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HOW TO PAINT A WATERCOLOUR HOUSE PORTRAIT – easy step by step

Posted by: zoejenkins

I get a lot of questions about my artistic process so I thought it might be a good idea to put everything together in one blog post that will be easy for everyone to follow. I am going to do another post about my preferred materials.

How to paint a house portrait - review reference images

The first thing I do when I receive a commission is to take a good look at all of the reference images I have received. Even if I don't have time to actually start the piece that day, it is helpful to make sure I have enough photos early on so I can get back to the client if I need any more. From these photos I put together a very rough preliminary sketch on some scrap paper so I can start to figure out the composition of the piece. Sometimes I will then send a photograph of this back to the client to check they are happy with everything I might have included or not included.

How to paint a house portrait - preparing the paper

Next, it’s time to prep the paper. Since most of my house portraits are quite small – A4 or A3 – I don't need to stretch my watercolour paper but I do like to put a thin strip of masking tape around it which keeps a slight clean border at the edge of the painting and also helps me to keep the paper attached to the cutting board that I use to make sure there's a smooth and level surface under the paper. It is important to check that your masking tape won't tear the paper as that could ruin the finished piece (which is extremely annoying!), so check it on a separate piece of the same paper before hand. I use a roll that is a year or so old so the adhesive isn’t too strong but it still protects the paper from the paint. You can also use painters tape to make sure the surface of the paper isn't torn or ruined.

How to paint a house portrait - carefully sketch the house

Finally we’re ready to start the piece! This is the time when I do my careful sketch to use as a guide when I’m inking. I try to find parallel lines and horizontals in the building to help myself with the proportions of the building as a whole before I start on the details. This is the most important part of the whole piece as if I make a mistake here it will mess up all of the following steps so I like to take my time and look at it from different angles, close up and far away, to make sure I am happy with the proportions and the composition, and most importantly that it looks like the house I was sent a picture of!

How to paint a house portrait - inking

After I am happy with the drawing I start the inking process. It may seem unusual to do this before the watercolour but I have always preferred to do it this way. Just make sure you use waterproof pens! This is my favourite part as I can start to see the piece coming together. Sometimes I use two different weights of pen to give the drawing more dimension, the thicker pen for the main outlines and the thinner pen for the details. This is the most time consuming part of the whole process as it is the most careful and detailed.

House Portrait - painting

Next up is the watercolour painting. I do block colours first, usually starting with the building itself, typically with the walls and roof. Then I do the more detailed parts once these layers have dried, such as shadows and individual bricks etc. Painting with watercolour always takes lots of layers and patience which can be tricky, but the results are worth it. Sometimes I use making fluid if there are particularly light sections or important highlights that I don't want to get paint on.

How to paint a house portrait - finishing touches

Finally, it's time for the finishing touches. I make sure that the watercolour paint is dry and go back in with the pen to re-do some details and make sure the whole thing pops. Then I carefully peel the tape off the paper and it is finished! If the painting needs to be framed then I will carefully trim it to fit and put it in the frame, ready to be sent!

While this process can take a long time, especially on larger drawings as more details are required, I do really enjoy making my personalised house portraits. I love hearing what people think when they receive them as there is nothing more satisfying than hearing that someone is really happy with their painting!

I hope you have found this post helpful or interesting and make sure to pick yourself up your own Personalised House Portrait if you like what you see.

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