Thursday, October 23, 2008

diary of a house portrait

I am working on a pair of house portraits for Jo-Anne, a cellist and cello teacher in Oakville, Ontario. As they are houses I've never seen I have been relying on photographs and daily input from Jo-Anne. It's been an interesting journey, and not without a 'challenge' or two! I think the main problem is me, i.e. I hadn't actually touched a paintbrush (just lots of drawing media) in nearly four months and it took awhile for me to warm up. Doing these portraits is almost like trying to impose both the house's personality and my painting style on a jigsaw puzzle. Here's how it played out (click to enlarge or go here):

I started with complementary-coloured underpainting and began blocking in the foreground green areas.

Since I work 'backwards' the front 1/3 of the painting came first.

After consulting with Jo-Anne I painted the garage differently from its current incarnation and then started to work in some details and a few more foliage areas.

I discovered the hard way that using phthalo green as the background to pale cream-coloured bricks does NOT work.
The net result makes it look like a light green house.

So I did a warm glaze over the entire brickwork using alizarin crimson, which is a strong but transparent pigment. It wasn't quite enough, though, so I ended up having to do two glazes.

Then I re-painted the bricks, one at a time, and tried to reduce the space between them. Unfortunately the colour turned out darker than the actual house.

So I added yet another coat of light, cream-coloured paint to a few of the bricks, which lightened things up considerably.

The portrait is 16" x 20" x 1.5" on gallery-wrapped


Blogger Ellen said...

This looks great, tons of detail and still a signature Pratt (Andrea Pratt that is). And bricks! how I miss brick houses. I use to hang out in Oakville all the time. I bet I've even seen this house.

23/10/08 2:53 p.m.  
Blogger Michelle said...

I love it! I am saving my pennies for you to do a custom one for my husband!

23/10/08 3:44 p.m.  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...

So cool to see your magic. As soon as things have settled from the move, I need to talk with you about getting a portrait of our new house. :)

23/10/08 4:28 p.m.  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

Wow. It changes so dramatically once you take out that red-orange sky/background.

I'm sure she's thrilled with it.

23/10/08 6:34 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

you amaze me with your house portraits and how you paint.

23/10/08 7:02 p.m.  
Blogger Melanie said...

I love that it starts looking kind of like a creepy zombie house then becomes a home. It's kind of how it happens in real life, isn't it?

24/10/08 6:22 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, wow, wow! That was so great to see your process.
The end result is just beautiful and so full of life.


24/10/08 8:06 a.m.  
Blogger Ilva said...

Really interesting to see how you worked on it and I think the result is brilliant!

24/10/08 10:50 a.m.  
Blogger Deborah Ross said...


24/10/08 12:08 p.m.  
Blogger WW said...

OK, Andrea, so being the total doofus in this crowd, I need to ask:

Why was the background behind the house orange to begin with?




But it's gorgeous.

24/10/08 8:42 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Ellen: Jo-Anne lives in Oakville now but the house is actually in Kitchener. Wait'll you see the next house. It's from 1906 (also in Kitchener).

Michelle: :)

Angela: And it's such a charming little house, too!

Tara: You can't see the effect of the background in this photo but you can in real life.

Toni: Thanks. :)

Melanie: You're so right! And on that note, I hate moving! :)

Andie: Thanks -- sometimes it's hard to be both faithful to the subject and make it original.

Ilva and Deborah: Thanks!

WW: A very good question! Since I reveal the background through the painting I like to make it the complementary (opposite on the colour wheel) because it gives the result a little added "zing".

25/10/08 7:56 a.m.  
Blogger WW said...

Thanks for indulging me and my curiosity. :-)

25/10/08 8:12 a.m.  
Blogger Peter said...

That's a fabulous painting!

25/10/08 12:59 p.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Fabulous - the light seems to be pouring out of it!

26/10/08 2:24 a.m.  
Blogger catnapping said...

holy ____! that is fantastic. i loved watching the process. the detail is phenomenal - the texture, perfect.

26/10/08 2:55 p.m.  
Blogger nadine said...

I too love it when you post your process photos :-)
(And now I don't have to feel jealous seeing someone else's house get the AP treatment.)

26/10/08 5:56 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

WW: I will always indulge you.

Peter: Thank you kindly!

Caroline: Cool observation!

Catnapping: And I was trying to avoid too much detail but the house DEMANDED it. :)

Nadine: Stay tuned for more!

26/10/08 6:41 p.m.  
Blogger Donn Coppens said...

Looks deVINE

I love your lessons...
although you could add a few more "happy little trees over there" because Bob Ross is watching from the great beyond and that would make him smile.

26/10/08 10:02 p.m.  
Blogger Grammacello.JoAnne said...

"And I was trying to avoid too much detail but the house DEMANDED it. :)"
Why is this?
And "Hi" to all you commenters; I am so blown away/thrilled/awed to have this painting in my life that I don't know what more to say.
Glad the documentation of its making was of such interest to you all. I loved seeing the process as well.
Jo-Anne, [former] owner of the house (aka Grammacello)

26/10/08 11:21 p.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Its a very cool light.

27/10/08 1:26 a.m.  
Blogger Melody said...

Amazing work!

27/10/08 7:47 a.m.  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Fantastic - I just love seeing the progress photos too!

I know what you mean about warming up. Since I took a studio hiatus this year from clay, it took me a bit to remember some of the nuances. Thankfully, it's just like riding a bike. ;)

27/10/08 10:07 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Donn: Bob, we're lost without you! Come back!

Jo-Anne: You know, sometimes the paintings themselves dictate how they want to be painted and I feel like I'm just along for the ride. This was one of those.

Melody & Caro: Thanks.

Cynthia: It is like riding a bike! But patience at the beginning is definitely a help.

27/10/08 5:24 p.m.  
Blogger Hayden said...

omg - can't believe all of the steps/patience to get it to the right color! amazing!

29/10/08 6:10 p.m.  

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