“The Bedminster Dream Tree” is the ninth installation of “Project: 100 Dream Trees”, and located in the neighborhood of Bedminster in Bristol, United Kingdom.
This mural was created during my participation in Upfest, Bristol’s renowned street art festival, in May 2022.
Find it here: 131 North Street, Bristol, United Kingdom.
(If it’s not been painted over yet, of course!)
Welcome to Bedminster!
South of the Bristol city centre, across the River Avon… Bedminster is an artsy neighbourhood — home to Upfest and plenty of street art!
Unfortunately I’m no historian… but I did sign up for a free walking tour of Bedminster hosted by M Shed (Bristol’s social history museum)… but it got canceled 🙁
BUT there is a Bedminster exhibit in M Shed, and here’s a little bit of information from one of the write-ups:
“People have lived in the area now known as Bedminster for thousands of years. There were once Roman settlements in the area. The population exploded in the 1800s as industries such as tanneries, glue-works and glass factories moved in. During this time many churches, public houses, shops and businesses were built to serve this new workforce. The rows of Victorian terraces built at the time have recently become popular with more affluent families and the area is changing fast.”
When I return to Bristol, and finally get to go on that walking tour, perhaps I will update the content here then…
For now, let’s keep reading on!
How This Mural Came About
In early 2020, I began to consider street art festivals to continue installing Dream Tree murals around the world.
I applied to Upfest’s open call… and was accepted!
And then… the pandemic began, and the festival was postponed from May 2020… to indefinitely…
Until this year (2022), when the corona has become closer to our usual flu virus, and travel and the world has started opening up again.
My initial plan was to paint a Bristol-inspired mural, but the more I explored the city the more I felt there was so much to Bristol that wouldn’t all fit into just one mural.
Plus after visiting the M Shed and learning about some of Bristol’s neighbourhoods and their unique characteristics and vibe (Bedminster included), I decided I would create this mural with Bedminster as my muse.
Designing the Mural
Just six weeks before I arrived in Bristol, I bought my iPad and Apple Pencil, and decided I was going to learn digital art in Procreate, which I believed would be valuable tools in designing my subsequent murals.
Before Procreate, I’d try to draw on paper and make it proportionate to the actual wall size… but because I can’t zoom in on paper, I couldn’t put a lot of details into the mural.
And it was difficult to visualise how the mural would turn out, until I was standing designing directly onto the wall itself…. which sometimes takes a full day’s work on its own.
But with Procreate, it was a refreshing change to be able to draw directly onto the photo of the wall itself!
It still took me awhile because I wasn’t too used to Procreate yet, but it was definitely more helpful than my previous way of working.
Until I decided to colour this design in… and after three hours I kinda gave up on it because it was taking far too long to figure out…
PLUS I realised I was getting way ahead of myself — I didn’t even know what paint colours were available at Upfest’s office LOL
So I decided the uncoloured sketch was a good enough place to start, and the rest of the details I will just figure out along the way while painting the wall itself.
After all, a large part of the fun for me is the flow and spontaneity of ideas from the creative higher powers, and getting inspired while being physically in the neighbourhood itself.
Transferring the Sketch to the Wall
With my black and white sketch, it was enough to use Rone’s Doodle Grid method to transfer the design to the wall.
And it was my first time using this method on a mural! (I had tried it on a canvas painting once, and it’s really useful!)
Basically, you make random markings or doodles all over the surface you want to paint:
(I basically just freeflowed whatever random thing came to my mind. And I used purple because it’s the colour of the sky, so I figured it would be covered up anyway… and that was my first mistake LOL)
Then with the photo editing app, Snapseed, I superimpose my sketch… with some adjustments because I wanted the tree to be “higher up” on the wall.
With the superimposed photo image, one can now copy the design using the doodles as a guide.
I used grey paint to “sketch” in my mural design… which was my second mistake, because I couldn’t see the grey lines against the purple.
My boyfriend (2-week-new relationship at the time!) helped me to do some editing, so I could see my actual painting lines:
1. Use a lighter colour for the doodles, one that can easily be covered up by the rest of the mural colours.
2. Use a darker colour for transferring the design onto the Doodle Grid.
Basically, I should have used grey to doodle in the grid, and purple to sketch out the design.
I wasted time in the end repeatedly painting over the purple doodles on the lighter areas of the mural, such as the yellow clouds (including the top part of the tree — yes that’s a cloud!), and the foreground areas.
Ah well… as I’ve learnt from my artist friends in one of the residencies I attended in 2019 — “You live, and you learn!”
A Closer Look at Bedminster
Time to take a closer look at the places in Bedminster which are in the mural!
Let’s look at the larger panel first, where the Tree is.
This one features landmarks you may find around North Street, one of the major streets of Bedminster.
The Six Sisters & Bedminster Bridge
Starting from the Tree itself — it’s kinda of merged with or “growing out of” this row of similar buildings informally known as The Six Sisters, which kinda mark the “centre” of North Street.
(I had to do a panoramic shot to capture all Six Sisters in one frame… which resulted with turning a passing SUV into a smart car that has only two wheels LOL)
I also painted in penguin-ified versions of the Six Sisters’ murals, installed by various artists during previous years’ Upfests.
The third “sister” from the right — the pale blue one — houses Upfest’s office and gallery, and thus marks the entrance into this Dream Tree.
And like most of my Dream Tree murals, a yellow brick road leads into this Upfest doorway (or cave, or tunnel, depending on how you see it).
This particular yellow brick road crosses the River Avon via the Bedminster Bridge — the gateway to Bedminster from Bristol’s city centre.
According to what I learnt, there are two main streets (where all the shops are) in Bedminster — East Street, and North Street.
Because of my mural’s location on North Street, this area then became my inspiration.
But I’ve walked down East Street a few times, so I know you’ll see similar kinds of everyday scenes — people (and penguins) walking their dogs, grocery shopping, getting around on skate scooters or bicycles, going for romantic walks with their significant other, waiting at the bus stop… and praying that it doesn’t get cancelled at the last moment… which happens so often in Bristol (as I’ve learnt within my first week here).
And of course… people hanging around outside and having picnics on the rare days when the sun decides to shine.
Street murals are a common sight in Bristol, and North Street (and East Street) is home to many murals, usually painted during Upfest.
One of my favourite murals was Insane 51’s woman-skeleton on the side of the old Tobacco Factory… which was (sadly for me) painted over during Upfest this year:
Here (on the left) is my penguin version of this mural, along with two penguin artists spray painting away:
Just diagonally in front of the blue street art wall, you’ll see a group of five penguins on a picnic.
This was inspired from an evening two weeks into my time in Bristol, when my boyfriend invited me to Bath to hang out with two of his friends (a married couple) for dinner.
(And somehow one of the husband’s colleagues became the fifth wheel, and was asking us for feedback to improve his Tinder profile LOL).
Nonetheless, it was a fun evening with pizzas and beers… BUT I don’t drink, thus the purple penguin lying on its back has an orange soda.
(It also has a slice of cake, because I was thinking about having cake. Hmm… when do I ever not think about cake… Ok let’s move on! LOL)
I’ve already shown you this photo of Insane 51’s blue mural, but this time I’m gonna be talking about this red building:
According to a write-up I found about Bedminster during my visit to M Shed:
“Many of Bedminster’s most iconic industrial buildings have been transformed. Architect George Ferguson purchased the Raleigh Road Tobacco Factory in 1995 and created a theatre, bar, restaurant, work spaces and apartments.”
I forgot to take a photo of the building from this angle, and this is the best one I could find where I (probably) won’t infringe on anyone’s copyright…
So if you’d like to see more photos of this beautiful building, feel free to Google “Tobacco Factory Bristol”.
Ashton Gate Stadium
This isn’t exactly on North Street, but it’s close enough…
And this isn’t exactly how the whole stadium would look like… but it’s the best photo I could get standing on my own two feet and without a drone camera.
This is the entrance to the stadium, and if you’d like to see what it looks like from an aerial POV (and my reference photo for this landmark in this mural), click here.
The Ashton Gate Stadium is home to two sports clubs — the Bristol Bears (Rugby Club), and the Bristol City Football Club.
Put all these inspirations together, and I’ve painted an aerial view of the stadium, as well as two penguins just outside of it — one dressed as a Bristol Bear holding a rugby ball, and one dressed like the red-breasted bird in the Bristol City logo, with a football/soccer ball at its feet.
What’s in the Dream Tree?
Taking a pause from Bedminster landmarks…
The Dream Tree is basically a home for the Dreamers, and this Dream Tree has three levels.
The left-most level shows two penguins in bed — because penguins (and people) everywhere go to bed at night (or at some point during the day, depending on your schedule). I typically paint a sleeping scene in my other Dream Trees too!
The middle platform features the Music Makers — a common sight in most of my Dream Trees, simply because I love music, and self-expression and connection through music!
They are also very apt for Bristol, because of the lively and active music scene here.
And… on the right-most platform… guess who inspired these two penguins??
LOL, it’s me (artist) and the boyfriend (programmer)!!!
(And there is one more place we appear in the mural, perhaps the most meaningful and romantic scene for me… read on to find out!)
Coming back to this picture below, do you see the train tracks on the right side?
Above these train tracks, I’ve painted some of the houses typically seen in this area…
… inspired by this row of Victorian terrace houses, somewhere in Bedminster.
A Love Story Begins…
ANNNDDD… do you also see those two penguins eating on a bench?
Sooo… On my third day in Bristol, I decided to be sociable and go for this art exhibition in a pub, organised by Drawing Club Bristol Meetup group.
I arrived early enough when it wasn’t that busy yet, I walked in trying to be all gung-ho and ready to mingle, and I started feeling awkward because I didn’t know anyone… and it seemed like everyone was already talking to someone… Sigh… I can never figure out how to join in without feeling like I’m intruding lol
BUT!!!! … I decided that I better start talking to someone — ANYONE!!! — otherwise I may chicken out and just leave. (yes, this has happened many times in my history)
So I see this freakishly tall guy (I’m 1.59m high and most people tower over me anyway)… and he was looking at the art by himself… This was my chance!
On a whim I asked him, “Are any of these your work?”
He seemed kinda stunned. He said, “No.”
I asked, “Are you an artist?”
He said, “No.”
But thankfully he continued to say more things, and I said more things, and we said more random things… then we remembered we were at an exhibition, and went around looking at the art together… then we got hungry and went to get chicken wraps from a nearby shop…
And so we sat on a bench beside the pub entrance, eating our wraps, and kinda slowly falling in Like with each other LOL
We went on our first date two days later, and have been together since (as of writing this blog).
This didn’t take place in Bedminster, but I wanted to put it in the mural anyway, because he has been a big part of my Bristol adventure, and also my occasional assistant for this mural haha.
The Other End of Bedminster
Follow the train tracks and go past the doorway…. to the other side of the mural!
These are the landmarks on the other end of Bedminster.
Bedminster Train Station
Bristol has a local railway system, and Bedminster is one of the stops.
The green train was inspired from a picture I saw at the train station:
And I also saw this really cool mural at the entrance to the train station:
Windmill Hill City Farm
A stone’s throw from the the train station is the Windmill Hill City Farm.
Once again, we shall hear from the write-up at the M Shed exhibition:
“This was the first city farm to have been set up outside of London. It was established in 1976 by a group of local residents and volunteers. Today the farm’s educational and recreational facilities, gardens and adventure playground are visited by over 200,000 visitors a year.”
Here’s the yellow reception building at the farm’s big gate entrance:
I’ve added in the windmill from their logo, to make this landmark more obvious to viewers (and I think it also looks more interesting like this!):
And I’ve also painted in some of the animals I saw when I visited this farm: sheep, cows, pigs, chickens…
(I also saw turkeys and goats, but I think I forgot about them when I was painting this scene LOL)
The Windmill Hill City Farm is open to the public and there’s no entrance fee, so do pop by and check them out when you’re in Bristol!
Victoria Park & Totterdown houses
Victoria Park is a huge park that marks the very edge of Bedminster.
When you walk across the park, you’ll find yourself entering the next neighbourhood — Totterdown.
On the right side, below the slide and swing, I’ve painted this orange circular thing, to represent a maze-like structure I found in Victoria Park:
This water maze was built in 1984 to commemorate a water pipe that supplied fresh water to many families across Bristol.
Apparently it used to always have water flowing through it, but it was too expensive to keep that going. So now you can only experience that when it rains heavily.
Behind the trees on the right side of the above photo — those colourful houses mark the beginning of Totterdown.
(Coincidentally, when my boyfriend and I met, he was living in one of these colourful houses in Totterdown, so I’ve also spent some time there. And after the nights I stayed over, it was easier for me to walk over to North Street to continue painting the mural.)
The colourful terrace houses of Totterdown are an iconic landmark and view of Bristol. Find out more and see more pictures of Totterdown here.
Painting the Mural
I started work on 13 May, and it took a grand total of 49 hours of painting over 10 days to complete this mural.
There were some challenges to painting this mural.
Firstly, the unpredictable UK weather LOL!
It just so happened that during the time I was working on this mural, all the nice weather was on the weekends.. which is when I’d be hanging with the boyfriend (since he works regular office hours).
On the weekdays, the weather ranged from sunny and cool, to rainy (at times), and for a few days it was grey… and terribly windy. There were a couple of days it was so windy that I couldn’t set up my tripod to record the painting process, because it kept toppling over every few minutes.
But the real trouble with relentless winds when you’re mostly standing in one spot outside… is that my body got cold real fast.
See how wrapped up I am — poofy jacket and scarf and hoodie and all!… plus see how my hair is like flying around? BRRRRR…. this was torture for two days!
The second challenge was having to watch out for passers-by, as the pavement isn’t that wide, so I had to quickly learn to look both ways each time I wanted to take a step back to look at my mural.
Which also meant I had to watch out for passing vehicles too, because a narrow pavement means I may step back onto the road if I’m not careful LOL.
To see all 49 hours in just under 6 minutes, check out my speed painting video on YouTube:
Upfest Day 1: 28 May 2022
So… the final day comes around, and I was supposed to have completed this mural three days before… BUT old habits die hard, and I somehow ALWAYS end up rushing at the last moment.
(This last-minute thing has happened for most of the earlier Dream Tree murals as well LOL…)
Anyway, this day started with the boyfriend and I meeting with the Drawing Club Meetup group to attend the Festival together.
We had met at 11am, and took a stroll down North Street towards Greville Smyth Park, where the main festivities of Upfest were.
There were many people moving along the same way as we were, stopping to see and take pictures of the new murals that were up, and the artists who were doing LIVE painting at their wall space.
Impromptu Mural Presentation
And as we walked along North Street, the Meetup organisers stopped by my mural and announced that this was my work, and before my nerves kicked in, I jumped forward to give an impromptu presentation.
Can you see how the penguins in the smaller panel have not been painted yet? LOL..
This was my first time presenting an unfinished Dream Tree, but it is what it is… “You live, and you learn!”
(Hopefully my next Dream Tree will be completed at least a day before the deadline LOL… we shall see!)
We continued walking down North Street, and eventually arrived at Greville Smyth Park.
There were boards set up everywhere, and hundreds of artists were painting LIVE on those boards, with many more people sitting around and enjoying the artistic atmosphere… and the sunny warm weather, of course!
Here’s a video so you get a feels for the vibes:
My Unintentional LIVE painting
After lunch, I returned to my mural, and did 3 hours of LIVE painting to finish it.
I had been a little apprehensive about this, because there wasn’t much space on the pavement… and I generally have performance anxiety in front of a large audience…
BUT it turned out to be an exciting 3 hours of people walking by nonstop, people gathering around to watch, and ask me questions, and make comments…
And I overheard some interesting conversations with the boyfriend, who was “working” as my P.A. — Pen Activator!
(His job was to shake the Posca paint pens that I was gonna use next, and also feed me snackssss :P)
Autographing Kids’ Sketchbooks
The most surreal part — a number of kids approached me with their sketchbooks, asking me to doodle something for them and to sign it.
Video of me autographing a girl’s sketchbook:
I was so stunned each time it happened, because I’m a nobody, not famous or a big deal, and yet to these kids I was like a celebrity.
(Just my perspective, of course. Could be it was their parents who told them to go around collecting autographs from the artists and the kids think it’s just a fun game LOL)
But each time I paused and chatted with my audience, or glanced at them, or signed a sketchbook… I couldn’t help but feel that as much as I feel like an imposter, what I was doing was somehow inspiring to them in that moment…
And maybe in that moment somebody thought to themselves, along the lines of: “If she can do this, maybe I can do something like this too.”
And that could make all the difference to them.
And I guess that’s good enough of a reason for me to keep going in this journey, no matter how “not good enough” I feel most of the time…
(So for once it seems my procrastination tendencies have led to a positive outcome for all parties LOL)
At around 6pm, I put in the last few strokes on the mural… and it was done!!!
I asked the boyfriend to take a photo of me with the mural… to which he gestured to me to pose more… ahem… expressively (for lack of a better word), and I kept shaking my head, but he just stood there waiting for me to do it.
Then… it just so happened this hen do (British for “bachelorette party group”) was passing by, and they stopped to let me take the photo.
And I was like waving at them to keep walking, but they saw what was going on… and one started to chant, and the rest chimed in:
“Do it! Do it! DO IT! DO IT!… OMG JUST DO IT ALREADY!!!!!!”
(What can I say… Peer pressure works!)
I did it. And I guess I will always remember this moment now.
And also this moment:
We took our second wefie ever with our painted selves:
(My bae is shy to appear online, but he is cute! <3)
Let’s Make A Dream Tree Together!
If you’d like to collaborate and install a Dream Tree in your neighbourhood — anywhere in the world — chat with me at email@example.com
Watch the Painting Process — Sped Up!
Once again, here’s the process video for this mural — 49 hours over 10 days… in just under 6 minutes!
9 Dream Tree murals complete, 91 more to go!