Painting on Location in Maldon – All Saints Church
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All Saints

Oil on canvas – 21″ x 25.5″

Last year I spent several months living and painting in Maldon in Essex. I rented a self-contained apartment attached to the Blue Boar Hotel. I was on the second floor and I was hoping to do some paintings of the trees around All Saints Church coming into blossom. For this reason I had booked the apartment for the months of April and May. The Blue Boar Hotel is very old fashioned and quirky at the same time, parts of its interior date back to the Tudor period and everywhere there are antiques and paintings. In the bar huge logs burned in a large hearth and on the walls between 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 this place has atmosphere so my staying at the hotel was a bit like being on holiday.

Blue Boar Hotel

Unfortunately in April in 2013 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. The window I looked out of is at the top on the left of the photograph.

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 of the trees 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.

All Saints work in progress low res

So 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. My idea of painting from life involves a deep observation of the subject. 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 the picture of the church painting in the stones as faithfully as I could. Sometimes I like to put more space into a picture that I can actually see without moving my head. 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 and before long it was impossible to see through its twiggy branches. This part of the picture would have to be simplified and I doubted that it could be finished from life.

The spring was delayed by a month. One of the pictures I had started hoping to see blossom appear was abandoned as it turned out to be a non-flowering tree. Then when the cherry blossoms finally emerged and I started painting them into the larger picture it didn’t seem to work. That painting is called ‘A Bird’s eye of Maldon’ and I’ll be discussing it in my next blog.

I now thought that perhaps the autumn effect was what I should go for. When the leaves fell away I could get another look at the lower right side of the church. Now I wished that I had started work on a larger canvas, so later on in the year when I was back in London I took the canvas off its stretcher and stuck it to a piece of MDF, this gave me an additional inch and a half all the way round.

All saints expanded

Luckily I was able to book the same space for November. So I returned to rural Essex to soak up some of the autumn atmosphere. By the end of the month the painting of All Saints Church was almost complete.

Since then this picture and a ‘Bird’s eye view of Maldon’ have been shortlisted for the Curwen Gallery Prize for Figurative Painting. The paintings will be exhibited along with the other shortlisted pictures from the 8th to the 29th of October 2014 in the Curwen Gallery, 34 windmill St, London WIT 2JR.

All Saints-Colin in Maldon 2013 Blue

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