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The Unexpected Journey of The Hobbit Door on Belle Vue Island in Great Malvern

In November 2021 I painted a Hobbit Door on the Belle Vue Island in Great Malvern. Malvern Hills District Council commissioned the work with permission from Western Power as it is their door. Here is the full story of how it arrived there.

The Idea is Planted

In May 2018 Rick Banbury, a fellow well dresser who heads up the Malvern Well Dressing Committee said 'Hey Phil, can you paint a Hobbit Door on that black door under the Belle Vue Island in Great Malvern overnight without anyone knowing'.  I said with a grin 'Yes I can. Not being seen might be a problem - have you got access to one of 'The Rings'? Fun as it would be I think it might be a good idea to get permission from someone, whoever that might be, as I'd like it to be there for a bit longer than overnight'. As neither of us had access to the rings we decided it might be better to get permission.

Victoria Carman the Visitor Economy Officer at Malvern Hills District Council who promotes The Malverns and, particularly important for us as well dressers, the Malvern Well Dressing in May as part of The Malvern Water Festival, took up the challenge and ably got permission for the door to be painted.

And so the Unexpected Journey began.

The Painting

After several applications and meetings the project was agreed and I was given the honour of painting the door. As it was November I was looking for a window of milder dry weather so the rain did not in interfere with the paint. I had a gazebo ready however the light is very much restricted when it is erected. I arrived on the Thursday morning to find that although the door had been cleaned there were still a lot of residual limescale from the water seeping from the island behind. I set to with a well know toilet cleaner and finished the prep work that day.

There is always some trepidation when I first start on a large project. This was in full view so I had some added pressure. It always feels as though a I have never painted before, it's the time when the hours of painting and honing techniques shines through.

Two coats of primer followed and then I drew the door out in pencil. Using string and pencil to get the circle perfect.

The surround came first. In my mind was the scrimming of signwriters. Base colours went on and then came the first painterly part.

The grain of the wood went on wonderfully and I was happy to have made a good start.

The surround finished off with the lighter wood effect as a door jam.
The base blue went on and then the detailing of the wooden panels.

Once I had worked out the light for the mouldings the basic form took shape. The wood had to look distressed. I tried to do this wet into wet or wet into still tacky then let it dry and added the final strokes. The louvres on the doors were a bit tricky to get all the paint in ad to not make them too out of place, but it all worked out ok. A bit of time and patience and it all falls into place.

The hours I have spent developing techniques doing A Painting A Day helps with all the texture work. Any research and practice on any techniques of painting help immensely.

I had been undecided about the handle and how to incorporate it into the painting.

Eventually deciding on a wooden surround the show off the original chrome handle as the actual handle. Some more distressing of the panels and it was complete.

The window was fun do. I used the natural shadows of the sun to echo the bars of the window to give it depth.

After about a week I had finished it. I let it sit there for a few days before I decided whether I needed to do any adjustments. It felt ok so I signed it, which took ages, it always does. It then had two coats of varnish and the work was complete.

There were some lovely conversations with passers-by. Always fun to talk about a passion. One of the people was Aleksandra Moore who was just setting up the Malvern Bakehouse, we have become great friends and I often sit in the 'artist's chair' in the window of her bakery and draw, talk, drink tea and eat treats.

I had so much fun in the middle of Great Malvern seeing how the town breathed and the comings and goings of posties, shopkeepers, shoppers and tourists. Always enjoy the shout of 'Oi Phil, ya missed a bit'. Talking to children was wonderful and their joy that the Hobbits were safe inside asleep waiting to come out when I had finished the door for them.