Decorating Centre, Bob Walls has helped thousands of painters with their projects, but never anyone quite like Wyland, the internationally acclaimed marine life artist and conservation advocate from America.

Over the past 25 years Wyland has been raising awareness about marine life conservation and global water issues through his ‘Whaling Walls’, a series of 100 murals – some as large as a hectare – in more than 70 cities throughout the world. The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth was the venue chosen for the 97th Whaling Wall in the series – the only one in the UK. Wyland planned to paint an eyecatching underwater scene on a 150m² ‘canvas’ on the outside of the building and he needed plenty of paint, tinted and mixed to a very precise palette of colours. Bob and his team at the nearby Crown Decorating Centre in Exeter Street were delighted when they were invited to become involved in the project.

Because of the high profile nature of the artwork and the exposed location of the building on the Plymouth seafront, Bob called in local Crown Paints specification consultant Richard Roberts to visit the site and provide a product specification. Within 48 hours Sandtex Trade High X-posure masonry paint had been recommended for the mural because of its superior durability, adhesion and colour-fastness, and because of its suitability for coastal locations where salt and sea spray are a constant concern. Richard had also advised on preparatory Sandtex Trade products and procedures to ensure that the substrate was in pristine condition.

A four-day period had been scheduled during which all Wyland’s work at the aquarium was to be completed. This was to be followed by a special dedication ceremony at which BT Team Ellen and record-breaking yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur were to be VIP guests. A great deal of planning had gone into this high profile event and it had to go without a hitch. As the start date grew ever closer Bob was on stand-by at the Crown Decorating Centre, ready to start mixing paint to match Wyland’s exact colour palette.

Only at the 11th hour did the colour references arrive at the Decorating Centre, but unfortunately they were not in the format expected. All Wyland could provide were American paint colour recipes, which Bob was unable to work with. Luckily, he was able to call the paint colour specialists in the Crown Paints labs in Darwen for help, and they obliged by rapidly converting all the US colour references into Sandtex Trade colours that Bob could mix in-store.

Wyland was anxious to have his paint delivered to the aquarium but, as an American visitor to the UK, he had not bargained for bank holidays and store closures. Once again Bob came to the rescue, opening up the store specially on May Bank Holiday, spending several hours at the colourzone counter mixing 29 gallons of paint. Most of this was Sandtex Trade High X-posure for the external artwork, but Wyland also needed several packs of Crown Trade Vinyl Matt (luckily in BS colours) to paint a second smaller mural inside the aquarium building. When all the paint was finally mixed, Bob loaded the van and delivered the paint direct to the site so that Wyland could get a head start and make the most of the fine weather.

Both murals were finished on schedule and the dedication ceremony took place as planned on 10 May in front of assembled VIP guests, members of the public, press and TV cameras. As an invited guest Bob was able to see for himself how Wyland had used the Sandtex Trade High X-posure and Crown Trade Vinyl Matt to great effect and declared that it had all been worthwhile.

Crown Decorating Centres national operations manager Robert Wood was not at all surprised that the Plymouth branch manager had ‘pulled out all the stops’ to make sure Wyland had everything he needed to get his Whaling Wall completed on time. He said, “This just goes to show that Crown Decorating Centres are willing to go the extra mile for customers and that they really do offer a fantastic standard of service. It’s also a great example of how the branches are able to call upon their colleagues in Crown Paints whenever they need specialist advice and support. We are really proud to have helped Wyland with this particular project but you don’t have to be an internationally acclaimed artist to benefit from our superior standards of customer service. Put us to the test and find out for yourself!”