Occasionally I get asked to paint client homes, and last year I was pleased to be asked to paint a family home in Warrington, Cheshire.
This property is about 200 miles from my home in Somerset but, as I also had jobs booked in Liverpool and Salford at the same time, I decided to book a few days out and do a bit of a Northern Road trip.
Painting a house portrait
I always enjoy doing house portraits as you gain an insight into the lives and experiences of others, and you can incorporate this into the piece.
I try not to make it a purely architectural image, I attempt to look for features that make it unique to my client. And here it was the wisteria.
My client bought the house with his family in the 1980s when the wisteria was just a few feet high. Over the decades it grew along with his family. It now envelops three sides of the building and is a resplendent lilac in the late Spring.
Due to the pandemic rules, I couldn’t get up to Warrington when it was in bloom so my client took plenty of photographs for me to work from later.
I also took inspiration from the artist Stanley Spencer who did some beautiful paintings of wisteria in his home village of Cookham in Berkshire.
Sometimes I can work from Google Street view and photos, though for this it was important for me to go on site as there is a very large hedge in front of the house which grows up to the eves and its simply impossible to get a long view of it on Google.
The process of drawing
To get my view, I set up my portable easel in the front garden, with my back against the hedge, and drew what I saw directly in front of me.
Once done, I shuffled along a little bit and repeated the process. After three or four stages I got to the end of the house and the car port.
The final painting
I cheat perspective all over the place though I eventually had what I needed in pencil form, I just needed to push a bit of watercolour about and add the Wisteria to deliver the final visual to present to my client.
Thankfully my client was happy and I was clear to sort out a final drawing and get on with the oil painting.
In the back of my mind of course was the wisteria. It was crucial that I got that right and I had dear old Stanley Spencer to guide my path. Between us, we eventually got there on a small area and felt confident enough to move across the face of the house to complete the rest.
I really enjoyed painting in the red bricks the roof with touches of lichen growing in patches and streaks.
Once done I presented it to my client, and he was most pleased. So pleased, in fact, he treated me to a rather fine Chinese meal with plenty of wine to wash it all down with. Splendid!