Behind The Scenes of Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail – Sneak Peeks, Painting, Hard Work & Fun Stuff!

Only time ALL the ARCHIE Foundation sculptures will ever be all together.

It’s August 2019 and Oor Wullie is back in my life again in a big way. He’s not just taken over Dundee again, he’s conquered the whole of Scotland! Yup, Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail has gone national – with 200 large hand painted sculptures to find, 100s of wee ones and for not just one but 3 charities too. With the strap line of laughter is the best medicine he has been wowing everyone all summer and has just a few days left on the streets before he is off to get ready for his farewell events and auctions.

I’d like to share my sculptures that I created for The ARCHIE Foundation with you and also a bit of behind the scenes fun too from my perspective as one of the trail artists – and The ARCHIE Foundation Art Director. In order to help me tell the story I’ve included are snippets from the interviews I did over the summer with The Courier, Scot’s Magazine, The People’s Friend and The Press and Journal.

I’m going to start with my sculptures. The Oor Wullie sculptures are what all the fuss is about, the important boys that people are travelling miles to see – and the pieces of art that will be raising lots of money for the charities in September. Not everyone’s keen for a big ol read, so this way you’re not gonna have to scroll all the way through stories to see my boys! 😉

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Full O Beans

📍Location: RRS Discovery & V&A Dundee

🌱Sponsor: Aimer’s Coffee & Tea

💛Charity: The ARCHIE Foundation Tayside

👋Farewell Event: Dundee, Slessor Gardens

🤩Auction: Dundee

Full O Beans’ location all summer beside the RRS Discovery is such a perfect spot for him as it brings together Dundee’s past and present, which is exactly what he does in his design too. 

I have a studio space alongside WASPS in Meadow Mill, one of the old Dundee jute mills, and can often smell the amazing aromas of roasting coffee in the air coming from a neighbouring coffee merchant. They are also housed in one of the old mills. I love that these old buildings are still loved and used – albeit for different purposes than for which they were built – so I took those connections as inspiration. 

Using paint I had tucked away after painting my studio as the nod to Meadow Mill I hand painted his dungarees a beautiful shade of teal, the same as my studio walls, and one of my favourite colours – Marrs Green. This is also the world’s favourite colour, with Dundee connections. It’s named after Annie Marrs from the UNESCO team who submitted it after being inspired by the colour of the river Tay. 

His golden hair and bucket(s), which shine so brightly in the sun, are also paints I had squirrelled away. The botanical coffee plant illustrations on his bucket I painted in a vintage style that echoes the history of both our mills. Wullie’s shirt and boots are a rich coffee colour using acrylic paints and his dungarees are adorned with coffee beans – many of which are bronze. The number of bronze beans indicates a particular coffee too – I’d love people to guess what one!

I’ve really enjoyed working alongside Aimer’s Coffee & Tea. They have visited the studio along the way to watch the progress and have been so supportive and enthusiastic. ‘Full O Beans’ even made it up to their mill too for a visit before reaching his summer home outside the ship. 

Here are some photos from his trip to their mill! ☕️💚🌿

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Wullie’s Technicolour Dream Dungarees

📍Location: Eden Court Theatre, Inverness

🌱Sponsor: Press & Journal

💛Charity: The ARCHIE Foundation Highland

👋Farewell Event: Inverness

🤩Auction: Aberdeen

What inspired you for the design of your Oor Wullie sculpture? (Qs by Michelle Henderson, Press & Journal)

My sculpture ‘Wullie’s Technicolour Dream Dungarees’ is all about dreaming and encouraging children to use their imagination. Wullie is sleepy after a long day playing in the park and climbing trees, he’s put on his favourite jammies – his Dream Dungarees and starry night shirt – and starts to fall asleep. His hair turns into the moon and he nods off. Oor Wullie’s Dungarees are covered in rainbow houses and castles and he dreams of all the people who live inside. He dreams that they are playing games and the air is filled with laughter as they tell jokes around the fire. He also dreams of all the animals he saw in the park that day, rabbits and hedgehogs and more…

How long did it take you to complete your design?

Oh my goodness – that’s a tough question. He took days and days, with a few all night painting sessions to get him ready in time. I lost count of the hours. 

Are you happy with the finished product?

Yes – very! He was particularly difficult to paint as there are so many different colours that needed so many layers of paint, especially the yellows. Most trail artists will tell you that yellow acrylic paint is one of the more tricky colours to work with, it can be so translucent. I really enjoyed adding in all the detail, like the thousands of tiny roof tiles and relished in completing the challenge of getting the complex designs to come together in the most awkward places. When you see him, check out the leaves on his bucket and tiles on the rooftops right under his legs – so proud I managed those bits. Ha ha! It’s these little details that people probably don’t think of when they see the sculptures (and the fun secrets to share). 

Where can members of the public view your sculpture?

This sculpture can be found at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness all summer until 30th August. He will be at the goodbye event in September before he goes up for auction to raise money for The ARCHIE Foundation Highland.

What do you hope members of the public take away from your design?

I hope that when children look at Oor Wullie’s Dream Dungarees that they will also imagine who could live in all the little houses. Is there a princess in the castle? Are there children in the wee pink house? Who wrote the sign saying ‘home is where the heart is’? What would their signs say? What animals would they like to see in the park too – a dog? More rabbits? Squirrels? I’d like to think that parents can use this sculpture to start some fun conversations and to spark their children’s imaginations over the summer.

Filming for launch, Dream night at Camperdown Zoo & Pokemon finding

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Peace of Mind

👩‍🎨 Artist: Scott Stewart (Spray Factory)

👩‍🎤 Designed by: WhimSicAL LusH

📍Location: Broughty Ferry, Douglas Terrace

🌱Sponsor: Malcolm Group

💛Charity: The ARCHIE Foundation Tayside

👋Farewell Event: Dundee, Slessor Gardens

🤩Auction: Dundee

Oor Wullie’s calming swirls and colours echo the peace of mind you get when you walk next to the river after a busy day. It’s also one of the things that the Malcolm Group promises to bring its customers – they were the inspiration behind this design.

I enjoyed working with Malcolm Group on this design. The blues are taken from their logistics lorries, gently swooshing as a more abstract nod to their origins.

Scott was amazing to work with, definitely an expert in his field when it comes to his knowledge of paints and spraying and has an eye for detail. He blended the carefully chosen metallic paints beautifully to create a sculpture that has looked magnificent next to the River Tay all summer – especially when there has been a moody sky or two. Peace of Mind has certainly been one of the most photogenic sculptures this summer.

Scott works at The Spray Factory, Dundee. He also created Oor Bronze Boy. I’ve worked closely with The Spray Factory now since the first Oor Wullie Bucket Trail in 2016. They have lacquered so many sculptures for the trails now (including Maggie’s Penguins) that I’ve almost lost count!

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See You Jeemie

📍Location: Everywhere! He’s a wee wanderer and a cheeky wee fella!

🌱Sponsor: WhimSicAL LusH

💛Charity: The ARCHIE Foundation Tayside

👋Farewell Event: Dundee, Slessor Gardens

🤩Auction: Dundee

Here he is! ‘See You Jeemie’ says howdy! 🐭 He is part of a wee troop of oor wee Wandering Wullies.

Oor Wullie heard that he could dress up as anything he wanted for his BIG Bucket Trail and immediately decided to dress up as Jeemie – his wee pet moose!

Wullie’s Maw made him very special furry dungarees and he dug a mousey grey shirt out of the wardrobe to match. He painted some rope for a tail that he pinned onto his dungarees and drew a nose and whiskers onto his face with felt tip pens (not sure your maw will approve of that Wullie!)

Primrose decorated his bucket for him too – so sweet!

His favourite bit of the costume are the huge mouse ears that he made out of old saucers. He’s very proud of them. Well if you’re gonna dress up as your pet moose – go big or go home! Nice one Wullie!

He started his adventures at D.C. Thomson HQ before he headed to the Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail shop in the Wellgate Shopping Centre. Then he was off on his adventures. So far he has been to Rewind Festival, Ardler Library and Olly Bobbins. In September he will be joining me and my mum for Perthshire Open Studios at Tigh Fhada.

Wandering Wullies launch at DC Thomson. Most 📸 by Dougie Nicolson, courtesy of DC Thomson

The Wandering Wullies

These cute wandering Wullie’s are part of the The Archie Foundation Grampian gang of ten little trouble makers who will be out and about in ARCHIE territory for the rest of the trail. They’re not part of the app or map as they don’t stay still for long. When they are chillin though you will probably be able to find them at the ARCHIE Foundation BIG Bucket Trail shops in Dundee, Aberdeen & Inverness.

Wandering Wullies by Paul Cattigan, Anita Inverarity, Joanna Craig, Creature Emporium, Joanne MacFadyen, WhimSicAL LusH, Liam Palermo, Clare Mackie, Abandon Ship, Mark Ireland 📸 Chris Scott

The ARCHIE Foundation Wandering Wullie artists are: Wandering Wullies by Paul Cattigan, Anita Inverarity, Joanna Craig, Creature Emporium, Joanne MacFadyen, WhimSicAL LusH, Liam Palermo, Clare Mackie, Abandon Ship, Mark Ireland

In September they will be up for auction with all their big brothers. These two pictured below at Rewind (by myself and Creature Emporium) will be in the Dundee auction raising money for The Archie Foundation Tayside.

Rewind Festival

Going to a music festival with two lil Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail Wandering Wullies – so much fun! Rewind Festival you were brilliant! 😍

My cheeky wee See You Jeemie had a ball wandering about the crowds with us all weekend, we even got to meet some of the artists backstage too. Was absolutely not expecting to be invited up onto main stage on Saturday though by The Doctor (Dr & The Medics) to shout out the bucket trail! Oor Wullie was much braver than me. Should have let him do all the talking – Never seen so many people all looking at me before! Don’t even know what words came out! 😅😳

Meanwhile Creature Emporium’s wee superstar was chillin’ backstage with all the artists all weekend! He has been signed by some of the biggest 80s legends – including LuLu, Foreigner, Brian Ferry, Paul Young, The Stranglers, Midge Ure, Belinda Carlisle, Toya Wilcox, Lisa Stansfield and the very funny Leo Sayer! 🤩 I reckon his new best friend is now the brilliant Phil Jupitus 🥰 All the love!

Not sure Joanne MacFadyen Jewellery, Emma White, Louise Forbes Design and I were expecting quite so many people to be so excited to see oor boys! Was amazing (and occasionally terrifying having people full speed running at us for photos! 🤣). All the Rewind love for Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail! Did you see us?

Thanks to D.C.Thompson for getting oor boys on the guest list and to the Rewind team for being so fab too!

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How did you develop such a distinct art style and is it difficult to adapt to sculpture? (Qs: Hannah McLaren, Scots Magazine)

Oh my goodness, that’s such a hard question. My early influences were Arthur Rackham, Tove Jansson (Moomins) and Quentin Blake. I absolute love little details, intricate lines and illustrations that tell a story without the need for words. Their work all has those qualities and maybe it has rubbed off a bit on me too?

I don’t find it particularly tricky to adapt my illustrations for different surfaces, it’s a great challenge to design work for specific projects, pieces and spaces. What can be incredibly difficult is getting paintbrushes and pens into all the wee nooks and crannies – this often involves lying on the floor or painting upside down! Painting over very lumpy bumpy surfaces, like Oor Wullie’s hands, to retain a design that was initially 2d definitely pushes your skills. 

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So now for a bit of background chat before I come onto sharing some of the behind the scenes fun as we were getting ready to launch the 2019 Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail.

How did you get involved with the Bucket Trail? (Q: Alex Dempster-Corlett, The People’s Friend)

I was asked to create the very first Oor Wullie Bucket Trail sculpture back in 2016 – which now lives at DCT – and was also the art co-ordinator for the whole project. I was delighted to be asked by The ARCHIE Foundation again this year to continue the trail story as their Art Director.

📷 Paul Glennie

What inspired you to get involved with the Oor Wullie trails?

Back in late 2015 I was approached by the Aberdeen Wild Dolphins artist co-ordinator Mary Butterworth to paint the first Oor Wullie sculpture for The ARCHIE Foundation. I was delighted to be asked and said yes. I was later nudged by a few friends and colleagues to go for the artist co-ordinator post for the trail and came on board early 2016 as part of the bucket trail team. I had seen the Dolphins and also other trails in England and had always wanted to paint a sculpture. Who knew what adventures lay ahead!

How long have you been the Art Director at ARCHIE? Did you become the Art Director after getting involved in previous projects? (Q: Hannah McLaren, Scots Magazine)

I have been working as the art director on Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail for The ARCHIE Foundation since November 2018. My post has evolved from organising all the artists and artwork on my own as artist co-ordinator on the first Oor Wullie Bucket Trail in 2016 to now working as part of an art team this year. It’s been fantastic having Joanne MacFadyen (from Tea Green Events) helping me here in Dundee with the artists, as well as the mountain of admin that comes with 82 sculptures and their artists. We worked closely together on the Maggie’s Penguins last year and I was delighted when she agreed to join me again this year. I also have Fiona Chance (from createwithus) helping me up in Aberdeen. She has been managing the painting space up there and making sure Oor Aberdeen artists are happy. Having extra help has been brilliant – and essential looking after the three cities this year, especially as Inverness is quite the jaunt from Dundee. Andy McVicar, one of our artists, has been helping me look after the Inverness sculptures too over the summer.

Artists: Andy McVicar, Joanne MacFadyen, Fiona Chance

How much do you love doing this? (Qs: Hannah McLaren, Scots Magazine)

A LOT! I feel so lucky to be a full time artist and illustrator doing what I love. Next year WhimSicAL LusH will be 10 years old. If I didn’t enjoy it I think it would be incredibly hard to motivate myself to work every day as it can very long hours at times. I love how varied it can be, especially when working on projects like Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail for The ARCHIE Foundation. One minute I’m painting my own sculptures and the next I can be helping organise other artists to paint theirs. Another day I will be helping with photo shoots and sculptures being moved. I particularly enjoy being part of bringing together artists, local business and the community together all for one cause. 

Doddie Weir Met Oor Doddie, and signed him too! What an incredibly inspiring, funny and lovely guy.

You’re very involved with other artists this year. Any notable names that have really inspired you with their Oor Wullie sculptures?

Every single one of our artists has done an incredible job this year. Oor boys are looking amazing. We are really lucky to have some big names join us this year too. Johanna Basford, the colouring book queen has created us a beautiful sculpture that steps straight out of the pages of one of her books. Adorned in flowers, with lovely little details, her sculpture will be very much loved in Aberdeen. The instagram sensation Mr Doodle came along and painted his sculpture for us in front of an audience at Dundee train station. Watching him create his Dundee sculpture was absolutely mesmerising and didn’t fail to bring smiles to all. It has been a real treat working with both these fantastic (and very busy) artists. It’s a real honour that they said such a huge yes to supporting The ARCHIE Foundation by painting for us.

Mr Doodle came to live paint in Dundee!

Why is it so important to raise funds for the ARCHIE Foundation? (Qs: Caroline Lindsay, The Courier)

It is so important to raise funds for The ARCHIE Foundation as they are providing such a wonderful service to so many children and their families. Most of us know a child who has gone to hospital for an operation, or have been that child themselves. It can be an incredibly anxious time. The ARCHIE Foundation supports patients and their families through the build of new facilities and through enhancing NHS provisions in the hospitals with environments designed to reduce anxiety, be bright and spacious, full of fun distractions, whilst being inclusive and appropriate for all ages.

We carried Douglas Roulston’s sculpture up Ben Nevis in May! 📷 some by Andrew Cawley, DC Thomson

Ahead of the launch of the trail on Monday what are you most excited about? (interview Q before trail launch in June 2019)

I love seeing people’s reactions to the sculptures on the streets, seeing the smiles and how they bring people together. I love seeing families exploring their city together, following the trail and getting involved with the charity. I am really looking forward to Scotland’s reaction to oor boys!

What’s the best thing about being involved with it?

That’s a hard one to narrow down. There are so many levels.

On an creative level, I absolutely love seeing the finished sculptures all together for the first time, after only seeing designs on paper. It’s quite overwhelming after months of organising. Seeing all the artists’ work in front of you is quite something. As one of the trail artists too, I go through that creating process alongside them, so really do appreciate just how much has gone into them. I’m delighted again to have been selected to paint two of our sculptures – of which I am incredibly proud. Full O Beans will be in Dundee and Wullie’s Technicolour Dream Dungarees, in Inverness.

On a community level, I love how the sculptures can bring a city, and now hopefully a whole nation, together – for one cause, Scotland’s Children. I love how they bring artists, charities, businesses together too. It really highlights people’s generosity and good will.

This year I’ve been working again for The ARCHIE Foundation but I have really enjoyed meeting the other two charities involved too, Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity and Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity. There has been a huge team behind this BIG bucket trail. I’ve also enjoyed working alongside DC Thomson again, looking after one of their most treasured boys, Oor Wullie.

Oor Prince by Matt Low. What incredible detail.

Any challenges?

As an artist, oh my goodness yes. It can be very tricky translating a 2d flat design created flat on paper onto a 3d sculpture, especially a complicated design like Oor Wullie but that’s part of the fun. You often find yourself painting upside down and at the strangest of angles – just to get that perfect line. We often joke that it’s like a bizarre form of yoga! 

From an art director perspective – yes, it can be challenging at times organising all the artists and keeping everyone to tight deadlines. There is a lot of admin and communication that goes hand in hand with 82 sculptures and their artists (and sponsors) but this year I am delighted that I have had lots of help on this front from our two artist co-ordinators Joanne MacFadyen (Dundee artists and ARCHIE artist admin) and Fiona Chance (Aberdeen artists). Them being on board has allowed me more time this year to focus on our bespoke sculptures and working closely with sponsors such as TSB and Malcolm Group.

There is a lot of time intensive work that goes into get all the sculptures ready for the trail, and all the wee wonderful extras that you will notice popping up all summer, but every challenge and late night is massively rewarded by people’s engagement on the trail and the support it then gives to the charity.

Spotting our wee family on Laura Darling’s sculpture. Oor Scots Guard by Mik Richardson

How do the artists involved get chosen? (Qs from Alex Dempster-Corlett, The People’s Friend)

There is a call out for artists to submit their designs for the trail. We then go through them as a team to whittle them down to a final selection which we then present to our potential sponsors in the form of an exhibition. We carefully make sure that there is a great selection and balance of designs that will both delight sponsors, have people enjoy them on the trail and have people excited to buy them at auction. It never an easy task but always fun seeing everyone’s ideas.

Do you get involved with the logistics of which statue goes where in the cities?

The whole team gets a say in where they would like to see sculptures go.

Here are some fun pics from our install weekend. There wasn’t much sleep had that weekend but it was so much fun. What a team! It was lovely seeing everyone’s faces light up when they spotted the sculptures arriving in their summer homes.

When Victoria & Leila (REP theatre) met their Oor Wullie for first time.

Where do the bare statues come from in the first place?

The fibre glass sculptures are created by Wild In Art, who are our project partners.

Peter Davidson (Oor Wullie’s illustrator) created the original sculpture for our trail.

The original sculpture was created by the fabulous Peter Davidson. He is the man behind Oor Wullie every week. Skilfully bringing him to life on the pages of The Sunday Post each week is no mean feat. I was delighted to catch up with him once more about the sculpture and him painting his own large sculpture ‘Oor Classic’. His interview can be found in the souvenir brochure.

What’s your favourite part of the process – seeing the statues out and about? The final auction?

I absolutely love seeing the finished sculptures all together for the first time after only seeing designs on paper. It’s quite overwhelming after months of organising. Seeing all the artists’ work in front of you is quite something. As one of the trail artists too, I go through that creating process alongside them, so really do appreciate just how much has gone into them.

I also love when you see people’s reactions to the sculptures on the streets, seeing the smiles and how they bring people together. I love seeing families exploring their city together, following the trail and getting involved with the charity. 

The final auction is really exciting – nerve wracking too as we all want the sculptures to raise as much money for the charity as possible. I’m always overwhelmed by the generosity of our city and beyond. People really care and want to make a difference to children’s lives. The trails really have highlighted that, which is something everyone shout be proud of. 

This year has been even more exciting as the trail is nationwide, with 200 sculptures for the 3 charities. The ARCHIE Foundation alone has 82 sculptures across three cities, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. There have been lots of smiles this summer! 

Selfies #OWBBT 💚 Can you spot yours?

You’ve worked with many charities over the years, and on your website it says you’ve raised approximately £116,000 with your artwork. How important is it to you to be charitable with your artwork and how does it feel making such a difference by partaking in the trail? (Q: Hannah McLaren, Scots Magazine)

If my work can make even the tiniest difference to someone’s life it means so much to me. Being able to create something that goes towards helping others is my way of trying to give a little back. Witnessing someone smile when they see my work is something very special and then to not only do that but have that work translate into such things like building the new twin operating theatres at Tayside Children’s Hospital is just incredible. I feel honoured that I am able to help in this way.

Trail Partners

D.C. Thomson – The proud people behind Oor Wullie himself.

Wild In Art – The folks who dreamt up these trails.

Here’s a link to all about them on Oor Website.

Emma seeing if Wullie is camera ready in the studio

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I hope that everyone has had an amazing summer filled with exploration and discovery. We have all loved seeing all of your photos popping up on social media, so do remember to @ Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail use #owbbt and tag the project and charity in them too, alongside the artists and sponsors if you haven’t already. That way we can share some of our favourites and join you on your adventures.

Julie from Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity visiting Inverness

I’m sure that all of our Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail boys will bring many smiles to all and help us raise lots of money for both the ARCHIE Foundation’s children and the rest of Scotland’s children too.

All gathered together waiting to go out and meet everyone!

Next stop: Farewell events and auctions.

If you’d like to attend any of The ARCHIE Foundation Farewell events in Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen and say bye to all Oor boys before they go to auction here are the details…

And for all the farewell events:

If you’d love to adopt one of my boys, or any one of the ARCHIE Foundation sculptures from Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail, then please do get in touch with katie.kyle@archie.org for auction details.

Head over to Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail website for more about all the events/ auctions in the five cities all over Scotland. It’s going to be quite the goodbye!

Photos by Mhairi Edwards for the Courier launch article