George & Dragon Mural (Replacement, Stockton-on-Tees, Abby Taylor after Zak Newton, 2019)

Zak Newton’s George & Dragon mural was in a bit of state when Abby Taylor (one half of creative duo Abby+Owen) was commissioned to rework it. I interviewed her via email to talk about the work she did.

Working on a deteriorating mural is always controversial, because it involves covering or repainting the work of the original artist. However, if nothing is done the mural is simply lost forever. I think the approach taken here – protecting the original by installing the reimagined version on top – is a sensitive and sensible solution.

We’ve been working with Zak’s widow Helen Reeder and have produced a post on the original mural. You can find it here.

All images were provided by Abby, thank you to her for her time and invaluable help.

Could you tell me a bit about how you got involved with the mural?

Owen and I live in Stockton and absolutely adore The Green Dragon Yard, it’s so rich with history and charm, we’ve always loved the mural but time hasn’t been kind to it and it has deteriorated a lot in recent years. The restoration was released in 2019, this was when I was starting the business and waiting for it to be sustainable enough for Owen to join, which he did in 2020. 

The idea was initiated by Jason Maxwell at Stockton BID. He wanted to restore it and make it a proud feature of the yard once more. The installation was done by Trendsetters.

The mural was originally created for the Georgian courtyard by local artist Zak Newton who passed away in 2013 but left behind a legacy of commemorative murals across the town. We don’t know much about him, we asked around at the pub and he was a regular at The Green Dragon which is a Sam Smith’s pub, and they must have come up with the idea and commissioned him.

We wanted to protect the mural underneath, so the new piece is directly on top and installed in a way that it doesn’t damage what’s underneath and should protect it from deteriorating any further, or at least slow it down.

The piece was a fun challenge, there are so few photos of the mural we looked high and low in archives to find out what the wording above used to say so I could get it as accurate as possible. Also parts were completely worn away such as St George’s face, so creating his face was challenging. This was also an opportunity to better signpost the yard by including the text, Green Dragon Yard, which is a beautiful courtyard of repurposed historic warehouses and Georgian alleyways and houses the Green Dragon Studios, Green Dragon Pub and the newly renovated Georgian Theatre. I carefully redrew the mural using a digital drawing tablet and added texture to the piece as well, trying to get a colour match for what the colours used to be like, and using a little bit of artistic license here and there, in particular to include the flag under the ‘And Peace Shall Rain!’ so it made the piece as one.

Owen and I live very close by, so see it every time we go out, it’s a lovely reminder of a huge part of our business values which is community interest projects and celebrating local initiatives.

All images provided by the artist.

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