Rathbone Point on Nightingale Estate seen from my flat in Fulke House – oil on canvas – 51 x 80 cm
My idea of painting from life usually involves a very in depth observation of the subject. I like to see how the light changes throughout the day before I decide on what will be the final effect.
I have often considered painting the view from the back windows of my flat. For a long time I thought this view was too mundane to make a picture from asides from that the architectural details are very complicated. Despite these reservations early last year I began work on this picture and another painting called ‘Two for Joy’ which I’ll be discussing in my next blog.
The view consists of a plane tree with some street buildings and the distant tower of Rathbone Point on the Nightingale Estate. The plane tree is quite amazing, it must be at least a hundred years old and it’s gone feral set as it is in an out of the way place its branches have never been trimmed, asides from that it is much taller than the four-storey block of flats where I live. As I worked on the painting I couldn’t help but become aware of the activities of the local wild life. Squirrels run up and down the twisty boughs of the old plane tree and use them as a springboard to gain access to the roof. The occasional cat patrols the wall below and sometimes a fox will be seen slinking towards the rubbish bins. But mostly it’s the birds, there are pigeons, seagulls, magpies, crows, sparrows, blackbirds and yellow tits which are my favourites, last year they had a nest in the branches of a tall tree near my window on the fourth floor.
As this is a looking down painting the eye level is very high and as usual I’ve included more space than I can see without moving my head up and down. This makes for an interesting composition with the trunk of the plane tree outside of the picture and a long drop from the top of the distant tower to the overgrown gardens below. The rather drab buildings are framed by a pattern of branches and shadows that seem to want to burst out of the picture. And just to exaggerate the space further I’ve painted in a magpie hovering just outside the picture plane.
By the way there are four squirrels in this picture can you spot them?