A Completed Commission

The Final Version

This is the last commission of the year, and it is finished, I am pleased to say. I have had to keep in touch with the client, at every stage of the painting, which I don’t usually do, as it does make a lot of work . Having said that I have enjoyed this commission more than I thought, and maybe stage by stage consultation is not a bad idea, certainly after my last bad experience

However, they were nice people to deal with, and although they made a few changes here and there, basically they were onside.The painting was collected today and I am pleased to say that they were thrilled with the result

The subject of the painting was a Victorian cottage deep in the Surrey woods. Probably it had originally been an estate worker’s cottage, built around 1840 with a later addition.

I went to look at the cottage quite early one morning. The sun had risen. At this time of year, the shadows are long. The woods behind the house were brightly lit, most of the leaves had gone, and the light filtering through the branches gave them a translucent feel. To get that effect on paper needed thinking about. I used a colour that I don’t use often, quinacradone gold. It was perfect for the job and just gave the effect of sun-bathed trees that I was looking for

Most of the house was in shadow. I removed some as I wanted the effect of bright sun hitting the brickwork here and there. The combination of light and dark should be dramatic

When I was on site, the client brought their little dog, a Labrador bitch puppy. She was a beautiful colour, gold. Would I include her in the painting. I like to please, so I said yes, but I was anxious. I have painted dogs before but never done a dog portrait, especially one so tiny. She would be the size of a fingernail

I had taken some pictures. I have to say that for a lively puppy, she was very well behaved and posed beautifully. I picked one of the photographs and did a full sized drawing, which I was pleased with. I then reduced it in size to a thumbnail and put it in the sketch, and went on from there. When the time came to paint, I used the same gold as the trees in the background, and used more of the same for shadows on the dog. It worked better then I thought possible

Mostly straightforward otherwise, except that I could not get definition to stay in the cottage features. Overnight the colour would dry and disappear, which is not that unusual in watercolour. Eventually I reddened the brick colour with vermilion, which darkened the building and somehow improved the brick texture. Again something I have learned for another time

Commissions can certainly be testing, and very occasionally go awry, like my last unhappy experience, but they can also be broadening and make you attempt something you wouldn’t normally tackle. Will I start doing animal portraits? Hmm perhaps not, but animals in landscape are a possibility

House Portrait Completed

The Finished Portrait

There was quite a lot of detailing in this one. Different things were asked to be included, which I have done, but because of the scale, they have ended up as rather tiny. I was worried about that. Things like different coloured pots and also some blooms slightly out of season. Let’s hope they don’t disappoint

The car port and furniture store relationship on the left hand side, took some working out so that each was distinguishable. I did wonder afterwards whether I should have recommended leaving the furniture store out completely. The car port is a nice building, almost barn-like with its hipped roof, and it would have stood alone quite easily. However I didn’t. I painted what was there, which is the honest thing to do.

I reduced the enormous expanse of gravel with shadows coming in from trees which were off stage. I think that improves. Not really a follower of feng shui, I have left, nevertheless, an uninterrupted view of the path leading to the front door.

Some of the colours I have changed as well as scaling down the sizes of some of the shrubs. Generally a mix of reds and greens , I think the colour scheme works well, although some might disagree.

I now have another commission, another house portrait, which I went to see a couple of days ago. This is a rather charming cottage out in the woods, built around 1830, so lots of character, which I am shortly to start.

Just when it looked straightforward, I was asked to include the dog. Oh well, another challenge

House Portrait: the Preliminary Sketch

The Preliminary Sketch

I’ve just done this from the photograph. This is,of course, a commissioned work and I have to visit the site next week. Seasons have changed so may well look different, but this will do for now to work from. I will take some photographs of my own which I prefer, so that I can clear up some details which are ambiguous at the moment.

For now, there is little more that I can do before I see the actual building, and as I say, the colours have changed. The original photograph that I had was from the summer, and now everything is autumnal. As far as colour schemes are concerned, I prefer that. There should be some bare branches as well.

I just have to hope that the sun will be out, so that we get some lights and darks. For weeks now, the weather has been wet and the skies have been heavy. This is quite hopeless for painting, but as always we must work with what we have got.

Some news from the exhibition at the hospital. I have sold one painting entitled Canals of Venice, so not out for a duck, which is something

I shall be able to add more next week

The Finished House Portrait

Finished House Portrait

Well, the portrait is finished and shown to the client who is delighted. I don’t usually allow myself satisfaction, but even I think that this one turned out well. It just has to be mounted, which I shall do in the new year. It isn’t required until the middle of January so that should work out nicely

Basically, all that I needed to do since the last post, was to put in the shadows. Half the gravel drive was covered by shade from a large tree just off-stage, which also darkened the hedge. Some intricate shadow underneath the porch gave shape to the covered interior, and even the cartwheel stands out more now from the wall

Some dark detailing was added to the shrubs on the left. Somewhere in the deep tunnel made by those shrubs is a white garden gate, which I have shaded. Most of this I had to guess, with the help of some alternative references

I enjoy house portraits. I’m not sure why. This one will go on my website one day

But for now to resume my exhibition work, as time does not stand still

At this time of year, may I wish all who read my blog,warmest greetings and good fortune in the coming year

House Portrait: Part Finished

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Getting there but not quite. Still some detailing to be done

Apart from changing some of the trees on the right-hand side, I have kept as faithfully as possible to the subject. I have left out some of the dark coniferous foliage that was intruding in the right-hand corner. I didn’t like it, and it was very much “in your face”, and so detracted from the house, which should remain the star of the show. I hope the client agrees with me, but I could always put some in, if she insists.

I put a distant tree in behind the ridge of the roof, just to alleviate that line. The sky itself is bland, as I wanted the building to come forward. For the roof colour I glazed burnt sienna over raw sienna, and then when bone dry, glazed light red over the burnt sienna. I did the same for the brickwork, hopefully to give an impression of bricks being sunlit.

I have just started to put in some of the shadow, but have by no means completed. As soon as you do that, the building takes on a third dimension, and I love watching the house come towards me. Once the shading on the house is complete, I shall put some dark shadow on the hedge to the right. As well as that, dark shadow on the gravel, about halfway, which will help to make the rest of the drive, look bright. That is the plan

On the left-hand side I see from other pictures, that there is a white gate deep amongst the bushes which is just visible, so I will need to include that, as well as some extra dark in the shrubs, as well as shadows from them.

Still some way to go, but being a mad time of the year, I am reduced to little and often, which I don’t mind, as I can judge each stage as it dries out. As we all know, the difference between the wet pigment and the dried-out colour is quite significant.

Every so often, I take pains to point out, that I am not formally qualified to teach painting, but if you like watching me work, and if you find what I do to be helpful, then I am very pleased to welcome you to my blog. Especially welcome are more recent followers, whom perhaps I haven’t addressed before

House Portrait

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I have interrupted the study of the bridge over the Basingstoke canal, as I have been lucky enough to be given a commission for a house portrait. This is the first this year and it is only December. Last year I was doing something from the web site every other month.

This will be a gift for a couple moving after 40 years in this lovely house, and a painting will make a lovely memento. I do always feel privileged to be entrusted with this sort of task, and naturally will give the job my very best attention

This will be presented by another family member, and will be a surprise for the couple concerned. My job will be to make it a pleasant one

Crazy time of the year, of course and many things happening, year end, which I am involved in, so I am working on the project during spare moments. Luckily I am not under much pressure to complete to a deadline

So far I have prepared a working sketch with tonal work, which will help me place the details in my head and also let me know where the shadows are. I will flash the sketch up next, so you can see where I have got to. Next, the tedious bit, moving the drawing onto watercolour paper, but it has to be done

By way of a PS, we had our annual art exhibition at the week-end. By we I mean the Pirbright Art Club, and I am pleased to say that I sold “Salt Mills at Trapani, Sicily”. The painting is somewhere in the archives if you wanted to check it out. So, after a very slow start, sales have not been too bad during the second half of the year

Working Sketch

Again, because of the importance of the task, I have used a grid to get architectural details in the right place, I hope

I love house portraits, and am looking forward to getting back to this one