Sandtex Trade High X-posure Smooth Masonry has been specifically formulated for use in harsh environments, but few decorators use it in areas quite as exposed to the elements as those being painted by artist and signwriter Colin Seal.

Colin is one of a group of artists from the Sheringham area who are collaborating on an ambitious project to transform the town’s stark and plain concrete sea defences into an unusual open air ‘gallery’ of murals and sculptures. The project has been commissioned by community regeneration partnership Sheringham Plus.

Using a specially devised Sandtex Trade exterior coating system Colin is creating a series of four maritime and natural history murals to liven up the sea walls of the windswept (and often sea-swept) east and west promenades. Three eye-catching seascapes have now been completed, depicting a massive underwater wreck, shoals of fish, playful seals and other colourful sea creatures.

The exposed location on the sea front and the ‘distressed’ condition of the concrete made Colin’s choice of decorative coatings a challenge. Indeed, he was advised by many to give up the idea of painting the sea walls because his artwork wouldn’t stand the test of time. Refusing to accept this negative counsel, Colin turned to Crown Paints Specification sales manager Paul Maine for expert advice. Paul visited the site, listened to Colin’s plans and drew up a detailed Sandtex Trade specification for the project, convincing the artist, and Sheringham Plus (who controlled the budget), that it was achievable.

The age and condition of the sea walls called for a number of actions to be taken before any decorative coatings could be applied. The worst areas of spalling concrete needed to be repaired using Portland cement, SBR bonding solution and Grade M sand. Paul recommended that the numerous small cracks across the surface should be raked out and filled with Sandtex Trade Easiplast, a high performance water repellent polymer modified repair mortar.

The whole area would then need to be pressure washed to remove all loose materials, and treated with Sandtex Trade Fungicide to remove all the algae and other organic growth disfiguring many areas of the artist’s ‘canvas’.

Paul also advised that a coat of Sandtex Trade Stabilising Solution should be applied across the entire area to control the suction of the surfaces and provide a sound base for the decorative coating. He recommended two coats of Sandtex Trade High X-posure Smooth masonry for the artwork because of its excellent weather resistance. The BBA certificate for up to 15 years durability gave Colin reassurance that his murals would stay intact and the availability of over 2500 tinted colours meant that his colour palette wouldn’t be restricted in any way.

At the end of July, work commenced on the first and largest of the sea walls measuring 100 feet long and 29 feet high at one end tapering down to 8 feet high at the other. Attracting lots of interest from passers-by, Colin followed the specification provided and carried out all the preparatory work on the substrate. When the time came to apply the Sandtex Trade High X-posure the Sheringham public wanted to get involved and the project really evolved into a community event. Under Colin’s guidance, eager volunteers were allowed to help with the paintwork, with the artist also included some of their suggestions for the content of the murals.

Fortunately for Colin, the weather conditions along the east coast were favourable during late summer and autumn, and by working steadily on every fine day, he managed to complete three of the planned murals before packing up for the winter.

“I’ve had a great time working on this project and it’s really captured the imagination of the public,” said Colin. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even the preparation, which had to be done very thoroughly because of all the algae and the poor state of the concrete. The Sandtex Trade products proved very effective and I was particularly impressed with the stabilising solution which sorted out the porosity of the bare concrete and gave me a really good base to work on.

“Once that was all done and I could start painting, it was plain sailing. Norwich Crown Decorator Centre mixed my Sandtex Trade High X-posure in all the different colours that I wanted and I got stuck in. I can really see why professional decorators like using this paint. I found it went on beautifully and I enjoyed working with it. I’d certainly use it again on other outdoor art projects in the future. It’s living up to its tough and durable reputation too. Children have been very excited and enthusiastic about the paintings, climbing and walking on the surface to be able to touch the birds and sea-life and “be” a part of the picture. It hasn’t made a scrap of difference to the appearance!

“What I’m most pleased about – even more than the quality of the paint – is the help and advice that Crown Paints have given me. Everyone thought I was crazy wanting to paint murals onto such challenging substrates and in such an exposed wind and sea swept location. But Crown Paints have made the project possible, showing me exactly what needed to be done and guiding me towards a great Sandtex Trade system that has delivered excellent results.”

Colin’s work on the Sheringham seafront will resume next Spring when he will complete one more large mural and twelve further decorative panels. His artworks are complemented by cold cast bronze sculptures and giant cold cast bronze lettering by Mitchell House and wooden sculptures created from quality recycled sea defence timber by Tony Eadson.