About a year ago, a friend of mine asked me if I would do a painting of his family home. Sure, I said.
Well, time moved on, we kept talking about it here and there, but finally this summer the stars aligned and the project was done. Here is the story, and it is special to me.
My friend, John, lives in the home where he grew up. It was built more than 100 years ago by his grandparents, lived in by his parents, and now by him. It’s an end-of-row rowhome located in what was a small town about 35 miles from Center City Philadelphia.
The area is now suburbanizing and there have been a lot of changes, but the house is still as it has always been, rising up from the street in a dignified way.
As well as a doing a portrait of the house, John asked me to include his dogs: Ava, Maggie, Nikki, and Winnie. Other than that, well, it was up to me.
Normally I won’t do commissions. I dislike feeling the future owner’s hopes hovering over my shoulder as I work. I extra dislike the idea that I could disappoint the recipient. In this case, I know that John likes my work; he has been a big supporter of me, always.
But I also knew that this house means more than just shelter to him. It is the embodiment of a lifetime of memories for him and the setting for all his family’s history for a century. I felt a lot of responsibility.
But, I figured, I’ll get to work, and if it doesn’t please him, well, I’ll just…just…try again!
I want to show the process of this project, and I will break it down into its parts. Because I decided there would be paintings rather than painting.
Here are my ideas. I would do a small portrait of each dog; I’d do the house; and I’d do a picture of the front door and steps. In this way I could represent all the parts that seemed important. The house, of course. The dogs deserved their own spaces; I felt they would be insignificant inside the larger painting and I didn’t like that idea, since they are so important to John. And I just liked the front steps; that’s the way everyone who’s ever been there goes in and out, all those years!
My husband and I drove out and took pictures of the house in June. John sent me pictures of Ava, Nikki, and Maggie; I took a picture of John and Winnie in July.
Now you know it all. Here are the results.
Let’s start with the dogs.
And John and Winnie. I met Winnie myself; John brought her to the Tinicum Festival of the Arts and I took her picture.
Here is the close up of the steps and front door.
And now. The house!
Here are the finished pieces all together…