Hat Shop in Turn-of-the-Century Doylestown

My illustration can be seen at the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Bucks Fever Art Exhibition which opens Thursday, November 10 from 5 to 7 pm at the Mercantile in Doylestown, PA.

There’s a building in the middle of Doylestown, at the corner of Main St. and Shewell Ave., that’s been scaffolded for months – it’s being renovated into lavish condos, with a craft brewery on the bottom floor. But if you’d walked down Main Street in 1900 you’d have noted the latest women’s fashions in the elegant semi-circular second floor window of that same building, because that floor was home to Mrs.Ivins’ millinery shop.

The Doylestown Historical Society asked me to envision a typical day in Mrs. Ivins’ shop, with hats, customers and that lovely Victorian arched window. I had a wonderful time researching and creating this scene and I’m pleased to say that my original illustration will be in the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Bucks Fever Art Exhibit, which opens to the public tomorrow, Thursday, November 10 with a reception from 5 to 7 pm at the Mercantile in the Doylestown Shopping Center.

Kurt Spence of the DHS sent me excellent photo references, courtesy of the Doylestown Historical Society, to begin sketching for the scene. Some were photos of the outside of the building from the turn of the century, some of ladies’ dress and hat fashions, and some from the interiors of Victorian hat shops.

I boiled down my process of creating this historical scene to three steps: research, distillation, and reintroducing selected detail. The research came in studying these photos, pictures from costume books I have, and information on the internet. I started sketching by creating the empty shop room with little detail, just to get the space correct. I sketched some figures separately, to drop into the scene. This was par0r of the ‘distillation’ – simplifying the elements to get a clear composition

Here is the room with the figures dropped in –

At this point I showed the sketch to Kurt, who, as a retired contractor, knows a lot about architecture and buildings, and he gave me suggestions which I was happy to revise. I next did a tonal sketch next to help with simplifying the light and dark areas. This would be a fairly complex drawing when finished, so thinking tonally helped organize shapes so the viewer could ‘read’ the picture more easily.

The DHS asked for this picture to be in color, but of course all the photo reference I had from the urn of the century was black/white, so I had to look at painters of the era to get a feel for the colors. I found this lovely piece of an interior by William Merritt Chase, painted in 1895. I liked the teal, rose and muted yellows and creams, and saw those colors repeated in other paintings of the era, and felt I’d found a good palette.

I did a rough color sketch, using colored pencils over a scan of my line sketch –

At this point I could start adding ‘selective detail’ – detail that would give the flavor of the era but not confuse the viewer’s eye too much. I could add pattern – the Victorians loved patterns of course – to the the carpet and the wallpaper, as long as it was low contrast. I added the bold wallpaper border near the ceiling because there was not much going on in the top third of the scene, and used my chosen teal, rose and yellow in that border.

I wanted to make this scene tied specifically to my hometown, so out the window one can see the Civil War Monument and the Intelligencer building, two landmarks that can be seen from this corner in Doylestown.

After this stage I transferred the drawing to illustration board, outlined using prisma pencil, and painted it in using acrylic paint washes. The finished piece –

The public is welcome to attend the Central Bucks Chamber show to see my piece and many other works of art. The opening reception is Thursday Nov. 10 from 5 to 7 pm at the Mercantile in Doylestown, with light refreshments and music on tap. The exhibit continues until November 20.

House Portrait of a Lovely Doylestown Home

I was asked to paint a charming home built in the late 1800s in my hometown, a house that catches many an eye with its sunny coloring and delightful front gardens.

I took a number of photos for reference and consulted the owners about what season to paint. I tried pencil drawings of both summer and spring.

And then I tried rough color sketches of both seasons in colored marker.

We determined that spring gave both color and a good view of the house, since surrounding trees were still lacy enough to see through. I also put in the small figure watering the flowers, the lady of the house, to make it personalized.

For the finished painting I used watercolor board and acrylic paints diluted like watercolors. Here are two partial views –

And the completed painting –

Poster art for The Sorcerer Musical, opening in July

Every year I design the poster for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s musical comedy, and last year because of lockdowns we had to postpone the event. I’m happy to say the group is back in business this season and they will produce what would have been last year’s show, since the whole cast wanted to reassemble and perform it – and the show is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer. It will be performed LIVE, with a full live orchestra, on July 16, 17 and 18 in Doylestown. I love the wacky plot of this show, which involves a sorcerer in Victorian England who is asked to create a love potion of which an entire town unwittingly partakes, with chaotic and comic results. It strikes me as typical Gilbert & Sullivan silliness that instead of a cauldron like witches traditionally use to brew potions, this very proper Society Sorcerer’s potion is steeped along with a pot of tea.

I was lucky to be at an early costume fitting for the actor playing the title role, so I took photos of him in costume for reference when drawing, and the prop staff even had the large teapot that will be in the show on hand. I knew the kind of pose I wanted for the figure and started with pencil sketches –

I put some rough color on the sketched figure and placed him on the poster page, with the text that will go around him, and drew in the background roughly with a digital gradation, markers & colored pencils, to get a rough design of the page.

I refined my line drawing of the figure and did more detail on the digital color –

I worked on the title logotype next, to shape it around the sorcerer’s arm & umbrella. I used a fun typeface called “Island of Misfit Toys, ” although I played with the letter shapes a bit, stretching and adding some curls, to give it a consistent feel of whimsy.

I drew the cloud emanating from the teapot digitally and put the figure in place –

and then dropped in the title logotype and added some more magical swashes and particles circling the Sorcerer and the cloud, for the finished art.

The singers and musicians of Bucks Gilbert & Sullivan are busy rehearsing now and are thrilled to be back onstage live, with the full Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Orchestra accompanying them. I recommend everyone comes to The Sorcerer, performed at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA, to enjoy this fun show! Tickets are on sale now through Eventbrite HERE. And to enhance the audience’s enjoyment of the show, the group provides interesting background info on the show on the website HERE.

A Building that No Longer Exists

The Doylestown Historical Society helps to preserve many aspects of my hometown’s past, with speakers, tours and printed publications, and a very important part of that mission involves researching the historically significant buildings in this town and nearby communities. I was recently asked to develop a sketch of a building in the borough, which is no longer standing today – a shoemaker’s shop and home.

Adam Dick and his wife, originally from Germany, had six children born in Doylestown and by 1870 they were living in the borough, in a building whose left half housed their boot and shoe shop. Old maps show the house on the corner of E. State and Pine Street with a one story front porch on the shoe shop side. By 1891 the two-story wood frame house now had a one story back porch with a tin roof. The Historical Society’s researcher is Kurt Spence, who has restored many historic homes, and he sent me part of an old lithograph of the town with this tiny representation of the house from the rear –


I started with a rough sketch of the basic shape of the house, with questions for Kurt.

Happily Kurt has the building experience that I lack, and so with his corrections I replaced the front porch gable with a shed roof, and added a roof gable to the house side of the building, for the second sketch. But I still had some questions.

Finally with some finished suggestions from Kurt I was able to render the version below. It’s unfortunate that the present site is now a parking lot, but we can at least imagine a fairly close version of what our borough boot and shoe shop may have looked like in the late 19th century.

Sketch for the Doylestown Historical Society

The Doylestown Historical Society helps to preserve many aspects of my hometown’s past, with speakers, tours and printed publications, and a very important part of that mission involves researching the historically significant buildings in this town and nearby communities.

I was asked to develop a sketch of one building in the borough, which today houses a law firm and is a lovely two-and-a-half story Second Empire structure, pictured below.

However, this is not what it looked like in 1834 when it was first constructed. The original house, built for Dr. Hugh Meredith, was described as “a large two-story brick house on Court Street fronting the public square. A wood frame office was attached to the west side of the house” which was used for his medical office. The house had a stone foundation.

After the Civil War, the house was enlarged along with stucco over the brick and a new Mansard roof was installed by workmen for attorney George Lear. At the time it was described as the handsomest residence in the borough.

Kurt Spence, a contractor with a love of old buildings, gave me instructions on what the house probably looked like in its first iteration. He suggested three windows on the second floor instead of the current five; two windows on the ground floor, the doorway on the right, and brick walls. I started with this rough pencil sketch.

Once Kurt saw this he could recommend changes based on his knowledge of construction. He said the two dormers in the roof would have been located in the spaces between the three windows; a double doorway for the main entrance would have been more likely, and a stone foundation would have shown below the bricks, about level with the door stoop. The windows would have had working shutters, and the panes would have been six over six at that time, because large panes of glass were not readily available. He recommended a chimney at the gable end between the two structures, so fireplaces could have heated those central rooms. And he suggested a wrought iron fence enclosing the yard.

My finished sketch, says Kurt, is a pretty good representation of what the house would have looked like for Dr. Meredith in the early 19th century. And I’m pleased to know more about the history of my town!

Drawing with Kids and Parents at the Michener Museum

From “Let’s Visit New Hope” illustrated by Pat Achilles

I’m happy to say that I was asked by the Michener Museum here in Doylestown to lead a fun and imaginative drawing class for families in November. Unplugged Sundays @ The Michener is a program the museum sponsors to get kids into art, and their parents are encouraged to hang out and get creative too.

My 2 hour class will be about Illustration and Storytelling. I’ll show some of my illustrations and how I create them, then we will chat about the theme ‘Going on a Journey.’ We’ll look at how other artists have made stories and pictures about journeys, whether they are by foot, by bicycle, or spaceship or submarine – and then we’ll break out the wild and colorful museum art supplies and draw our own adventurous journeys!

This drawing workshop is for children ages 6 and up, and we invite parents/guardians to stay and enjoy the fun too – working together is encouraged! The workshop is on Sunday, November 17 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and pre-registration is required, as seating is limited. The beautiful Michener Museum is at 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA, and parking is right next door at the large Doylestown Library parking lot. Unplugged Sundays @ the Michener is sponsored by The Leff Family Foundation.

Illustration of a Historic Home

I recently went through my Big File of Past Illustrations and came across some fun ones from before I had a blog, so herewith:

oldies_dtownhouse1

I drew this beautiful American Craftsman-influenced home in Doylestown in pen and ink several years back, for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s Christmas in Doylestown House Tour. It is the Musselman House at 21 E. Ashland Street, built in 1910 and designed by architect A. Oscar Martin. The Christmas in Doylestown tour continues every year, with stunning homes decorated for the holidays, and benefits local charities.

New Christmas Card Illustration

donchez_achilles_holidaycard_photoI’ve illustrated dozens of greeting cards, some very specific for businesses and some more generic for broad audiences. The card I just completed rather combines the two, and gives a special nod to my hometown of Doylestown, PA.

My friend Lynne Anne Donchez has owned and operated L.A.D. Hairdressing for many years in the heart of Doylestown. She is a well-recognized person about town because she actively participates in any number of community events – one of those being the Arrival of Santa Claus to Doylestown, where Santa is driven on a fire truck to his ‘house’ in the middle of town on the day after Thanksgiving. She told me months ago that she’s heard that many little children ask why Santa does not come to own with his reindeer  – so she wrote a delightful short story explaining that little mystery. And she asked, would I illustrate it?

oatmealglitter_card_sketch2While illustrating a whole story takes a good bit of time, I did think of a variation of that idea, which would be doable: how about making it into a Christmas card with one illustration on the front? If the card is well received, next year I could illustrate a few more scenes.  Eventually we could make a whole book! Lynne Anne loved that idea.

There is a classic scene of Santa’s aerial arrival in her book, which I really liked – it takes place on the campus of Delaware Valley University, a well-known local school that specializes in agriculture and animal sciences. I went over there and photographed a part of the campus near the equine center. I sketched the reindeer swirling in for their landing, with students watching nearby.

donchez_reindeer_colorsketchI did a very quick color sketch with colored pencils on top of a scan of the pencil sketch.  I knew I wanted a night sky and the reflective blue that snow has on a bright evening. I wanted that explosion of snow as the lead reindeer touches down to be a focal point of the illustration.

I drew the illustration in ink on illustration board and painted it with acrylic paint washes. I’ve designed the card so that Lynne Anne’s story is printed on the inside of the card, and continued on the back. And we secured permission from Delaware Valley University to mention the school in the story, so we are ready to market the cards. They will be sold both in LAD & Co. and here on my website. The cost is $4.00 per card with envelope. Click here to see ordering information for this card.

donchez_reindeer_wp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketches from Doylestown Arts Festival

My hometown had a beautiful weekend for its arts fest, where they block of the center of town from traffic and dozens of artists, photographers and craftsmen exhibit and sell their work. There are also five locations for live music all day, and I enjoyed hearing some masterful finger-pickin’ and jazz by local musicians. I like to sketch while listening to the music – sometimes it gets hard to draw when my foot won’t stop tapping!doylestownartsfest_sketch5

Above and below are fellas from Raven Hill –  can’t say enough great things about their deft bluegrass musicianship.

doylestownartsfest_sketch3

Seamus Kelleher below, virtuoso guitarist (and Irish wit thrown in for free).

doylestownartsfest_sketch4

doylestownartsfest_sketch2

Above and below, two of the four young guys from Diversity Jazz Quartet, who laid down beautiful, smooth riffs with expert skill – loved their sound!

doylestownartsfest_sketch1

 

Illustration of a Charming Episcopal Church

stpaulsstpledetailmottlMy friends at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Doylestown asked me to paint a keepsake for their much loved pastor. The pastor and her husband, also an Episcopal priest, will retire to their new home out-of-state soon; so in thinking about what they would want to remember of their time here, I settled on an illustration of this beautiful 1840s church building. But to make it something unique to this couple, I wanted to depict a specific event and also include the people of the congregation. I think any parish member knows that while the church building may be the body of this worshiping community, the people are its heart and soul.

I chose to illustrate the Easter Vigil procession.  Every year on the evening before Easter Sunday, the parishioners start this service around sunset in the columbarium garden, and walk solemnly around the outside of the church – a lovely tradition demonstrating the sacred importance of the holy day to come.

mottlsk1I made a little sketch to start off my concept. I knew I had to get good reference for the building and also the vestments and accessories of the procession, so I went over to the church and snapped some photos.  I saw I’d probably have to move my view to the right, instead of the head-on view in my first composition, to get the entire train of clergy, servers and choir and also the congregation wrapping around the corner of the building. I met with a friend on the altar guild, who showed me some of the vestments and gave me important details of the procession.

With this photographic reference, I drew a pencil sketch of the church on one piece of paper and sketched out the figures on an overlay of tracing paper. This way I could move the figures around to get the best effect for the placement of the procession. Originally I had thought to place the crucifix, which is carried by the crucifer leading the line, against the red church doors; then I realized it would not stand out much in color, and that the lighted Pascal Candle would stand out much better.

motllwpsk2

stpaulspeoplebw

I colored a photocopy of the sketch roughly with colored pencils. I made sure to include the incense from the thurible, a few birds perched on and circling the roof, and the hint of the red geraniums that the pastor plants annually along this side of the church.

mottlstpaulscolorsk

Tomorrow I’ll conclude showing the process of the finished art.