Renowned artist brings elephant sculpture to life for upcoming art trail

Southend-on-Sea based artist John Bulley has joined the herd and started to paint his elephant sculpture for the summer’s Herd In The City art trail.

John, who has been painting for 40 years, is well known in the local area and beyond – notably in London, where he is responsible for painting the iconic Camden Lock Railway Bridge, which towers over the London market. John is also a champion for community art and facilitates workshops with children in the local area.

Following the success of his design ‘Rusty’ from Hares About Town in 2021, which raised £6,500 for local hospice care, John wanted to get involved again, so he decided to put forward a design for this year’s art trail.

Herd In The City, a public art trail created by Havens Hospices and Wild in Art, will see over 45 large elephant sculptures placed around the streets of Southend-on-Sea, Shoeburyness and Leigh-on-Sea from Friday 14th July to Monday 4th September.

Each elephant is sponsored by a local business and decorated in varying styles by different artists. There will also be a mini herd of over 70 baby elephants designed and decorated by local schools and community groups as part of the art trails Learning Programme.

Speaking of the inspiration behind his new design, John says, “I was amazed that anyone liked ‘Rusty’ the hare, so I decided to take a similar approach this time. I like the idea of not disguising the shape of the elephant.”

John has begun to paint the base coat of his elephant using a technique called broken colour, where you apply the paint in strokes but don’t blend them, so they blend optically rather than literally.

“I love broken colour working. It’s much more interesting than a flat colour.”

Following the base coat, he will begin spray painting the elegant sculpture and may even add an additional precious element.

Although the design is still top secret, John gives little insight into what people can expect from his design.

“People tend to take the mick out of people in Essex, saying we like things blingy, so I wanted to make the sculpture blingy, but in a good way. It’s not something we should be ashamed of – it’s a celebration of Southend and bling!”

Local newspaper and Media Partner of Herd In The City, the Echo, has selected John’s elephant as their design for the art trail.

Following the end of the trail, the elephants will be sold at auction to raise thousands of pounds for the free, specialist hospice care Havens Hospices provides for local adults, children, and their families following the success of the charity’s ‘Hares About Town’ trail in 2021, which raised more than £447,000 for local hospice care.

Havens Hospices includes Fair Havens in Southend, and Little Havens, the children’s hospice for Essex based in Benfleet. The care provided by the charity is completely free of charge, thanks to the generosity of individuals and groups, raising money and making donations.

Herd In The City is made possible thanks to Presenting Partner Southend-on-Sea City Council, Official Event Partners, BTMK Solicitors, Method IT, Ayers & Cruiks and c2c, plus Rickard Luckin as the Learning Programme Partner, Atlantic Pacific as the Logistics Partner, Echo Newspaper as the Media Partner, Main Media as the Photography and Videography Partner, and 6rs as the Creative Partner, which has produced the brand for the project.

Wild in Art is one of the leading producers of spectacular, mass-appeal public art events, connecting businesses, artists and communities through creativity and innovation.

Keep up to date with the herd at or follow on Instagram and @herdinthecity on Twitter and Facebook.

Published 27th March 2023

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John Bulley, artist, painting elephant sculpture in gold colour