Alumna creates BCU inspired mural

A BCU alumna has returned to the campus where she studied and started her exciting career to create an eye-catching mural inspired by the university.

Ruth Porter, known by the artist name Roots, studied Visual Communication at BCU, where she specialised in Illustration.

After graduating in 2013, the alumna has made a name for herself in her chosen industry thanks to her freelance work and working with leading brands like Adidas and O2.

But her latest work brought her back to where it all began after she was commissioned by BCUSU to paint a mural for the Big Welcome Fair on Cardigan Street at BCU’s city centre campus.

She said: “It was very special being able to come back and paint at the place where my art career basically all started.

“The brief provided was extremely open, just one word in fact...Tiger! I love an open brief as it really allows you to play to your strengths and create something that you and the client are really proud of.

“Once I found out about the BCUSU brand colours I immediately knew I'd be painting a big blue tiger with bold contrasting colours for the leaves. Blue tigers are also popular in tattoo culture, so I took some inspiration from that too.”

It is bold colours and cartoons that inspire Roots the most, thanks to her love of all things 90s pop culture. She said: “I'm hugely inspired by 90s cartoons, nature, and tattoos, so you will often see references to them in my designs.

“90s pop culture has a big place in my heart. As a kid of the 80s and 90s, collecting was a huge thing, whether it was stickers, mini figures and Pogs. Everything was super detailed with loads of character, and generally quite gross. Which I was, and still am very drawn to!

“The nostalgia element is always a great conversation starter with people when I'm out painting or selling my artwork as everyone has their own fond memories and references to those times in one way or another.”

Since graduating, the alumna has had a whole range of success, from working with inspiring people to exciting brands. She said: “There have been a few 'pinch me' moments since I graduated, however I think becoming a full-time freelance artist in 2018 was one of the scariest and most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.

“Since then, I've been lucky enough to work on some great projects and collaborated with so many talented creatives along the way, no week is ever the same.

“I've worked on some fantastic projects since I graduated and am so grateful to all the local businesses that have given me the opportunity to paint on their walls or create digital designs for them, it makes me proud to have such incredible and supportive folk in my city.

“I've also had my custom toys and trainers exhibited globally, as well as collaborating with some brilliant individuals and brands such as Adidas, O2, Posca and Pebeo, and competed in some amazing art battles too. Since the pandemic I have also started participating in workshops more regularly and I love to host graffiti and Posca sessions with local schools and councils which is super rewarding.”

But the graduate’s journey to success wasn’t easy, and it took a while for her to find her own style. She said: “When I was studying at BCU, I was a mature student and had not been in an academic environment for a while, so I spent the first two years massively over-thinking my artwork.

“I think I came into my own a bit more in the final year when I started looking into designer toys and the collecting side of things, which sparked something in me which has continued to this day.  My BCU highlights include some incredible trips to Paris, Italy, and Berlin where we met some awesome characters, saw huge, beautiful murals and went to some gorgeous old book shops.

“All of which massively inspired me and made me fall in love with street artists and illustrators I would never have come across otherwise.”

Roots is now looking forward to the future, and with students settling in for an exciting year ahead, she has some excellent advice to share with current BCU students.

She said: “Freelance life can be quite unpredictable at times, so I try not to plan too far ahead, but I am really excited to see what is around the corner, it has only been the past couple of years that I feel like I'm really finding my stride. So, I'm just going to keep on keeping on, practicing my skills and hopefully paint some really big walls in some cool locations.

“My advice to current students would be to stay true to yourself. I was so conscious that my work was being graded when I was at university that I lost sight of my own style. The moment I went back to my roots and started drawing what I’d always loved, was when I found my happy place.

“Just have fun, make friends and enjoy the process.”

Find out more about Roots and her work here