Contact me at:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Anatomy of a building portrait

      As a follow up I wanted to talk about the process I use to create a portrait of a building.  This is the "Academy."  It was the first "Brick and Mortar" school in Rochester.  It did have other smaller buildings before this one.  The building you see above was built in 1873.  When I moved into town I was despondent to see its roof in disrepair and looking vacant.  I loved the gothic look to it.
     Last year I noticed that it was being fixed up.  I made a point of spending a day walking around and sketching bits and pieces.  I made friends with the Chef of the Cafe inside and as a result I met the building owner.  As a member of the Landmark Society I was pleased to see it featured as a model for remodeling and restoration.  This year when asked to offer a piece of work for the annual Gala I decided to do a watercolor painting of this building.  The Gala this year is called "The Art of Preservation" and will be held tomorrow at the Memorial Art Gallery.  So - for the first time in my life I will have a piece of my work on display in an Art Museum(at least for one day - lol). 
     For most building portraits I start with a photo that I have taken to get the dramatic angle that I want.  This gives me the basic layout for my painting or print.  Then, as with all these buildings built so long ago I go online and do some research to find images taken of the same building when it was new(if they exist).  This gives me the details that have changed or taken off.

     From these I gather as much of the details that I can.  Most buildings in New York that were built during the turn of the century have smoke stacks and as soon as they start renovating that is the first thing to go(state regulations).  The cast iron fencing on the roof line had to be added back in.  Here I had to make an educated guess.  And finally I chose to move the flag pole back to the top. 
     In the photo that I took there are trees and as you can see from the older ones there were none.  I did leave one in the painting to set an edge or frame the shot but the others I had to come up with something to block the view as it is in my photo.  So I went back to the archive photos from Rochester and chose the delivery wagon you see in the painting.  It was of a local store and as you can see in the older photo above they were using horse drawn wagons. 
     I started with a pencil sketch of the entire portrait, making sure all the details were drawn in. Then I painted in the base color without erasing the pencil drawing then I went over the entire piece with a pen to go over the pencil drawing.  After that I erased the pencil lines, touched up the color and went over the entire piece with a pencil to finish up the shadows and blend out any blemishes.

     In the end I finished up with a dramatic Image of one of Rochester's unique gems as seen during the pinnacle of our city's history


1 comment:

  1. Fantastic work Mark! I especially enjoy your commentary on the process. Talent doesn't spring forth unassisted, it is a combination of vision, research and a lot of hard work! Great to see your art recognized and shown at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester - the MAG is one of my all time favorite Museums!