Weston Donkey Art

Early in 2010 Lynne agreed to be one of the local artists painting or decorating one of forty life-size models of a donkey for charity. These were to celebrate the opening of the new Grand Pier and were to be auctioned in November to raise money for the RNLI and Children in Need. (Due to the delayed opening of the Pier, the auction was held sometime in 2011.)

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Lynne decided to decorate the white-primed fibre glass donkey with a design inspired by the ‘Metamorphosis’ work of Dutch artist M. C. Escher, who was a master of optical illusions and impossible perspective.

Escher’s work, shown here, involves a grid system of objects which gradually change shape, with the spaces between them forming different objects — so that moths “morph” into birds, while the background shapes between them form fish. Studying his work and discovering the complex difficulties in doing a similar design has left Lynne with a very healthy respect for his genius.

Lynne experimented with various objects associated with Weston, but it had to be those which formed other shapes between them, and fish and birds were the only suitable shapes which would interlock in this way.

She used a fish shape to accentuate each eye of the donkey and pointed shapes to fill any spaces, forming stripes on the legs and waves/cloud shapes on the sides.

The background was painted first in deep violet, then each shape was given a base colour of orange, blue or lilac. Finally all the shapes, hooves, mane etc were painted with pearlescent or metallic top colours.

The shoals of orange/gold fish down the left side (with background bird shapes between) change to the background violet across the chest so that, on the right side, the violet bird shapes become flocks of blue birds (with fish shapes between), ie, the chest gives the key to the puzzle.

This “hard edge” design was particularly difficult and took so long to paint because the edge of each bird is also the edge of a fish, so every shape had to be painted precisely up to (not over) the line, otherwise the other shape would be distorted.

On top of this, because acrylic paint is rather transparent, each colour needed four to six coats, finished with five coats of varnish overall.

Her design time was not recorded, but Lynne spent over 200 hours painting the donkey, mostly evenings, spread over four months. This included renovation work on the eyes which were both damaged, but are now as good as new.

Lynne’s donkey was sponsored by Weston Mercury and was on display in their Boulevard office before being auctioned.