Oor Charlie's Oor Wullie story

Unless you've been living under a bucket for the last two months, you will have realised Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland has been occupied by dozens of fantastic interpretations of the nation's favourite laddie, Oor Wullie.

The Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail saw artists commissioned to personalise statues of Auchenshoogle’s most famous son in order to raise money for the ARCHIE Foundation and other charities.

One of the statues was decorated by University graphic designer and professional illustrator, Charlie Dear.

Charlie’s design took almost six weeks to complete. Sponsored by WM Donald, it depicts many of Scotland’s myths and legends and will be situated at the Torry Battery in Aberdeen until August 30.

How did you get involved in the Oor Wullie campaign?

After enjoying the Maggie’s Penguin Parade trail in Dundee last summer, I was determined to get involved with the next public art trail! The call-out came and I sent my submission – scribbling furiously at the 11th hour as I strived to get all the detail in on this tiny A4 sheet. From there I was shortlisted and then my design was selected at a sponsor event, by WM Donald. I can’t thank them enough for choosing my design and allowing me to be part of this amazing nationwide event!

How does it feel to work on such an iconic figure?

Pretty intimidating! But much better once the first lick of paint was on rather than staring at a blank canvas! I still wanted to keep an element of Wullie rather than cover him entirely, so I left his face, skin and boots intact so he was still a recognisable character.

Describe your design and what inspired it

My design “Oor Legends” encourages the public to discover their local legends as they pursue the BIG Bucket Trail across Scotland. Most people are familiar with Greek mythology, or magical creatures from Harry Potter, but in the past, these creatures were widely believed to be roaming Scotland for real. Not many people realise there are as many myths and legends on our own doorstep – so I’ve brought them to life!

To help people discover their local legends I’ve also created an online guide (www.charliedoodles.com/oor-legends), which features all of the stories illustrated on Oor Legends.

I love reading about all these stories and imagining all the events taking place right on our doorstep. It’s opened my eyes to hidden tales from places I thought I knew. I’ve also discovered a potential ancestral connection to a gentleman who was taken into fairyland – so maybe that’s where my interest comes from!

Sometimes we take the Scottish landscape for granted, so I’d like to inspire people to see it differently, imagining all the magic that’s out there as they complete the BIG Bucket Trail… just watch out for Jock o’ Bennachie!

How did you decide what kind of design to go with? Did your idea change at all during the process?

When I was planning the design I started by incorporating the unusual surfaces first – starting with the castle – the peashooter was perfect for Glamis Castle! His catapult has been transformed into a waterfall (fairy pools of Skye) and his hair represents snowy-peaked mountains – with the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui lurking on the back of his head. Underground Edinburgh is below his feet (literally – Ghost Piper under Edinburgh Castle and Mary King’s Close). His body represents the Scottish landscape, while the bucket features underwater mythical creatures.

The design is pretty close to the one I submitted. As the submission design is so small it doesn’t really account for the extra space once you apply the illustrations to a 3D model so I did add a couple of extra characters/legends so it was more seamless. Some illustrations swapped places but the majority of it stays the same. Originally, I had the sky forming a horizon at his elbow – but soon realised this meant drawing a horizon through his armpits – which are so small you can barely angle a paintbrush in there – that was soon abandoned!

How long did it take to complete?

Wullie arrived on April 4 and I handed him back on May 15. I worked on him every evening after work and all day every weekend (except one!). I dread to think of how many hours that adds up to!

How hard was it to keep it under wraps?

It was SO difficult to keep quiet! We had to sign a super-official artists agreement to say we’d only show sneak peeks and not reveal the final design until the trail had launched. My amazing colleagues at Medical Illustration pulled out all the stops and let me paint him in the office! During work hours he would be cloaked in a bedsheet – just to make sure not to give anything away! We have a walk-in service for staff and students, so you’d definitely get a few double takes. We had a few lovely colleagues who would regularly pop by for updates (you know who you are!) – so of course I shared a sneaky work in progress if they asked nicely (although I did have to say – “no photos please!”)

Have you visited it in situ? Will you go more than once?

I have! I don’t have a car so it’s been a bit of a trek from Rosemount to go up and visit though! I’ve visited him a few times with friends and family and I’ve also been up on my own to get decent photos on a nice sunny day. It’s been lovely to see people engaging with it and pointing to the different characters, trying to work out what they are and spotting the hidden details. I’ve been leaving wee collectable cards featuring different Oor Legends characters to let them know they can find out a bit more behind all the stories.

There are four Oor Wullie statues situated across the University of Aberdeen campus - at King's College Chapel, Cruickshank Botanic Gardens, Sir Duncan Rice Library and outside the Suttie Centre at Foresterhill.

About Charlie’s Oor Wullie

Discover legends on your doorstep! Oor Legends invites you to explore the Scottish landscape in search of hidden tales – across the Big Bucket Trail cities, and beyond. Amongst the stunning scenery of the mountains, waterfalls and glens, lurk enchanting creatures you’d never think to meet – and some you wouldn’t want to! Magic is alive in Scotland… if you know where to look! Discover the legends for yourself at Charlie’s website.

Useful info

The trail runs from June 17 – August 30.

Aberdeen charity auction on September 17 at Thainstone Centre.

Photo Credits

  • Oor Charlie PR Photo - Kalyan Veera
  • Oor Wullie in situ - Gordon Stables