One might argue that there is very little creativity involved in drawing house portraits. Some will say that it is merely a matter of reproducing, onto the paper, what you see in a photo. However, after about 30 house portraits, I can tell you that it has never been simply a matter of reproducing what I see in the photo. Creating a house portrait for somebody is about being a magician of sorts.
You must shift time, to other years and other seasons.
You must redesign architecture.
You must rearrange landscaping.
You must create new elements out of thin air.
And most of all, you must listen to what your client tells you about their home and why they love it enough to want a portrait drawn.
The client asked that I draw the side and back of the house. The house is tucked into a grove of trees and very difficult to even see from the road, but that's the view they most often see when coming down the road. Also, the family usually gathered on the back deck and spent most of their family time in the back yard.
They loved the first drawing I sent them, but they had a few things that they hoped I might be able to change. I made six changes and they approved the second draft.
Here's the game:Can you see what I changed?
The client loved the style and mood of the first drawing... but it wasn't quite 'home' to them yet, I could tell. They were hoping to see more of the back patio, where they had shared such good memories. And they were hoping that the apple tree, which had been cut down years ago, might still be in the picture. They told me a story about the little parking area, marked off with railroad ties, at the right of the house. Their father had widened the area one year, to make room for all the kids and their growing families when they came to visit. That told me how important those gatherings were! If this drawing was to reflect the true character of this "Home", then it was going to have to feature the patio and the parking area more prominently.
I've studied plenty of books on perspective and architectural drawing, and I was able to pull off those changes pretty easily. An architect would shake his or her head at the way I so boldly extended the end of the house to show the patio doors, and the way that I moved the chimney to a more visible spot, and the way I widened the windows and raised the roof pitch... but those things make it a prettier home, and in the homeowner's eyes... that's how it really seems every time they remember this house.
Today I'm working on tinting with colored pencil. This piece must be shipped next week, then two more portraits to draw before you-know-what!
Not biting my nails.... not just yet...