Victorian Sublime
How distortion created a stunning composition...

Victorian Sublime

October 7, 2021

Recently, I worked on a commission for a couple who had restored a deteriorating Victorian house to its former glory. The husband and wife, one of whom is an architect, put enormous thought into the proportions of windows, doors, and molding when they reshaped the original to modern life. 

As art collectors and appreciators, they wanted something different for their commission. When I first took photographs to talk through a composition, the house looked like this:

My clients felt this view was too straightforward and conventional. They wanted something more exciting that accentuated the magnificent gable. I took some three-quarter views like this below. When I presented this view, the clients pushed for more experimentation and creativity.

“Try distorting it!” they advised me.

I tried some crazy distortions like this:

But ultimately, I found the sweet spot in distorting the gable to enlarge and accentuate its grand design.

First I created a watercolor sketch, like this:

And after we settled on the composition, I went for the full oil portrait. It came out beautifully. As an artist, I was thrilled to work with a client who pushed me to be more creative and less restrained. I have always felt intimidated to “make things up” and have envied other artists who have the ability to paint imaginary scenes. In this case, I was still able to work with source material, but I was able to create an augmented reality that exalts the house. A great experience for everyone involved!