Monday, September 9, 2013

A Gift Filled With Memories

For thirty years, the Waynesburg True Value Hardware store was a fixture on the main street of my hometown. Carl Duffield, the genial owner of the store, always had a smile ready for anyone who walked in the door, and we got to be friends over the years. Customers could always count on finding just what they needed at Waynesburg Hardware, anything from a cast iron skillet to some obscure plumbing fitting or a pair of garden gloves.

"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
I'd love to create something especially for you.


  1. What a wonderful experience you had in creating this for someone! I'll bet you feel great about it. Wonderful job, done with such care and talent!

  2. Love this! What a wonderful memory for his family. You are so very talented! Well done! :)

  3. A Labor of Love! Thanks for sharing it with us - especially all of the details.

  4. Leslie, you did a beautiful job on this piece. I adore all of your paintings.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful water color painting lesson.

  6. what a wonderful gift! thank you for sharing some of the process. Your work is beautiful.

  7. Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind comments.

  8. The hardware store painting brought a flood of emotions and memories back when I saw it this summer at Carl's. The store was second generation, and a huge part of how I remember my "Granddad Duffy" - The personal touches really make the picture complete. Thank you! Valued by not only Carl's family, but his extended family as well!

    1. I appreciate your taking the time to write, Kerry. It's nice to know that the painting meant so much to you and your family. I really enjoyed working on it, imagining how surprised Carl would be when he saw it.

  9. Jennifer Strauss-MyersSeptember 10, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    Oh Leslie,...This has brought tears to my eyes. You have no idea the joy this would have brought to my Grandfather & Grandmother. I'm sure Carl values this as one of his most prized possessions! Not to mention having the loves of his life, his grandchildren, featured in the work. These are truly beautiful. Thank you,....for immortalizing the memories!

  10. What a truly beautiful work of art you have created, with such precise details. It shows how much it will be appreciated by the comments made by his family. I always love reading how you achieve such details. Thank you for sharing yet another fantastic painting.

  11. What a wonderful collaboration, full of love & meaning...yes, a blessing for all...

  12. What a wonderful personalized gift!!! I am sure Carl will treasure it.


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