Original Painting of Chatham House by John Paul Strain
My assignment: Create a 5′ by 5′ original painting of the Chatham House.
Materials: A faxed copy of a black and white photo of the old house, acrylic paint, white gesso and brushes brought from Texas.
Conditions: A 10′ by 10′ tent, two lights, a space heater, and 2 1/2 days.
First I had to find a big enough sheet of paintable material to paint on. I wanted masonite, but that was only available in 4′ by 8′ pieces. Ty wished the piece to be at least 5ft. The carpentry crew found a 5′ by 8′ wood finishing board, which they cut down to 5′ X 5′. I put 4 coats of gesso on the board as preparation for the painting. Then I sketched out the house with pencil and painted the sky. That night a big storm blew in. I worked very late in the night.
Left my hotel at daybreak, with some difficulty as the roads were iced over and I passed 4 accidents on the highway with fire trucks and ambulance crews attending injured motorists. I arrived at my work tent and the propane space heater kept me warm, as the temperature was in the low 20’s. I worked on the background, the trees, and finished a good portion of the house.
There was a lot of noise outside of the tent and I worked the whole day without taking a break till 4:00pm. When I came out there was an asphalt driveway that hadn’t been there that morning. So that was what all the noise was about! After a dinner break I went back to work for another late evening.
I arrived early again as the painting needed to be completed by noon. I finished the house, did the foreground, and the fences. I’d brought a photograph of a split rail fence with me for reference.
By now word had spread about the painting, and lots of people dropped in to see it. I’m not used to working with so many interruptions, but it was fun to meet everyone
Ty came and did an interview with me on camera. We visited for a few minuets and he loved the painting and wanted to feature it in his EMHE magazine with an article featuring me and the painting. I was rigged for sound. The camera crew and producer shot three takes, with Ty and myself……. Ty improvised everything. You never know what he’ll say or do next. The 4th sequence of camera footage ended with Ty borrowing my palette and brush and painting the camera lens. The last moments of the 4th take, was the only part of the video that made it to the show.
That afternoon the crew got me some varnish, and I varnished the painting. They put heaters on it all night so that it would be ready to go in the morning. Ty wanted a silver frame on the painting, so lead decorator Kim Lewis and I selected a silver color for the raw wood frame. Then I put gesso on the frame and put heaters on it to dry. The work crew would later paint the frame that night.
The painting was a little tacky, but there was still work to do. With the help of a crew member the original was placed in the frame. I helped carry the framed painting into the house and mounted it onto the wall. Ty arrived and the room was outfitted with furniture. We posed for pictures in front of the finished room. Kim Lewis and I decorated the rest of the home with the six framed prints and giclées I had donated and shipped to the family. Later in the afternoon, cast decorator Michael Maloney rearranged most of them and added some Chinese manufactured decorator art. I helped the carpenters hang my framed prints and giclées on the walls
I was invited to watch the live feed with some of the cast members and decorators in a trailer near by. We all watched on the quad screen monitor as the Lucas family saw their new home. That was a great experience. As I was leaving for the airport for the long trip home, word came to a technician wearing a radio head set asking if I could stay a little longer. Michael Lucas had asked if I was still there and if so he wanted to meet me. I enjoyed meeting the Lucas family and visiting with Michael, who said he loved the original painting and the prints. Michael was a big Stonewall Jackson fan and was a member of the Stonewall Jackson Brigade and was overwhelmed by the whole experience.