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Bringing Down The House

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Bringing Down the House, Original Painting of House Demolition by Jenny Armitage

Bringing Down the House (16 x 23 watercolor) $600

This house demolition caught my eye because it was so surprisingly beautiful.


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Gap in the Wall

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Acoma Home, a Watercolor Painting by Jenny Armitage

Gap in the Wall (13 x 19 watercolor) $450

This is Acoma Pueblo again.  This time looking up at an intriguing hole in the wall.


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The Sunlit Porch

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The Sunlit Porch, a Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

The Sunlit Porch (watercolor 13 x 17) $225

I’ve always been intrigued by houses half hidden by trees.  They arouse all of my worst instincts.  The very fact the house is hidden makes me want to spy. I don’t of course, but I want to. The feeling is contradictory in any case because I want a house like that, private and treed. And I certainly wouldn’t want anyone else peering between the leaves.

The house I painted was particularly appealing because of the way the sunlit picked out the front porch. The tree sheltered privacy is an illusion though. And no private person’s privacy was injured by painting it. The house is one of the remaining officers’ houses at Fort Robinson Nebraska. Nor do the trees completely shelter the house, they merely screen it from the parade ground. From the porch one would have an unobstructed view of the northern bluffs. Not a bad thing that.

My painting methods were conventional. I began by tinting the paper with burnt sienna. Then I sketched the house and trees. I painted the house first working from light to dark. Then I added the trees beginning this the trunks. I painted the trees loosely working very wet. Then I scrubbed the edges to soften them and lifted color with a tissue.


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Challenging Myself: One Subject, Three Moods

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Queen Anne Nods to Shirley Jackson (11 x 15) $150

Queen Anne Nods to Shirley Jackson (11 x 15) $150

I set a challenge for myself this week.  The idea was to paint a single subject in a variety of moods.  The subject I choose was Deepwoods Estate, here in Salem.  I took all of the photos for the painting in the same light and although the various aspects of the building gave me different ideas, the photos don’t convey much feeling to me.

Its Greener on the Otherside (10 x 13) $125.00

Its Greener on the Other Side

Porch reference photo

Porch reference photo

I began with the front porch. I aimed to emphasize the softness of the light and the romance of the building.  I also wanted to draw the viewer into the painting.

As you can see from my reference photo, my depiction is a little fanciful.  I limited my palate to yellows and blues to mimic the soft shadowy light under the porch and the golden sunlight beyond it.

I think the painting works.  The most common comment about it is that the viewer would like to step through the porch into the garden on the other side.

Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Turret and Cupola

Turret Reference Photo

Turret Reference Photo

Next I painted a detail of the roof-line from in back. This time I tried to contrast the harsh glittering light with the shaded parts of the building.

Because I intended to include many hard lines and less subtle variation in tone I looked for a place where the contrast between light and shade was particularly striking. But I didn’t want it to look like graphic art, so I poured this painting to ensure that the solid expanses of color were lively rather than flat. Once again I exaggerated, the light in the reference photo is not nearly as stark as the light I painted.

I like this painting, but it turned out rather softer than I had intended.  I may try it again with an orange and blue palate.

House Reference Photo

House Reference Photo

The latest painting in this series is of the whole house.  I’ve always found Victorian and Queen Anne houses a little creepy.  Like wrought iron, they can be both sinister and charming all at once.  On a bright sunny day there is nothing really creepy about the Deepwood House, but it does have a swallowed by the woods feel to it.  Despite a generous lawn, there are few places where you can see the whole house.  Instead what you see is patches of house through the trees.

So in order to bring out the sinister feel of Queen Anne archetecture, I pulled the trees in closer to the house and darkened the edges where the trees and house meet visually.  I also distorted the shape of the house stretching it upwards to about fifteen percent more than it’s real height.  Finally I chose a very earthy palate for such a pristine white house:  burnt sienna, raw sienna, yellow ocher, phthalo blue and cobalt blue.

I poured this painting too because I wanted a lot of variation in tone. But pouring produces hard lines at the edges of the mask. The result had too many hard lines for the shadowy woods.  I did so much scrubbing of the edges, washing over, and detail work that painting doesn’t feel poured to me.  But the more I painted the darker it got.  I finally had to stop for fear the house would no longer read as white.

I showed the finished painting to my husband yesterday.  He said he really liked it, but then added tentatively, “Isn’t it a little eerie?”  Yes, yes it is.  But I don’t think it’s so eerie that it’s a caricature of the house.


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Turret and Cupola

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Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Back to the Deepwood Estate but with a very different feel.  This is the west or backside of the house looking up at the turret and the tallest roof peak.  The afternoon sun brought the architectural details into graphic relief. I decided to play with the posterized nature of the light by pouring this painting.

Pouring watercolors is much like batik dyeing.  First I mask all the white areas of the painting.  Then I literally pour cups of paint across the paper.  After the first pour dries, I mask all the pastels and pour darker paint.  Then I mask the medium values and pour again with yet darker paint.   Once the painting is dry, I lift the mask and add the darkest values and the details.

In this case I used phthalo blue, deep red rose, and new gamgee for the first pout.  I tried to keep the yellow on the cupola.  In later pours I used only the deep red rose and two blues Phthalo and French ultramarine.  I saved the french ultramarine for the final pour.

I masked the sky after the first pour and overlaid it with cobalt blue when the mask was removed.  The details are all heavy purple and magenta mixtures of phthalo blue and deep red rose.


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It’s Greener on the Other Side of the Porch

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Its Greener on the Otherside (10 x 13) $125.00

Its Greener on the Other Side (10 x 13) $125.00

Built in 1894, The Deepwood Estate is a lovely example of Queen Anne architecture.  But to my mind, the gardens are even better.  There are four acres of these and they get better every year.  The indoor and outdoor Deepwood Estate meet on the front porch.  Steps from the porch lead to both the front and back gardens as well as the house and separate glassed-in porch.

Looking up at the porch from the front, I was struck by how the trees on the other side glowed in sun.

After cropping my reference photo to emphasize the the view of the backyard, I spent sometime correcting the photo’s perspective.  After transferring my sketch to the watercolor paper I built up from light to dark reserving the white paper where the sun hit the porch wall.

The palate was phthalo blue, a little cobalt blue, hansa yellow light, hansa yellow medium, and burnt sienna.  I tried to keep the porch shadows as blue as possible to emphasize the green and yellow of the view on the other side of the porch. And I exaggerated the porch shadows to increase the sense of depth and to show off the green and gold trees. I used the sienna very sparingly and only to gray down the blues and greens.


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