Anatomy of a Peculiar Painting Composition

Plein air painter Andrew Borg wanted to capture a “sensation” rather than an “expression” when he set out to paint “(Fly) View From Laferla Cross.” Here’s what he said about creating this unusual painting composition.

plein air painting composition
Andrew Borg, “(Fly) View From Laferla Cross,” 2017, oil, 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. Collection the artist, Plein air

“Laferla Cross is a hill in Malta, one of the highest we have, from which you can practically see three-quarters of the island,” says Borg. “Once, I was up there early in the morning and decided to capture the unique flying sensation one can have there.

“To my mind, this could be effectively done by inclining the horizon and creating a near bird’s-eye view of the landscape below. I had some issues to consider while doing this:

1. The angle of inclination had to be well planned — too steep and the scene gets dizzy,
too shallow and it looks like a mistake. The horizon also had to hit both vertical sides of
the canvas for proper composition.

2. Presenting the horizon at an angle provided a good opportunity to omit any obvious verticals. Were the composition horizontal, I would have needed some verticals to
avoid splitting the painting.

3. To balance the work, I needed the strokes in the sky to be vertical rather than angled.

4. As I was painting facing the early sun, I included the shaft of light on the right-hand side to add drama and interest to the painting.

5. To accentuate the feeling of flying, I used aerial perspective to give the piece quite a bit of depth and also height.

6. I had to tilt my head a few times to consult the scene at the right angle in order to get the colors and tones right, but I promise I didn’t tilt the canvas.

7. The transposition of a horizontal scene to a slanted horizon on canvas required a bit of mental gymnastics, but that’s where my classical painting tuition paid off.”

Borg’s view while plein air painting "(Fly) View From Laferla Cross"
Borg’s view while painting “(Fly) View From Laferla Cross”,

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