|"Waynesburg Hardware", 16" x 20", ink and watercolor on 140# paper|
Carl retired a few years ago and the building was taken over by a new shop owner, but my memories of the old hardware store came flooding back recently when I received a call from Carl's wife, wanting to commission a painting of the store as a surprise birthday gift for her husband.
We put our heads together and came up with some ideas to personalize the painting. The store window features the sign and oversized key which were always prominently displayed when the store was operational. The slogan "If we don't have it, you don't need it" was just one of the many quirky things I had always liked about the old hardware store.
For a real personal touch, Carl's grandchildren were added to the scene. His grandson sweeps the sidewalk in front of the store, while his granddaughter walks by with one of the family's prized whippets on a leash.
This painting was intended to be an accurate, architecturally detailed depiction of the scene, which meant I had to recreate the look of the stone and brickwork on the buildings. Layers of watercolor in shades of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and burnt umber gave me the look I wanted, but it required lots of fiddly detail painting. It's like magic when you see that first wash of pale tan suddenly begin to take on a three-dimensional look as the darker shades are added.
The shadows I painted on the architectural trim at the top of the buildings helped to give the impression of a bright, sunlit day. I always get a kick out of it when I come to that step in the painting process when I add areas of shadow, and the whole picture suddenly pops. It's so cool!
I had to simplify the gingerbread trim quite a bit, because of the scale of the painting, but hinting at the elaborate floral swag motifs was enough to give an impression of the style of the decorative woodwork.
The brick buildings were painted by first washing in a varied background of warm tones to suggest the lighter mortar color. Then I suggested individual bricks by painting them with a small flat brush. I varied the hue and intensity of the bricks to keep them from looking too uniform and monotonous. I lifted some of the color in places to soften the hard edges.
The surface of the more distant building (below) is less detailed, the bricks less distinct. The lettering on the store sign is sharp and legible though, since it's such an important part of the subject matter.
The painting was a huge surprise to Carl on his birthday and a big hit with the entire family. I enjoyed working on a project with such a personal connection, knowing that this once-in-a-lifetime gift will be treasured by the family and passed on to future generations. It's an honor to be entrusted with people's memories. And what a blessing it is to know that my work can bring so much happiness to people!
To inquire about commissioning a sketch or painting, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'd love to create something especially for you.