News | 26 January 2024
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Mural brings students' imagination to life in Island Bay

Pōneke based artist Greta Menzies has a knack for illustration – often turning shapes into creatures full of patterns and colour. Now, she has used her creativity to design a 99-metre long mural inspired by workshops with senior students from Island Bay Primary and St Francis de Sales for a laneway connecting their schools, between The Parade and Clyde Street.

Person standing infront of a mural with colourful images.

How did your career start as an artist? 
I studied textile design because I thought it would be a good mixture of fashion and illustration, and since then I've been freelancing doing all sorts of things like illustration for fabric, digital and print. It felt like the natural progression to paint since murals are just one big illustration! 

I’ve done a few murals so far, like the one at San Fran Bar, some walls around Lower Hutt and Wellington, and a few cafes, but this is by far the biggest outdoor mural I’ve worked on. 

Yellow creature pained onto a fence.

What do you enjoy most about painting murals? 
There’s something magic about turning something tiny into something massive, and the public engagement that comes with it. It's really fun. There's a little bit of performance art because you're chatting and getting inquiries the whole time. You never know who you're going to meet. 

Compared to when you’re working in private and indoors, you have external factors, and it can be tricky when the weather isn’t quite right or you get distracted talking to people.   

Person painting a mural wearing a jumpsuit.

Tell us the story behind the mural. 
The mural is in-between Saint Francis de Sales and Island Bay School and they share a walkway, so Council set up workshops with each school to find out what the students wanted to see. I love teaching and have done a few workshops with kids, so it was great to share and hear their ideas. 

I told them that when I come up with my own work, I like to just draw and see what comes out of it, but also have a big white board session where we just come up with a big word cloud.  

We talked about what Island Bay means to them, what they see in the suburb and on their way to and from school. In the end I had this insane word cloud from the two schools, plus a stack of all the fun drawings we did together.  

From there, I interpreted their ideas and made them come to life. We got a whole lot of chat about dog poo and ice-creams, so that’s why there’s a massive pink poo on the mural and ice-creams throughout.  

Another key thing was capturing the vibe of the community, and I was luckily able to use the Island Bay Community Centre as a place to rest and have my lunch while I worked. It was a great way to get a feel for the awesome people who live there! 

In the end, this mural took close to three weeks to paint. The focus was on the ends, but with the help of some awesome assistants I ended up getting all 99 metres painted– it was a lot!   

Pink creatures painted on a fence as part of a mural.

What is the process behind painting a mural? 
I’ve always enjoyed drawing creatures, and don’t really know what’s going to happen when I get started. 

They're fun because they start as a shape, but I don't know what it’s going to look like till the end. That’s how I like to work, with less parameters.  

When it comes to putting it on the wall, you can draw up lines and make it a grid, like in colouring books. But this mural was different because there were about six different surfaces, and if I designed something then the textures of the wall made it move and look a different way. I basically pencilled it up without a grid, spent a few days drawing with a pencil and then painted it in with brushes. 

Person painting a mural on a fence.

What made this project special to you? 
Someone said to me that this work would become a core memory for some of the kids, and I hadn’t really thought about that. It’s so special to see though because you do remember your walk to school when you’re a kid and now they’ll be able to see their own ideas come to life through the mural. 

I said to my friends when I was painting that if you want to restore your faith in humanity, just do an outdoor artwork in Island Bay because everyone, even little kids, are so encouraging. It was a stream of constant positive affirmation. I loved the conversation and telling people that not only was the mural going in, but Council is doing work to enhance the area through things like installing more lighting – people were delighted. 

I’d like to say a thank you to everybody who gave me beautiful affirmations, and I hope the kids enjoy what they created.  

The idea and placement of the mural came from the working group for the village upgrades. This group prioritised creating a sense of place, working with the local schools, and celebrating the unique character of Island Bays' arts, diversity and environment.  The mural was funded by the village upgrades as part of the Long Term Plan 2021-31 Small Centres Beautification Budget. To find out more about the Island Bay village upgrade on our website