"As the Crow Flies" - a signpost installation

“As the Crow Flies” – a signpost installation lockdown project
24th July 2020 Jane Tomlinson
In About art, travels

Distance signpost Lockdown folk art with a global view

While recovering from an eye operation in July 2020, I began an easy-to-paint personal project I’d had in mind for some time – an art installation of a signpost, measuring distances ‘as-the-crow-flies’ in miles to how far it is to places that are significant or meaningful to me or my family.

I wanted to put myself and where I live on the map. Freeland in West Oxfordshire is a sleepy rural village that no one has ever heard of, but it’s my home and therefore the centre of my world. During the pandemic, when travel was inadvisable or impossible, all our worlds became small and local, didn’t they? So the signpost reflects my yearning to get out there, and my need to take a global view of things.

Outward-looking – a signpost to the world

The signpost itself is a kind of map, allowing the viewer to orientate themselves and understand where they stand (quite literally) in relation to the rest of the world. I hope that it will raise a smile and make people think about their place on the planet.

My “As the Crow Flies” signpost has been installed in our front garden on Pigeon House Lane, close to the narrow single track lane on which we live. It’s a route popular with local walkers, dog-walkers, joggers, and horse riders, as well as a rat run for delivery drivers – how I wish they’d slow down!

My husband Moth on the left and our builder, Alan French, on the right.

Signs of the times

Each sign on “As the Crow Flies” has been hand painted with carefully chosen typography and colours. So far, there are 6 signs on the installation:

  • To properly place where I am on the planet, I need to know my bearing in relation to the North and South Poles.
  • My local city – Oxford – is about 9 miles by road, but from the corner of the field opposite you can see its spires rising up out of the valley just 7 miles as the crow flies. I was educated there, I lived there, I had my children there, it’s my adopted home city.
  • Stratford-upon-Avon is where I was born and raised. Wherever I am, it will be always be home.
  • As a child my father was a visiting professor at the University of California. From our sitting room window we could look across the bay to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the lights of downtown San Francisco.
  • My nephew Alex moved to South Australia in 2017. He has made his home in a small town near Adelaide. We are a close family and we miss him terribly! One day – perhaps in the not too distance future – we plan to visit. My brother Paul – Alex’s father – painted this sign.
  • I know Amsterdam better than my own capital city. As a student and lover of Dutch art, I have visited more times than I can count.
  • Freeland, Oxfordshire – At the top of the sign is a placement ‘polo’ – just like the rural road signs had that I remember from my childhood. Occasionally, you can still see these. There is a fine example of an ‘Oxford – County’ signpost outside County Hall in Oxford.

I hope that over time, more signs will be added to the signpost. My mother is making a sign to Hong Kong where she lived for many years. My daughter Cleo and nephew George have said that together they will paint a sign to London, where they live. And there are other places near and far that I have in mind, too… so watch this space!

I should also add, that as the UK commits national suicide by Brexit, the signpost stands as a reminder that whether Brexiteers like it or not, the UK is part of a global community.


Heartfelt thanks to my husband Moth, my brother Paul, my first husband Greg, and our friendly local builder Alan French for their ideas and help with this art installation. Without their support, enthusiasm and skills with wielding power tools, this signpost would still exist only in my head.

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