Background

In 1983 the Princes Hill High School (now called Princes Hill Secondary College) art class was given the opportunity to paint some murals on the walls to brighten the place up a bit. Fortunately Star Wars was in vogue at the time as Return of the Jedi had only just been released, so myself and another kid, John Darcy, asked if we could paint a Star Wars mural and were given permission to do so.

Despite being able to proceed with our plan - which is something we hadn't actually expected to be approved - the issue facing us was not knowing what wall to pick. Originally we wanted an outside location so members of the public could see our work, but there weren't any walls available in the size we wanted plus painting in bad weather would've been problematic.

As luck would have it, there was a large wall located right outside the artrooms on the ground floor just around the corner from the main office, this area was the thoroughfare to get from the front of the school to the back so we were guaranteed to get plenty of passing traffic to view our work of art. Also, and this turned out to be very fortuitous, it was indoors which would do wonders for the longevity of the painting's life.

Although there were two of us involved in the Project, the bulk of the work fell to me as I was the bigger Star Wars fan. Even before our wall had been selected, I had already drawn up all the images that would adorn it on a large sheet of paper (which sadly no longer exists). Being a huge supporter of the Imperial Empire, I made sure that none the Star Wars 'good guys' made it onto the design. The end result is a mural that is not only a tribute to Star Wars, but is also a tribute to the Empire - it also meant I didn't have to paint portraits of the main actors which is the reason why the Emperor doesn't make an appearance.

We were given the option of painting a white undercoat on the wall, usually required for outdoor paintings, so we decided to do that which was another wise decision on our part. From there I transfered the drawings onto clear acetate then used an overhead projector to shine the images onto the wall so I could trace them out with texta - fortunately having a white background did wonders for this. As it turned out, the wall was a lot wider than my paper drawing so I had to stretch the images across to make them balance out, this is why there are three TIE Fighters where there should only be two.

Once the outlines were completed all we had to do was start painting. Because so much of the Imperial Empire is either black or grey, we decided to put in a blue background. This all worked out rather well until we ran out of blue paint and couldn't remember how to mix the exact same colour, so that was a fun experience - especially when it occured a number of times.

We also received assistance from our art teacher (whose name I've long since forgotten) who helped us paint the Emperor's Royal Guard. She did a wonderful job with the helmet but unfortunately painted a fist holding the force pike as opposed to having an exposed arm, though to be fair she was working off an image from a small trading card.

At some point during the painting phase John opted to bail out of the project, so it was now up to me to complete the wall by myself which I was actually quite OK with.

I asked George Chouvardas, a friend of mine who was a really wonderful artist and a year ahead of me, to paint the 1/1 scale Biker Scout and the Speeder Bike. His work made the overall painting look fantastic and really brought it to life ... until early 1984 when it was decided by the School Council that a disabled toilet would go behind the wall where the Biker Scout was located. Sure enough I got to watch while they literally put a sledgehammer through George's wonderful artwork - including the face of my Biker Scout. Once the bright yellow door had taken its place I got the job of repainting the design myself because George had left school at the end of 1983 (and I had do to it quickly 'cause that door was AWFUL to look at). Unfortunately my painting skills weren't as good as George's so no one ever got to see the great work he'd done.

Then something else happened, in May 1984 I completed my time in high school and left leaving the mural in an incomplete state. Fortunately I was unemployed for a month or two so this gave me the opportunity to come in on my own time and finish it off.

Finally on the 5th of July 1984 I got to paint the very last item, my name and the date. I then cleaned my brushes and left the school for good. Ironically it wasn't until a few years had passed when I suddenly remembered I was going to add in all these colourful explosions around the painting to break up the massive expanse of blue, but I'd totally forgotten about them. Doh!

I visited the wall in the early 1990s to see if it was still there and it was doing just fine, even though murals painted by other kids on walls surrounding the corridor had been removed. Apparently my Star Wars one was considered a school favourite which was good to know.

My most recent visit was in August 2014 when the mural turned 30 years and 1 month old. During this visit I discovered that despite some obvious signs of ageing the mural is still there looking pretty good, much to my delight. It turned out being painted indoors was a huge bonus for its longevity, unlike fate of the massive mural painted on the outside wall in the main courtyard in 1983. That particular mural took months to paint and involved stacks of kids, which had a grand opening ceremony and everything, yet it eventually had to be painted over due to deterioration from the weather.

I also learned from a visit in August 2004, when the mural turned 20 years and 1 month old, that all surviving murals are now under a 'protected trust' to prevent them from being painted over in the future.

Considering I keep thinking the painting's anniversary is in August instead of July, my next return visit will probably be in August 2024 for its 40th ... and 1 month birthday.

So without realising it at the time, I've now left a lasting legacy not only to Star Wars but to all present and future kids attending Princes Hill Secondary College. Who would've guessed.

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Origin of the images

  • * Death Star II - Standard production photo
  • * Darth Vader - Standard image from The Empire Strikes Back teaser poster
  • * Shuttle Tydirium - I can't remember where image originally came from
  • * Biker Scout - An original drawing by George Chouvardas, this is why I got him to paint the Biker Scout before the door was put in
  • * TIE Fighter - A photo from Star Wars taken from the 1977 'Escape from the Death Star' board game
  • * Stormtrooper - A production photo from Star Wars although I found out years later it's actually Han Solo in disguise
  • * Imperial Walker - This is an original image. I place an AT-AT model kit on my ghetto blaster at home, shone a light on it and drew what I saw
  • * Star Destroyer - A production photo from when the Star Destroyer is chasing the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back
  • * Royal Guard - Good reference photos of the Royal Guards were impossible to find so this came a trading card
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The following pictures were taken in December 1984.

In 2014 the wall still looked the same

 
Overview. The Entry on the left leads into the staff office, while the right side leads into the art rooms.

 
 
Being December 1984 you'll have to forgive my appearance with the bad hairstyle and moustache.

From here you can see - and imagine - how the Biker Scout would've looked once the sledgehammers created the door cavity. They eventually fixed the door closure which is missing in this photo.

 
 
I spent a lot of time trying to emulate The Empire Strikes Back teaser poster which is one of my all time favourite Darth Vader images. The transition from the black cloak to the blue background was the hardest thing to do.
 
 
The very last thing I painted.

(In my 2014 visit I noticed the date had worn off over time so this picture is the only evidence showing when the painting was finished).

 

I hope you've enjoyed this little bit of Dag History. Click on the Bat to take you home.