IT was a gruelling challenge that involved painting 48 portraits over four days on a window – in reverse.

But artist Cameron Brown is proud that his 3.5m tall piece at Warrington bus station will help break down barriers to art in the town.

The former Cardinal Newman student’s artwork is called As You Are Now, So Once Were We and will be seen by thousands as they enter the station near The Hop Pole pub.

Cameron wanted to explore Warrington’s identity through the people who live here.

Altogether the project took him about 43 hours and he still remembers how he felt when he stepped down from the scaffolding and looked at the completed piece for the first time.

The 27-year-old said: “It was a strange thing. It was like a mixture of relief and pride really.

“I was pretty made up with it. It was a slightly different piece to what it initially should have been in the proposal.

“I had to improvise a little bit to make it work because of logistical issues and things like that.

“But when I completed that last portrait, finished touching it up and climbed down from the scaffolding, I looked at it and was so happy with it.”

A lot of trust was placed in Cameron for the commission – it was funded by Arts Council England and National Trust and led by Culture Warrington in partnership with Warrington Borough Council and Warrington BID.

But he gave it his all, describing it as his most physically demanding project to date.

Cameron Brown

Cameron Brown

The Padgate painter added: “It was a tough slog. The idea is for people to see it from the outside but I was keen for it to work from the inside as well so I was leaning out over the scaffolding painting in reverse which was difficult at times.

“This has definitely been the most physically demanding commission I’ve had.

“Stretching to reach all the different parts of it and going up and down the scaffolding was painful after a while. I had blisters on my hands and all that kind of stuff.

“The only other issue other than the physical demands was just trying to get the likeness while being in reverse and not necessarily being able to reach certain areas for painting.

“I was almost leaning over the scaffolding with my palette and reference image in one hand and my paintbrush in my other hand.

“Sometimes I’d have to go and get a longer paintbrush if I couldn’t quite reach. It was hard to keep control over it.”

Cameron’s piece is part of a larger Culture Warrington initiative which features the work of nine artists in a range of public spaces.

It is part of both Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival and the Time Machine Festival.

The chosen portraits were selected after Cameron put out an open call for Warringtonians to send in photos.

The original plan was for them to appear in a shop window at a much smaller scale but the project quickly grew in scope.

Cameron, who won the Art Battle at the 2019 Contemporary Arts Festival, said: “I was pretty gutted to be honest because all-in-all I had about 115 images sent to me and I could only choose 48 of them.

“It was hard as I would have loved nothing more than to paint them all but it was just not feasible.

It took four days and more than 40 hours

It took four days and more than 40 hours

“My proposal was to celebrate the everyday folk of Warrington more than anything – the type of people who keep the town going.

“We had some amazing stories from the people who sent them in.

“I went past it in a taxi the other day and it’s massive. It has an impact when you see it and it’s come out exactly as I’d hoped.”

Cameron also enjoyed chatting to people about the work when they were going past on the way for a bus.

He added: “I got some amazing reactions to it and some hilarious remarks – the sorts of things you’d only hear in Warrington.

“But it was nice to have people going past and taking an interest as my aim for this was to make it as accessible as possible.

“That’s something I’m passionate about – I believe you don’t have to have a background in art to enjoy art.

“So an element of my work I really enjoy is interacting with people so if someone asked what I was doing I’d explain it to them.”

Cameron also hopes the Arts Council funded project will make people look at art in Warrington a little differently and realise there is more going on in the town than it sometimes gets credit for.

He said: “Warrington’s art scene gets criticised and overlooked.

“But I think Culture Warrington have done an amazing job over the past few years.

“Things are changing for the better. I wanted to be involved with that and create something that was accessible.

“I like the idea that they can walk past and perhaps recognise somebody’s face.

“I wanted it to be something people could enjoy rather than being a high end concept piece that isn’t very accessible.”