I’ve been trying to compose a certain picture in my mind – and on canvas – for many years.
Inspired by a romantic gesture by my grandfather to his future wife, it’s a painting I’ve wanted to attempt for three decades.
My grandfather, a humble man who achieved so much, was attached to 61 Operational Training Unit, then at Rednal in Shropshire. He got permission for a training flight in his Spitfire over Ludlow, where my grandmother was staying with relatives on a holiday.
He literally became the talk of the town after flying along the River Teme, turning right past Ludlow Castle, over Linney and past St Mary’s House, where my grandmother and her aunt had been ‘instructed’ to go outside about noon.
Three times he flew over, waggling his wings.
So, I’ve been searching out pictures of Ludlow from the family collection, from personal visits and the t’interweb for years. I wanted a scene near St Mary’s House, but suggesting the town’s medieval past and Georgian rebirth. St Mary’s House, bought by my well to do relatives made rich on the coal and minerals trade and the railway, with its medieval cellars and land aplenty was difficult to achieve. Getting the right view was nigh on impossible.
Some 20 yards away, St Mary’s Lane joins the main road into the town, Corve Street, and I had long considered this the best option.
But getting the right picture was a struggle.
I considered a Spitfire banking over the castle. I attempted scenes of Ludlow from Whitcliffe hill, with Titterstone Clee, where I spent childhood holidays, with a Spitfire skirting the skies.
None of these worked for me.
Then I found an old Francis Firth image of Corve Street. It was almost perfect for the image I had in my mind.
Medieval past, Tudor past, Georgian past all intermingled, front and distant, with St Laurence’s Church in the middle distance and housing from the 1500s front right.
Then came the easy bit – or so I thought. Of sourcing a Spitfire image to complete the scene. Easier said than done. The Spit is one of the most photographed aircraft around, and I tried so many angles just to win frustration for my efforts.
YouTube, the pause button and ‘print screen’ function has been my friend and I finally have a Spitfire angle I’m happy with. Not one I would ever have considered before, believing I needed to paint the plane so the viewer would be able to tell what it is.
For me that was unit markings, roundels – the lot.
But then, the Spit has unmistakeable lines.
Problem solved. Painting started.
Of course, there’s plenty to screw up yet, but I’m finally on the right lines.