A previous client contacted me and asked me to do a house portrait of his new family home in West Sussex, UK. Although it appears to be a Georgian house, it is in reality, newly built. So new in fact that when I arrived to work on my initial watercolour visuals, some parts of the house were still incomplete.
After a conversation with the client, I looked over a few angles and decided to deliver a few options for us to discuss. These would be a very simple watercolours.
The front side was pretty interesting as it had the rising hills of Sussex behind which set it nicely in the landscape.
Also, to the right, had the remains of a derelict chimney which the client felt he would like to keep as a memory of the past. I also loved the trees climbing over the top, they were delightfully elegant and they also framed the whole composition wonderfully.
Getting to work, I sat in the meadow in front of the house to begin my first watercolour. I was armed with a big glass of water to drink, and a chair to sit on. That said, it was a roasting hot day made worse by the fact that I left my hat at home so it was more than a bit of a struggle. On a positive note, the heat dried the paint seconds after it went down on the paper so I was not going to be baked for too long.
I worked up this angle as a fairly wide composition. I was pretty pleased with it so I moved around to the back of the house to work up another angle.
Painting the back of the house
Although I was happy with the first watercolour, the back of the house immediately had more appeal to me. It has a fine balcony with pillars beneath which gave me the opportunity to add more texture in the shadows. I also maintained the view of the high trees in the background.
Of course, the most obvious feature of the back of the house was that it was placed in front of a rather substantial lake. I also could to lots of exciting things with the reflections in the water.
I moved around to a decent position, placed down my chair then got to work on the second session.
I still had no shade so I was in for another roasting but it was far better than being drenched in the rain. As I got to work, I noticed that this side of the house backed onto a rough area of semi woodland which provided fine cover for the local wildlife.
The wildlife in detail in Sussex
I am naturally very still when I work so over time rabbits, squirrels and pheasant slowly got used to my presence and began to move about in front of me on the way to lake for a drink, and to pick up an easy meal. I decided then to place my unexpected guests into my new composition. This ‘on site’ decision is one of the great benefits of working in front of the subject.
On completion, I sat down with the client to chat about the ideas. I was very pleased when they chose the rear view with the lake.
From here the final painting was completed in the studio. Whilst doing this I needed to chat to the clients about adding a few architectural details that were not there on my visit. I also had to do a spot of research on the species of lakeside plants that are common to the UK. Lastly, I added a small collection of animals and birds which I saw on the day. The Heron was the biggest treat.
Once complete, I presented it to the client, and I am pleased to say they approved.
A testament to our early preparation and consultation.
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