West Compton is a modest hamlet a few miles up the road and over the hill from the village of Pilton where I live. A local resident asked me to paint their home in oils. It is beautiful 18th century home with a lovely extension on the side, shaped to be in sympathy with the two gables on the front.
I set to work drawing the scene from a rough field in front of the garden where goats used to be kept, The clients are keen gardeners, so I popped them in too ensuring the flowers and shrubs were in suitable abundance. I adjusted all the perspective to show the bits I wanted to show and, moved aside the bits a didn’t until I got a whole image that I felt I could work with.
In the picture, you will find a few cats here and there. In the front left of the painting, you will find one cat sitting with a few pheasants. Now this particular cat ran off one day as cats do on occasion. She disappeared for months, and when they had almost given up on her, they were contacted by a local game keeper.
Apparently, the missing moggy had moved in with his pheasants about a mile up the road. She wasn’t eating them, she wasn’t eating much as she was dreadfully thin, the cat was just living with them.
The gamekeeper assumed she was a stray until he found out one local cat was missing. She was dutifully captured and reunited with the owners. She then gained her old weight pretty rapidly as cats do.
The house is built in the Blue Lias stone which typifies this part of Somerset. In fact our house here in Pilton is built out of it too. It is abundant and you will find it all over the place, distributed in the soil in handy brick sized chunks.
A local famer recently built a whole house purely out of the Blue Lias he picked up in his fields. It is also full of fossils, you can often find ammonites and other sea creatures that were the first residents of Somerset over 200 million years ago.
This stone may be great to look at but it’s very tricky to paint. There are many shades of blue, it can even be yellow, and will change colour completely depending on the weather. On sunny days it’s very blue, in glum and wet weather it’s brown. The stone in the Cotswolds can be tricky too until you get in your head that’s it is the same colour as toast. After that it’s pretty much plain sailing.
In the end, I had to take a decision on it after staring out of the window at the other houses in the village. It all worked out in the end and I am pretty pleased with it all. And so is the client which is the important thing.