Flowers do not always convey what you wish to express, so when the parents sold the Brampton family home after 36 years to be able to move to Hamilton and be closer to the grandchildren, the siblings had to decide how best to communicate their gratitude for all the memories accumulated over the years.
The parents already owned and prized my Gage Park “Winter Gazebo” limited edition print, but the siblings wanted something more personable, so they decided to commission me to do an oil painting of the house they grew up in. When told they could have anything added to it, they collectively decided on dad and the dog on the porch, mom gardening, and a golf bag strategically placed that said PENN STATE on it, because two of the boys had received scholarships from Penn State University, and one was now the Head Coach for golf at Penn State.
The painting is a 16 by 30inch oil on gallery wrap original, and starts with a charcoal sketch. Skies are always completed first and are usually a base of cerulean blue with other shades added. A dark under base of alizarin crimson mixed with Prussian blue is applied to the rest of the canvas.
With very tiny brushes, the bricks are placed individually using lamp black over paynes grey shadows. Using a base colour of Winsor & Newton transparent orange (which is one of the five new colours released by the company this year and is a cross between orange and burnt sienna), mixed with Rose Dore, the house slowly came to life. Darker areas had olive green and a thin glaze of bismuth yellow.
Cobalt turquoise brought a feeling of depth to the grass and sap green, olive green and green earth in thin glaze layers with small strokes brought the lawn alive.
The siblings were able to see their wonderful surprise develop and give input as I sent them frequent photos of each stage. People are always keen to know how an artist takes you from a blank canvas to the feeling that you could step inside the painting and be part of it.
When it was time to pick up the completed artwork, one son and daughter in law brought the parents for a day trip to see the Alton Mill Arts Centre, at 1402 Queen Street West in Alton where my studio is.
They leisurely toured the downstairs galleries then decided to wander upstairs and see the studios. When they came into mine, they were enjoying looking at the different pieces but when they turned one corner, the dad stopped, pointed at the painting on the wall and yelled “That’s my house”. Looking bewildered he again exclaimed “That’s my house”, with his wife echoing, then turned and asked me “Who ARE you?”
I explained that I could not sell them the painting because it was commissioned by a small group of people and already paid for, and the dad said “But it’s my house.”
When I suggested that they turn around and face their son and they turned and saw him recording their reaction, they instantly understood. The son said they were “beyond shocked”.
What a fun, unique way of giving the new owners their gift.