When Julie Beech accepted a commission to create her largest and most prominent public artwork to date, Sandtex Trade Flexigloss X-tra enabled her to fully express her creativity.

London-based artist Julie was recently asked to transform a 20-metre high ‘tower’ at Ambler School and Children’s Centre in Islington into an eyecatching yet tasteful feature to cheer up the environment and project the school’s diverse range of educational, social and outreach services.

Julie’s proposed design featured large and friendly characters and a colourful interlocking jigsaw design set against a sky blue background to symbolise Ambler’s fully integrated nature.

Creating the design on the drawing board and gaining the school’s approval was straightforward. Translating a small-scale drawing onto a huge ‘canvas’ was another matter. For the first time in her 20-year career Julie had to negotiate full-scale scaffolding in order to bring her artwork to life.

The second challenge was to source a reliable, long lasting exterior coating system suitable for use on the metal cladding, which had been previously coated with plastisol. “I’d never painted on exterior cladding before or created artwork so exposed to the elements,” said Julie. Obviously I wanted my work to stand the test of time so I had to be sure the paint system would remain intact and completely colourfast in all weathers.”

Julie was also very concerned about colour choice: “I wanted to use a broad colour palette and I was concerned that in order to get the right quality of paint, I might have to compromise the design because of limited availability of colours.”

She needn’t have worried. Taking professional advice from a number of quarters, Julie learned that once the metal cladding had been suitably primed, Sandtex Trade Flexigloss X-tra would meet all her performance and aesthetic needs.

“Flexigloss was perfect, said Julie. “The primer undercoat and gloss coating works together to create a film that stays flexible and doesn’t crack or flake. This was really important for metal that expands and contracts. I was also reassured by Sandtex Trade’s performance and colourfastness claims, and by the system’s BBA certification for 8 years durability.”

What really pleased Julie however was the sheer number of colours available: “I was able to have Flexigloss X-tra tinted and mixed to order in over 2500 different shades and hues at my local Crown Decorating Centre, so I was able to choose the exact colours I needed.”

Once the scaffolding was up Julie began work on the tower, hiring high-pressure spray equipment to apply Crown Trade Alkali Resisting Primer onto the cladding. The tower was then sprayed again, this time with a coat of white Sandtex Trade Flexigloss X-tra Primer Undercoat.

The next step was to mark out a grid on each elevation, again using Primer Undercoat but this time in grey. As Julie explained: “I needed these guidelines to help me scale up the design correctly and achieve the correct proportions and positioning of the individual elements.”

Julie then dispensed with the spray equipment and turned to brushes to paint the sky with its wispy clouds, the pastel jigsaw pieces and individual figures in darker bolder colours.

Although the weather was unkind and made the job last a little longer than planned, Julie had no problems or complaints as far as the Flexigloss X-tra system was concerned: “The primer undercoat was easy to apply and had great coverage. The gloss finish went on beautifully and I only needed to use one coat on the pastel elements as the opacity was so good. And, from an artist’s point of view, I simply could not have asked for a better colour palette to choose from. I was very pleased with results and would have no hesitation in using this paint system again.”