Watching children delightedly pointing to, or tracing with their fingers, the whales, dolphins, crabs, crayfish, sea anemones and waving seaweed depicted on our seafront wall is one of the pleasures of walking along the Bay. What was once a nothing grey wall at the city-end of the main beach is now a colourful mural of sea creatures found in Wellington Harbour. You feel a spring in the step, just passing it.
Ellen Coup who lives on the Kapiti Coast is one of the team who created the mural some ten years ago, commissioned by the Department of Conservation and Wellington City Council. So she was chosen to repair and rejuvenate it earlier this year, with help from Apo Matapelu who also took the photo of Ellen at work there.
The mural needed fresh-up treatment — filling of a few cracks, re-painting some of the cut-out plywood creatures and removal of the occasional graffiti. Also a plywood blue whale had gone missing from the mural. Found on the beach, the whale went into storage until being returned to Ellen for replacing on the wall.
She took 40 hours in midwinter to paint the original which won a Civic Trust award in 2005. The repair job only took about three weeks. It's a dream 'canvas' for this muralist who has more than a decade working in Wellington. Her works include the rata forest inside Café Rata, Zealandia wildlife sanctuary; the 'Living Cloak' of foliage on the retaining wall of The Terrace; a mural of kakabeak flowers on the WCC Granville Flats and 'Vegetation' on the wall of 1 Rintoul Street, Newtown. The Oriental Bay seawall remains one of her favourites though — it was easy to work on being low, and satisfactorily large and prominent.
Ellen holds a Diploma of Art and Craft Design from Whitireia and has studio space at Shelly Bay Air Force base. She wanted to be a painter when she first graduated and still enjoys painting. She got into murals through what she describes as "bloody-mindedness" and the great sense of accomplishment when an anonymous grey wall leaps into colourful life.
JCD, Bay View newsletter 64, November 2014