Oil on Canvas – 52 x 63 cm
A couple of years ago I spent several months living and painting in Maldon in Essex. I rented a self-contained apartment on the second floor of a building attached to the Blue Boar Hotel. I was hoping to do some paintings of the trees around All Saints Church coming into blossom so I booked the apartment for the months of April and May.
The Blue Boar Hotel used to be very old fashioned and quirky at the same time, parts of its interior date back to the Tudor period and everywhere there were antiques and paintings. In the bar huge logs burned in a large hearth and on the walls beside the old oak beams there were swords and muskets and sporting prints, between these the mute stuffed heads of stags and foxes looked down at the customers with unseeing eyes. In short the place had atmosphere so my staying at the hotel was a bit like being on holiday. It’s worth mentioning the eccentric hotelier, some of his exchanges with the guests were reminiscent of Fawlty Towers. Since then I’ve heard that it’s being revamped but hopefully the place will retain is other worldly charm.
Unfortunately during my stay the weather was abysmal. It rained profusely and it was cold. I was fairly snug in my makeshift studio so I started working on some pictures. It was my intention to paint from life as much as possible. However the trees were very slow coming into blossom so I started a couple of pictures thinking that if I brought in the basic structure with some of the branches and the surrounding buildings then I would be ready to paint in the blossom when it finally arrived. Meanwhile I often found myself staring at the unusual flint wall opposite my window. This wall was constructed during the 13th century and although flints are often used on churches I have never seen any as large as these. Asides from that the tower is triangular which is very unusual.
With the poor weather continuing I started to paint a section of the flint wall with the nave behind. The good thing about painting buildings is their consistency, they don’t move, so you soon get used to how the light will be at different times of the day. As it wasn’t possible to do much work on the pictures I had originally intended to paint I spent more and more time working on this picture of the church painting in the stones as faithfully as I could. Sometimes I like to expand the space in a picture so that if you was view this scene in real life you would have to move your head up and down in order to see all of it. So in this painting I’m looking down at the side door of the church then up to the cross on top of the nave. To the right of the gothic windows the scrubby tree was rapidly coming into leaf but sadly there were no blossoms. Because the mess of twiggy branches was not very interesting I’ve painted a pigeon flying out into the space outside of the picture plane. However I’ve never been entirely happy with this addition and I may paint it out. With the spring delayed by a month I thought that perhaps the autumn effect was what I should go for. Luckily I was able to book the same space for November. So I returned to rural Essex to soak up some of the autumnal atmosphere and by the end of the month this painting of All Saints Church was almost complete.