Last week I completed a residency at the National Football Museum in Manchester where I had the pleasure of painting some fantastic objects from the museum’s collection. Please read on to find out all about the week and see photo and video highlights including the creation of the painting.

The idea for the painting continues the theme of a project that I’ve been working on recently (and will be revealing soon) which features football related objects painted as still life compositions.

Entitled Score Draw, the residency tied in well with the Football Museum as part of their Art of Football project and coincided with the Big Draw Festival 2018.

National Football Museum Gary Armer Still Life

Sir Stanley Matthews

After numerous meetings and conversations about the residency it was decided that I should paint objects relating to my beloved Blackpool FC and in particular one of Blackpool’s, and indeed one of football’s, greatest ever players… Sir Stanley Matthews.

The preferred objects for the painting are all loans to the museum from kind private individuals. Thankfully each owner was happy for us to feature the objects within the still life painting and of course we treated the items with great care and respect.

The featured Stanley Matthews objects were:

  • Match worn shirt from the 1953 FA Cup Final
  • Match worn boots from the 1953 FA Cup Final
  • 1956 Ballon d’Or

Being able to paint these objects from life, as a Blackpool fan I had to pinch myself on a few occasions! The shirt and boots were what Sir Stan wore in the now legendary ’53 Final, often referred to as the Matthews Final. While another Blackpool legend – Stan Mortenson scored a hat trick in the game, the Seasiders came from 3-1 behind to win 4-3 with Matthews proving instrumental in the come back. The win meant that Matthews had finally won a cup winners medal after falling short in previous years.

In 1956 Sir Stanley Matthews was recognised as the best footballer in Europe, being awarded the inaugural Ballon d’Or.

The objects were chosen not just for their historical significance but because I envisaged that they would look great arranged and lit as a still life. As you can see from the reference photo above, taken by the team at the National Football Museum, grouped together they looked stunning.


Ahead of the residency I completed a “dummy run” with the team at the museum that allowed us to carefully plan the composition and logistics of the week. The arrangement came together exactly as I envisaged and after taking some reference photographs I was excited to get started on the piece!

Football Still Life Painting Colour Study

Back in the studio I quickly sketched a colour study in oils on canvas paper to help work out my colour strategy for the painting. Having painted in front of a live audience before I knew how important it was to prepare as much as possible and these colour notes proved to be a real help during the residency.

You can hear me discussing the residency in this teaser video created by the museum:

The Creation of the Painting

For the week of the residency the essentials from my studio were set up on Level 1 of the museum, with Michael Jackson watching over me! For those who don’t know the story behind the statue, Mohamed Al-Fayed erected the tribute to the King of Pop outside Fulham’s ground, Craven Cottage. When new owners took over the club most Fulham fans were quite glad that the statue was removed and relocated to the National Football Museum.

Michael Jackson Statue National Football Museum

The residency lasted for 5 days across which I managed to paint the still life from start to finish. I painted in oils on canvas using the sight-size technique.

The painting was more of a challenge than normal however as each evening, understandably, the objects were carefully taken down from the plinth and stored in a more secure part of the museum. The following morning, the excellent museum staff would then help me recreate the composition before I could start painting again.

The following gallery features progress photos of the painting (taken on my iPhone so apologies for the quality).

You can see how I began on the Monday with the initial drawing in Raw Umber before blocking in the main masses of the painting on the Tuesday.

I felt better when I had worked across the entire canvas and could start finding the different values more accurately.

On the Wednesday I painted the Ballon d’Or alla prima before adding details of the badge on the Thursday. Before finishing on the Thursday evening I made a to do list of what I still wanted to get through on the piece ready for my final day of the residency.

The Friday was good fun as I painted the France Football details of the Ballon d’Or trophy and added other details and highlights to the shirt and boots.

Like most paintings I could have spent longer on the piece but overall I was delighted to take the painting to the finish I achieved.

The Big Draw

The residency was just one of many activities at the museum which ran during the school half term to celebrate the Big Draw Festival, the world’s largest drawing festival which promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning.

The theme for 2018 was “Play” which ties in perfectly with the beautiful game and I’m delighted to have been involved.

The Big Draw - Gary Armer Artist in Residence

Chatting about all things Matthews, 1953 and Oil Painting

The museum attracts a brilliantly diverse range of visitors and it was a pleasure to chat to so many people as artist-in-residence.

Many visitors were interested to see the historic objects and chat about Sir Stanley Matthews and the 1953 FA Cup Final. Some of the more senior visitors often told me their memories of Sir Stan while the younger generation were fascinated to see the first ever Ballon d’Or trophy.

I also enjoyed chatting to people who were interested in the painting, the sight-size technique and working in oils. It was also really useful to get some initial feedback on my other works in this series which I showed at the museum and many people were interested in buying them which is a good start!

On the Monday and Tuesday the museum was extra busy with Juventus fans who were in town to see Cristiano Ronaldo return to Old Trafford for the UEFA Champions League game against Manchester United. While I cant speak a word of Italian I still managed to communicate what I was up to and it was great to interact with other international visitors during the week. I enjoyed meeting people from countries including Germany, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and those who had travelled from as far as India, Korea and Australia!

The Finished Painting

The painting needs to cure before I can apply a final varnish and photograph it properly but in the meantime, here is the best shot I could get of the finished still life.

Stanley Matthews Still Life Painting by Gary Armer

Sir Stanley Matthews Still Life
Oil on canvas
14″ x 18″

I’m delighted with the finished painting and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being artist-in-residence. The staff, volunteers and visitors to the National Football Museum made me feel really welcome and it was a pleasure to meet so many interesting people.

Here you can see a retro-style highlights reel of the residency created by the brilliant National Football Museum team:

A final thank you must go to the private owners of the objects as without their support and trust the residency and painting would not have been such a success.

Below you can see a gallery of superb highlight photos from my week as artist-in-residence, again, taken by the team at the National Football Museum.

Order Your Limited Edition Print Today

Limited edition fine art prints of my Sir Stanley Matthews Still Life are now available to buy.

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  • Limited edition of 53 prints
  • High quality, fine art giclée prints on smooth cotton 315gsm archival paper.
  • Available framed or unframed
  • Printed with a white border
  • Print size: 55.6cm (width) x 45.5cm (height)
  • Actual image size: 45.6cm (width) x 35.5cm (height)
  • Frame size: 68cm (width) x 57.7cm (height) x 1.5cm (depth)
  • Signed and numbered by the artist in pencil.
  • 20% of print sale price is donated to the Sir Stanley Matthews Coaching Foundation.
  • Free UK Delivery