A Bird’s eye view of Maldon High St – oil on canvas – 59 x 99 cm
This picture was begun at the same time as my painting of All Saints Church when I was staying at The Blue Boar Hotel in Maldon. I had booked an apartment for the months of April and May hoping to paint some trees in blossom, however because it was cold and wet the spring was delayed by a month. In the meantime I’d started work on this composition sketching in the basic structure of the tree and the buildings behind. I was hoping to create a space so that when the tree did begin to produce blossoms I could paint them in. But nothing ever turns out the way you expect, for some reason painting in the blossoms in this way didn’t work and I considered abandoning the picture.
At the end of May I had four paintings in various stages of completion. Fortunately I was able to book the same space for November. Once I was back in London I decided to cut off some of the dead space on the left of this picture. In reality all one could see was a confusion of branches. I took the canvas off the stretcher cut it down and stuck it to a piece of MDF.
I returned to Maldon later in the year with the intention of turning this painting into an autumn picture. I thought a few leaves left hanging on the branches with the remainder lying on the damp pavement would make a good scene. But this didn’t work either, for some reason the excessive amount of yellow in the picture seemed to jar. As more and more leaves fell away the architecture of the buildings behind began to appear through the gaps in the branches. But the perspective of the buildings in reality didn’t look right so I made the incline of the road less steep. In the central part of the painting the tangled mass of twigs and branches needed to be simplified.
At the end of November the picture was still unfinished and I resolved to complete it using the photographs I had taken the previous spring. The picture had come full circle. It was now going to be a painting of a tree just coming into bud with the first rays of the rising sun illuminating the buildings behind. The high eye level helps to create a feeling of vertigo as one looks down at the cat looking up. Now I needed some more living creatures. I wasn’t keen on painting in too many people so I settled for a dog walker in the middle distance. After that I added various kinds of birds and we have starlings, pigeons, sparrows, yellow tits, finches, a blackbird, a thrush and a seagull. I like painting these kinds of details. I’m hoping to make it look as if the starling and the pigeons are flying into the space on the edge of the picture. The observer of this scene could easily be a bird hence the painting’s title.
Although this painting may look real and it’s certainly my intention to create the illusion of space – this painting isn’t real at all. The reality upon which it is based has been doctored, idealized, a great amount of tidying up has been done and scale has not been strictly adhered to. Also the colours have been exaggerated as I often like to use saturated glowing colour.
In the blog section on my website there are some images of this picture when it was still being developed.