Monday, 11 May 2009

Architectural Portrait

I am developing a keen interest in painting buildings and was delighted when I was approached recently to do a watercolour of a new office unit being built in farmland locally.
When I visited the site to take some reference photos and get a feel for the place, I was immediatley struck by the lack of background. As with most modern industrial units, this one is very box-like. Smart, but featureless and without character. Sure, I could have painted a box with blue sky above and green grass below, but I wanted my painting to be a 'scene' in its own right, and say something about the area it's located in.

The only solution I could think of was to shift the viewing point to raise the eye-level above the height of the building. This would allow me to 'steal' background from the distant landscape. This was my first experience of this sort of thing and I found it much harder than I'd expected. I thought it was just a case of raising the horizon and adjusting the vanishing points. Well, I guess it was ... but to raise it by the right amount, to give some background without making the building look all roof, took quite a few practice sketches. And without a photo to copy, placing the doors and windows in the right place tested my knowledge of dimishing space to the extreme.

There are things I might do different next time, like possibly using 3-point perspective rather than the 2-point I used for this one. But I'm glad I decided on an angular view showing the front and a side. I think a straight-on frontal view would have made the building look flat and the painting look too symetrical. So, overall I'm not disappointed with the result. I've made a 'painting' out of a structure and shown the surrounding countryside, which says more about the building than the reference photo ever will.

This will make an interesting addition to my 'Architectural Portraits' site as it's the first Industrial building I've painted.


  1. I think you've done a great job with this John. Showing the building in the landscape was a good idea and was probably what the clients had in mind. Painting it from an angle rather than front-on was the right decision as well I think.

  2. Thanks Keith. There were so many 'ponderables' in this one I doubt I'll ever feel totally satisfied with it, but it was an interesting project and I learnt a great deal from it.

  3. When I first saw the original photo John my heart sunk. I didn't think it possible to make a decent painting from it. You have done the impossible and have done a very nice painting, an excellent job .. well done you!!