Gary Bevans was inspired by a pilgrimage to Rome in 1986 by the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, noting that the ceiling looked almost the same size as his parish church of the English Martyrs in Goring-by-Sea. For several months the idea of painting an exact copy of the ceiling on his parish church ceiling consumed him. He approached his parish priest with the idea, saying simply that he would like to paint the ceiling as a gift to the Universal Church. After receiving permission from the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Gary set about planning how he would undertake such a masterpiece. Gary first planned to paint the ceiling on panels at home in his garden shed and then once each panel was completed to take them to the church and fix them to the roof. This proved impossible as screw holes inevitably destroyed the paintwork and gaps were unpreventable between the panels as the first completed panels were attached. He saw that he must continue the work by painting directly onto the ceiling which was to be reskinned with plywood panels as he made his way across the vault.
Gary's first small tower proved to be too small to contain Gary's growing workshop of materials so he purchased scaffolding that would have to be built to cover one large area at a time so that he could paint directly onto the reskinned ceiling using acrylic paint to recreate a fresco effect.
Gary used 7000 screws to fix hundreds of 8ft x 4ft plywood panels to the roof completely by himself. Once each panel was attached he undercoated and primed the area and then set about planning and painting each figure or scene. 500 figures were gradually to be sketched out on to the prepared panels and then carefully painted in detail using acrylic. Originally, the plan was for the Ceiling to be a two year project. This proved impossible given the scale of the artwork and detail involved and his full-time job as a self-employed sign writer, husband and father. The whole process took 5 years to complete which Gary amazingly managed to do alongside his full-time signwriting job.
Alongside painting the original artwork, three vents that were situated along the ceiling had to be filled in. There were also six sets of hanging lights which Gary decided he had to remove rather than leave in the midst of the painting. Additionally, 24 Popes were painted with windows and architectural details to attain the correct perspective.
The completed ceiling was finally unveiled in a special Mass of thanksgiving in 1993 in which Gary was surprised to recieve a special medal from the late Pope John Paul II for his art contribution to the Catholic Church. Gary returned to his sign writing work, painting and decorating as his full time job alsongside his work as a Deacon. Since completing the ceiling, Gary has worked upon the walls and several other paintings within the church for parishioners and visitors to enjoy.
In 2008 a DVD was produced titled 'How I painted the Sistine Chapel Ceiling' giving a detailed and fascinating presentation of Gary's whole journey from its beginnings to the completion and told in his own words. The DVD is available from Amazon and Mary's Dowry Productions online shop. The Sistine Chapel Reproduction continues to give interest and pleasure to visitors throughout the year and in 2014 won an award of excellence from Trip Advisor. To visit the Sistine Chapel Ceiling Reproduction, see our page about the Church of the English Martyrs. Opening times vary depending upon the season. For a more detailed insight into the work visit the DVD page.
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