Burke and Hare mural, Hotel du vin, Edinburgh.


Here’s a painting I completed some time ago. There’s a few technical aspects of how the painting was put together that I thought might be worth sharing:

It’s a mural I painted on canvas for the Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh and is one that I think went seamlessly from concept to finish. I did put quite a bit of work into the research for historical accuracy (the painting is of Burke and Hare, the notorious body snatchers of Edinburgh of the 1830’s). The design for the image came together quite quickly – I did a few initial very rough sketches, then worked up a presentation sketch for the client to see. This was accepted  with a few minor changes and I decided to add another character to help the narrative of the painting a little.

Burke and Hare mural, Edinburgh

The canvas is first painted blue and then underpainted.

The hardest part was to try and get the night time look of the painting. It took quite a bit of trial and error to get the lighting right for the photographs I took of the models (friends and family – I’m the corpse in the wheel barrow!). I used blue acetates on my studio windows in the end, to bathe everthing in blue light and then lit the figures with a halogen work lamp. Once I had got all the photographs, I put them together in photoshop and then used this as the basis for reference for the final painting. There were a couple of night paintings I found that were spot on for the colours, so I tried to keep my palate close to these while I was painting it up.


Burke and Hare mural detail

After a basic underpainting in a dark blue the final painting is started


I used a dark blue ground for the painting to try and force myself to paint a bit more ‘alla prima’ as by nature I tend to paint in glazes. I find this makes the work a bit more immediate and also speeds the process up. The blue helped too with the general tone of the painting and gave a good contrast for the warm streetlighting.Burke and Hare finished mural detail

Finished mural

Adding the final touches to the finished mural

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