Welcome back for week 2 of this diary.  This week we’ll examine a painting that I did in <gasp!> 1996.  An old one, but it will be instructive for several reasons.  See it below.

This 8×10 painting depicts a large late Victorian house in Cape May, New Jersey.  The house still stands on a corner on Howard Street and is still clad in white paint.  In preparation for this project I took about 40 photographs and selected 2 or 3 from which I painted the piece.  

This painting brings together 2 of my interests, painting and Victorian
archictecture.  (Actually I’m a bit obsessed with all things Victorian.)  The house is not pure in its design, taking elements from both the Queen Anne and the shingle styles.  It is a very large house on a small city lot, typical for greater Cape May.  I visited the house several times prior to beginning the painting.    

Victorian homes were never originally painted white.  Often painted in dark colors, the trim was painted in shades intended to enhance the main body color.  (Certain colors will come forward, others recede.  Color selection for Victorians is a carefully considered art and has given rise to entirely new paint lines.  A careful review of the photographs in Frankenoid‘s garden diary will reveal details of her Victorian house and its elaborate paint scheme.  But I digress.)  But white, when combined with elaborate Victorian architecture, makes for an interesting and challenging painting when a structure is lit by
early morning or late afternoon sun.  This particular house is a tour de force of late Victorian architecture with three turrets, a number of dormer windows, a wraparound porch and second story verandah area above.  

The result is a painting with brightly lit areas on the left side, heavily shadowed areas on the right and intermediate areas in between.  It has a strong three dimensional feeling, much like the house that inspired it.  The lighting provides even greater interest to the architecture.  

Note that the composition places the house off center with the porch extending almost to the far left edge.  Yet a sense of balance is achieved by the placement of the bush (or shrub, if you prefer) on the right side.  It is always preferable to achieve a balance by considered placement of the elements within a painting rather than by simple centering of the dominant subject.  The result is a far more interesting painting.

It is best to avoid placing the ground level at the vertical midpoint of the canvas.  Note that by placing it below the vertical midpoint more sky is seen on the canvas and the viewer has a higher viewpoint, as in this painting.  Placement of the ground level above the midpoint makes for a lower orientation, closer to the ground with less sky visible.  Think of it this way, a child’s view of this scene would differ from that of an adult.  

This painting has an example of what a cruel thing color blindness can be, epecially to a painter.  Well after the painting was complete, I had occasion to discuss it with Mrs.boran2.  I was saying something about the roof when she indicated that on the real house it was not actually green as it is in the painting.  I was surprised but left the painting as it was.  Oh well, it does provide color consistency with the lawn and plants.  By the way, both composition and color are things that I will continue to discuss on a regular basis.

This painting began as a pencil sketch on the canvas.  Usually I do the initial work (with a brush) in thin, watery paint in a color that will be dominant in the painting.  This painting required more detail and a pencil allowed more control than a brush.

The sketch was then enhanced with thin layers of paint.  Strangely, rather than using white or gray, I actually started with ochre (deep yellow) and added the whites and grays afterwards.  There is no good reason for this, I just like ochre.  Traces of ochre are still visible on a close inspection.  

The background was added later after much of the house was done.  This is not necessarily the best way to proceed, but I like to add a background consistent with the mood of the central subject.  Others will paint the background first and the main subject is built upon it.  I just can’t work that way.

There are always parts of a painting that could use improvement in the eyes of the artist, but I have been satisfied with this one, by and large.

For next time I have a poll.  If there is interest, I am willing to paint the photo below and show each phase of the painting as it evolves.  In this way, those who want to experience the process can view it or paint along with me.  Please respond to the poll below and/or leave a comment.  Tell me what you think.  Thanks for your input and see you next week.  Happy painting!

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