How to Paint House Portraits

If you're a struggling artist in need of cash, maybe you could make ends meet by painting house portraits.


| March/April 1980



062 house portraits

Painting house portraits can be a great way to make a little extra money.


PHOTO: GARY NELSON

Many artists, though they might be very skillful, find it tough to sell even a few of their paintings — and such folks probably come to feel that actually makin' a living with paintbrushes is about as likely as striking oil in their back yards.

The problem, however, is that painters too often depict only subjects that appeal to them, as opposed to what a prospective buyer might want.

I, on the other hand, find it very easy to paint what my customers want to see, because I know that few objects are as dear to a person's heart as "home, sweet home" — whether the abode is an old family estate or a suburban tract dwelling. You see, I specialize in "house portraits," and any reasonably good brush wielder should have no trouble handling such a commission him or herself (and can earn from $25 to $100 doing so). What's more, such art work can be interesting and creative (to paraphrase the old stage cliché: There are no small paintings, only small painters!).

Commissions Come Easy!

It's not really difficult to land home portrait jobs, either. In fact, as a part-time "house painter," I get all the work I want from word-of-mouth publicity and the framed samples that are always hanging on my living room walls. So, even if you want to work full time, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to locate plenty of jobs — especially if you live near a population center and run some advertising in the local newspaper and/or spend a few hours doing door-to-door self-promotion.

Once you've found a customer, get out a camera and take some pictures of his or her home. You can, if you prefer, set up your easel and work right at the site, but — because of potential problems with the changing light and shadow over the course of the day, or imperfect weather conditions — I find it much easier to use photos and paint at home.

Either prints or slides will do, but transparencies do allow you to project the picture directly onto your canvas and paint or charcoal in the main lines, thus saving time. Of course it's also handy to have a close-up color print to tack above your painting surface so you can easily check the building's details. It's important to take pictures of the house from several different angles, so you can be sure to pick that one "best view." Try, too, to "frame" the house (with trees that grow in the yard, for instance) to produce a more interesting composition.





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