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Mary Ann Kitchell Art Blog

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Mary Ann Kitchell

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The client's request here was to set the scene at sunset. My goal was to do this, but not have the overall effect be too dark or too overwhelming. I didn't want to place interest on the sky instead of the house… Continue reading… 0 comments

I have reduced my shipping fees to one price for any size house or pet portrait painting, effective immediately. Please visit my gallery for examples of my work; I will be happy to answer any questions you may have… Continue reading… 0 comments

When clear pictures are received I begin with a rough sketch, followed by this more detailed one. I've straightened lines, added or deleted details as needed. An indication of shadows is included, as this will be my "working" sketch to be transferred to Arches watercolor paper… Continue reading… 0 comments

After transferring to watercolor paper, the first washes of paint are applied. I like to start with the largest ones: (sky, lawn, roof) to feel I'm making a lot of progress. My favorite thing at this stage is making a gray sky turn blue… Continue reading… 0 comments

I've added all the smaller details as well as checking what's already been done. This is the time I adjust values or change colors to more accurately depict the house… Continue reading… 0 comments

The house portrait is finished and matted for delivery. I'm able to trim bushes where necessary and add flowers at the client's request; Winter scenes can be transformed into Spring/Summer. If I've given you the feeling you're "home", I've done my job… Continue reading… 0 comments

The most popular house portrait size requested by my clients is 8 _ 10. In this particular case, 9 _ 12 was the better choice. We did not need much more space vertically, but horizontally the length of the home needed the extra two inches… Continue reading… 0 comments

One of the things I love about Spring besides the fact it signals the end of Winter, is the bright array of fresh new flowers and bushes in bloom. The red azaleas on this church property are spectacular and their size indicates they are quite old. This watercolor is another in my series of churches in my local area… Continue reading… 0 comments

The 2016 real estate market in New Jersey was very active. In recognition of this trend and the many wonderful and hardworking realtors I've met over the years, I'm continuing my realtor's discounted prices. When selecting closing gifts, I invite all realtors to check out my new Realtor Gallery on this site… Continue reading… 0 comments

Stone has always been one of my favorite things to render, whether as an architectural detail on a house, or as part of a stone wall. Both can be a variety of irregular shapes, very textural, with various colors or color combinations. This ink drawing was a pleasure to create, though watercolor could have been the more interesting choice. Painting wet into wet can create some wonderful stone colors… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor is the same as the kittens in my last blog… Continue reading… 0 comments

If you know New Jersey, you know Califon is a rural area. This house says "rural" to me .... complete with a large porch to enjoy quiet country days. I see myself in a rocker with a cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer day… Continue reading… 0 comments

One of the interesting things about painting house portraits is the ability to change structural details when necessary. This ink drawing was completed using old and new photographs and notes from the client detailing memories of the house from her past. I love the architectural look that was achieved. It was necessary to show something of the neighboring homes, but those portions of the drawing were kept to a bare minimum… Continue reading… 0 comments

I freely admit I prefer painting snow to shoveling it. We experienced our first snow of the Winter during the weekend of January 23rd, with a total of over 24" here in Berkeley Heights. One week later at least half of that had melted due to warmer temperatures. February 1st had a high of 55 degrees. Mother Nature liked us for Christmas: 72 degrees Christmas Eve and 66 on Christmas Day… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor was painted from several old black and white photographs submitted via regular mail. The family commissioned this work as a remembrance for their parents who were about to move to a smaller living space. It could also be a wonderful 50th anniversary gift! There was a large tree in the yard blocking the view of the front door. The clients asked that this tree be removed. I actually moved the tree to the right a little as I felt its size and age confirmed the era of the home. After I did this, I had to ask for help with the door detail! The client was able to find an old photograph of the inside of the door and I just reversed the detail to make it an exterior view. The clients and their parents were very pleased with the finished portrait… Continue reading… 0 comments

House portraits have been my primary subject for more than thirty years, originally starting with small paintings on wood. These sold well as Christmas ornaments. I then started working with real estate agents using watercolor and pen & ink. I enjoy the challenge of accurately depicting various architectural elements as well as sprucing up their landscapes… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor was created from old photographs supplied by the Chatham, NJ Historical Society for the 2014 Centennial celebration of the Chatham, New Jersey train station. It was then turned into the poster shown, sponsored by Town and Country Realtors, and used as a fundraiser… Continue reading… 0 comments

BEHIND THE SCENES What do I think about when painting? My concentration is better some days than others. I generally work while listening to 60's & 70's rock and roll (the music I listened to as a teen). It gives me the energy I need; once in a while I'll listen to classical but find my brush moves slower. Getting lost in the painting process has been a salvation in times of stress. Some sessions are harder to get started but worth the effort. Some of my best work has been during emotional stress: all of my thoughts are poured into the work at hand. If you've been there, you know what I mean… Continue reading… 0 comments

MOST COMMON COLOR PROBLEMS Dark green frequently masquerades as black, especially regarding shutters. Often the only clue is a small patch of sunlight that confirms the color to be dark green. A very light colored home may appear to be white but may actually be beige or cream. A good test to determine the true color is to take the photograph and compare a section of siding with a sheet of white paper. Shadows may be toned down to a softer color so they don't appear so harsh. Editing the amount of shadow will help keep the focus on the house details. Deep shadows under a porch or too many shadows from nearby trees can be distracting… Continue reading… 0 comments

HOW IT REALLY IS For those who say they can't make a straight line with a ruler, be assured artists work hard to make it look easy. A good day is when everything falls into place: colors mix perfectly the first time, all lines are straight, and your hair dryer (yes, hair dryer) stops the mingling of paint at just the right time to get the effect you were after. The way the paint flows is influenced by the type of paper and its texture. Some days are good "tree" days when the paint makes great leaves. Others are a struggle to get the right leaf detail. I have one favorite brush for painting foliage; I know the leaves are in there, I just have to find them… Continue reading… 0 comments

TECHNIQUE What you see is not always what you get. The challenge here was the right shade of brown for the siding on the left and the stone on the right. Watercolors dry lighter than when wet so I try to plan for this when mixing paint. Another layer may be needed to get the right color. It doesn't have to be a disaster if the color dries too dark; it is sometimes possible to wipe out some of the color to get the desired effect. Along the same lines if your color doesn't look as warm or cool as that in the photographs, another layer may bring the color closer to the true shade. Keep in mind we work with paint that's not the same as house paint, nor are all printers accurate in depicting true color. As always, when in doubt ... ask the client… Continue reading… 0 comments

FINDING DETAILS Look for windows that may be hidden behind bushes. Sometimes the only indication is one small corner of the window. Even if you can't see the entire window it is usually identical to the one you can see. House details are commonly symmetrical. I trimmed the bushes quite a bit on this portrait, especially the right side lower ones. Painting windows on a house is a lot like painting eyes They don't "come to life" until the window panes and reflections are added, just as the eyes of a person or animal have life when the highlight is added… Continue reading… 0 comments

This is an unusual pet portrait. There is a lot of interest around the figures yet they remain the center of attention. I'm particularly happy with the stone bench which was rendered simply but still "reads" as cold stone. Yes, the photo was authentic ... and the bird unharmed… Continue reading… 0 comments

These two dogs were rendered in colored pencil with the background kept simple. The dog in the lower part of the painting is an older dog. I understand, despite the age difference, both dogs get along just fine. It's not necessary to have two animals in the same reference photograph. With a little thought when taking the pictures, two separate photographs should work very well… Continue reading… 0 comments

The front of this magnificent home was painted for a real estate marketing brochure. Because the back of the house was so grand, the watercolor shown was also painted and included in the brochure. When considering possible house portraits, think of something out of the ordinary, especially as a gift. The back of a home would be a great reminder of relaxing moments and special times over the years… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercololor was created to be presented with a bid proposal to improve the facade of this downtown Berkeley Heights, New Jersey commercial building. The current Kings Market was due to move out and the building was scheduled for an update before the new occupant (rumored to be an Asian Grocery) moved in. Another example of our ever-changing world… Continue reading… 0 comments

The combination of brick and stone makes this a very impressive home. This was created from an architect's rendering and I added the background trees, shrubs and flowers to complete the look. It takes a talented architect to design a new home, and I am happy to help create the promotional materials needed… Continue reading… 0 comments

Bright and cheerful house colors such as this yellow lift your mood. This home has great detail, and as with most of my paintings, the shrubs and flowers are lush and healthy. The flower boxes provide a great accent to the architecture… Continue reading… 0 comments

For the past few years I've been creating house and pet portraits for customers of COLOR ME MINE, a ceramic studio in Summit, New Jersey. The customer picks out the ceramic plate or platter and submits pictures for me to use to create the portrait. I prep and paint the chosen ceramic item and return it to COLOR ME MINE for firing The image shown here was taken before the piece was fired; the color of the finished piece is much deeper. My challenge with each project is to visualize what the finished color will look like. I do have a tile of fired colors for reference and my knowledge of mixing watercolors to guide me. All ceramics are food safe, so the finished piece is practical as well as decorative… Continue reading… 0 comments


by kitchellstudio , February 22, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: house portraits, painted on commission, watercolor

I appreciate the solid look of this home and the many details that make this house unique. I especially love the florets integrated into the slate roof, and the huge front porch… Continue reading… 0 comments


by kitchellstudio , February 4, 2013—12:00 AM

Topics: dogs, painted on commission, pet portraits, watercolor

The client provided good reference photographs, one for the pose and one for the coloring. (Printed images are not always accurate depictions of color.) I kept the background as requested but rendered it simply so that it wouldn't detract from the subject. Not sure what the dog thinks, but the artist and client are pleased with the finished portrait… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor proved to be my most challenging house portrait ever. I had never painted a night sky portrait before, only sunsets. It took a while to get the sky dark, yet not too dark. The lights in the photographs I worked with were the most dominant feature. I had to make sure they were toned down enough to create the glowing effect needed and yet not overwhelm the painting. The client was pleased with the result and note cards made from the painting are on the agenda… Continue reading… 0 comments

What I love most about this house is its color: very cheerful in a world of beige and gray homes. Picket fences usually make me pause as to whether or not they should be included, but so far those house portraits containing fences have had a successful result. The fences turned out to be part of the home's personality and the portrait would have looked "wrong" without them. Speaking of house colors, I recently had my home painted a dark gray. I love the way it looks with the white trim. In looking at it the other day, I realized it's an artist's color. While titled "outerspace" the color reminds me of Payne's gray watercolor paint… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor was commissioned by a client whose daughter was very enchanted with fairies. I kept the colors soft and it fit beautifully with the decor of the child's room. This name would be considered a custom design for which there would be an additional design fee. See my CHILDREN 'S NAMES GALLERY on my ArtId website for all details… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor was done for the client to give to her son upon his graduation from Florida Tech in 2011. She didn't have great pictures but some research on the Internet provided the details needed to successfully complete the painting. This gift idea can be considered for any high school or college graduate… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor is a custom designed child's name, painted in the style of my alphabet names but using the theme of "cheerleader", as requested by the client. This very personal gift was painted with team colors. If requested, I would have added the team mascot as well. Please visit my ArtId gallery for more details on all of my children's names… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor needed an on-site visit with the realtor. Because it sits on a slope and the landscaping was overgrown, clear pictures weren't easy to accomplish. I made a few rough sketches to fill in detail that couldn't be photographed accurately. The landscaping was cleaned up, enhanced, and edited in the final painting. This was a 100 year old home waiting for the right buyer to see its potential and restore it to its former beauty… Continue reading… 0 comments

The majority of my work is watercolor with only the occasional pen and ink. The condominium portrait shown was a challenge in creativity: show enough to make the owner proud, but leave out surrounding material belonging to the neighbors. The process is a little easier with free-standing homes as most times there's a natural cutoff separating neighbors. It's usually easy enough to eliminate the neighbor's house and replace it with vague background trees or bushes, sometimes giving the impression the portrait property is larger than it actually is… Continue reading… 0 comments

Touches such as the flag, flower pots, and a name sign add a very personal touch to this house portrait. I will automatically leave out the less desirable things in your photographs such as garbage cans, overhead wires, roof vents, and many other necessary but usually unattractive items… Continue reading… 0 comments

I enjoyed painting all parts of this watercolor pet portrait: the way the background just seemed to paint itself, the Christmas bandanna, and especially the dog herself… Continue reading… 0 comments

Flower boxes are one of my favorite things and this home had plenty, all filled with beautiful blooms… Continue reading… 0 comments

This wasn't my Mom's home, but I titled it this way because Mom did have a gray house. The homeowner is a gardener with a very green thumb. I was happy to emphasize the plants and flowers dominating the yard… Continue reading… 0 comments

This watercolor painting was created from architect's renderings. It will be used to market the property before the house is completely finished. On this particular project we did both front and back views. The landscaping was my "vision" .... going one step further than just enhancing existing flowers and trimming shrubs on the usual house portrait… Continue reading… 0 comments

This house portrait has a lot of detail going on: birdhouse on the right; curved iron railings; small rock wall. When I accepted this commission I was reluctant to include the white fence, feeling it would detract from the house. The clients really, really wanted to include it in the painting as it was a significant identifying part of their property. I actually came to like it and am happy it was included… Continue reading… 1 comment

This is a great house, surrounded by bright Fall colors. The photographs submitted were actually snow scenes, with only a general indication of where the driveway led up to the house. The customer wanted a painting for their boss as a surprise gift and asked that I paint it in Fall colors rather than snow. Adding leaves to the trees was easy enough, but the driveway was a challenge. Having a limited image with the client's description of the driveway's direction forced me to "ad lib" to some degree. I was given carte blanche for the landscaping along the driveway, the only idea being it was lined with small shrubs. Feedback was the client was pleased, their boss even more so! And I had a chance to remove snow with only my paintbrush… Continue reading… 1 comment

My pen and ink work has been full of detail ... very tightly rendered with F&W ink on Strathmore vellum Bristol paper. This house portrait was commissioned with the request I try to duplicate another artist's style. It was to be hung with another work created in a "looser" style. Rather than reject the request outright, I decided to give it a try. The client was very pleased with the result and I'm thinking of doing more using this technique. My watercolors have become a little "looser" over the years; perhaps it's time to experiment with pen and ink. It's curious I selected a painting with palm trees on a day in New Jersey that was below zero overnight and has now reached the "warm" temperature of 14 degrees. Very hungry for Spring ...… Continue reading… 0 comments

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! The reference for this watercolor was an amazing photograph forwarded to me by one of my realtors as a surprise gift for her client. The client had shared the image with the realtor and had no idea it would become a painting. I was told this fledgling robin wasn't harmed by the dog. Unfortunately, the little guy left .... or fell from ... the nest too early and didn't survive his adventure. Watching the recent Holiday snow melt here in New Jersey and seeing the robin in this painting reminds me, as always, I'm hoping for an early Spring. Whatever Mother Nature has in store for us, I wish all of you a Happy New Year… Continue reading… 0 comments

This turned out to be a wonderful surprise gift for the current owner of a family business. And something different for me ... an unusual but successful painting. There are no limits on subject matter as long as the reference images are clear: houses, banks, churches, coffee shops ..… Continue reading… 0 comments

I just love this dog. The reference photo had a complex background and it took a while to come up with one that was simplified enough so it didn't detract from the dog itself. This has come to be one of my favorites… Continue reading… 0 comments

My house and pet portraits are painted with Winsor&Newton watercolors on 140 lb Arches cold press watercolor paper. My favorite color for skies is Prussian blue. I have a small jar of this color mixed with water put aside for just skies. I wet the sky area first, then put down the Prussian blue wash, adding some Cobalt blue or Paynes gray. No two skies are alike. For the times when there is not much in the way of background trees I use a wadded paper towel (I find it absorbs liquid better than tissues) to create cloud formations. Again, like snowflakes, no two clouds are alike… Continue reading… 0 comments

A few years ago, I received a commission to paint two watercolors ... one of an existing building and another of the building as it existed some 50 years prior, when the business opened its doors. That business was started by one generation and carried on by succeeding generations. The watercolor shown here was commissioned as a business anniversary gift from the staff for the owner. This watercolor could also be reproduced for notes or other promotional material… Continue reading… 0 comments

This pet portrait was rendered in colored pencil on pastel paper. The dog really was wearing a bib in the reference photo, as well as the pretty bow in her hair. I've seen many dogs with bows, but the bib was a first! Accessories do make the pet portrait more interesting ... and obviously this little dog is unique… Continue reading… 0 comments

I've created several watercolors of this church: as a gift for a retiring minister, as a program cover for church events, and as a record of alterations to the existing structure. The painting shown was a recent commission when a new, higher steeple was erected. You wouldn't know that this beautiful steeple houses a cell tower for the phone company! I am very happy with the cloud formations, and the overall feeling of height… Continue reading… 0 comments


by kitchellstudio , May 2, 2010—03:10 PM

Topics: colors, flowers, house portraits, painted on commission

Of the many styles and sizes of houses I've painted, I find a consistency in the colors. The most popular are white, light or medium gray, and the many tints of gray-beige, from warm pink-beige to creamy beige. It was a change of pace to paint this red house and a challenge to be sure it didn't become too bright! The landscaping was creative and I enjoyed painting more flowers and plants than lawn… Continue reading… 0 comments

Painting house portraits is like putting a puzzle together. How many rooms are there; how large are they? What is the shape of the roof? How do the doors, windows, and other details fit together to create the overall design? I start with a preliminary sketch which is like a road map telling you where you're going and why ... that shadow is on the left because the sun shines from the right. The house is the star of the painting, the landscaping the supporting cast to enhance the building. The goal of my painting is to create an inviting look that makes you want to step right up to the front door. And, of course, my flowers always bloom brightly; the shrubs are full, and the grass clean and green… Continue reading… 0 comments

This is an older house painted from very old photographs. I removed the people shoveling the driveway and tidied the snow on the stairs and sidewalk. Many times old photographs are all that are available; this is not a problem if vital details are clear. The photograph can be up-dated by notes supplied by the client so the result is a portrait as the home appears today. Other times, the look desired is the house as it was many years agao. Either idea will work well if the appropriate details are provided… Continue reading… 0 comments

Among the many wonderful people I've met as an artist are the couple who live in Morgandy's house. They had a house portrait painted for their daughter and the wife later commissioned this colored pencil of Morgandy as a Christmas surprise for her husband. The surprise was a huge success! This is one aspect of painting I thoroughly enjoy: making people happy with my art… Continue reading… 1 comment

The only photograph the customer had was a snow scene without the decorations. With his instructions we were able to create a house fully decorated for Christmas. The completed watercolor made a memorable surprise gift for the customer's wife… Continue reading… 0 comments

ArtId has been one of the best experiences of my artistic life. I've learned a lot about building and maintaining a website and connected with some wonderful people. Until recently my website has served as a reference for clients and potential clients. Last month, buyers searching for "house portraits in New Jersey" found my ArtId site and placed an order for the house shown. I appreciate their enthusiastic response to the finished painting and look forward to working with them again. Marketing was never my favorite thing: I'd much rather create than pursue the sales portion of an artist's life. I enjoy writing so I'll continue to post blogs as it's been an easy and productive way to keep my name in the public view… Continue reading… 0 comments

Not the typical house portrait, but a challenging change of pace. This watercolor was painted in a larger than usual size as a retirement gift for one of the Banco Popular officers. It was eventually matted and framed by the clients for a beautiful presentation to the retiree. I don't usually mat or frame, preferring to leave what I feel is a very personal choice to the customer. I am always grateful when offered the opportunity to see my work framed. It is amazing how many choices of framing are out there ... many of them combinations I would not have thought of myself ..… Continue reading… 0 comments

The best part of creating this dog portrait was the hair on the paws ... long and fluffy. The curly belly hair was a challenge. I eliminated all background shown in the customer's photograph but kept Molly's beloved pink toy. This portrait was rendered in colored pencil… Continue reading… 0 comments

My main goal when painting a house portrait is to have the viewer feel they can walk right up to the front door and go inside ... that familiar feeling when you pull into the driveway and know that you're "home". When doing a painting for an anniversary gift I may be given photographs of the house as it is currently. The client then asks me to paint the house as it used to be. This can be accomplished easily based on details provided by the client from their childhood memories of living in the house. These notes may be accompanied by old photographs. If I have been successful in capturing a memory, this is the type of portrait that brings on "happy tears" from both the client and recipients… Continue reading… 0 comments

This painting was done for a family that was moving out of New Jersey. Their young child was very attached to the small red oak (shown at right in the painting) and was upset to leave the tree behind. The photo submitted did not show foliage but the client let me know this particular tree was important and it was a red oak ... no problem to add the tree's proper coloring. The same idea holds true when submitting photographs taken in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees or flowers in bloom. As long as I know if a tree is a pink cherry or if the homeowner plants red begonias in the summer, these items can be included. One of my biggest kicks is making a gray winter sky turn blue ...… Continue reading… 0 comments

This is the second dog I've painted in the last year with the name Marley. No connection to the movie of the same name, but curious nonetheless! Several decisions must be made when ordering a pet portrait: Should the painting be a head study, or the full body? Generally, the small sizes are more appropriate for a head study, the larger sizes for full body portraits. Keep in mind a full body image on a small size makes the head and face small as well. Do you want the background painted exactly as shown in the photograph? Most of the time it is better to simplify the background, thus putting the emphasis on the pet. You may include all or only the most significant parts of the background. Using only a colored wash places added emphasis on the pet… Continue reading… 1 comment

This portrait was commissioned by a realtor to be used for promotional brochures and newspaper advertising. This type of painting involves taking an architectural line drawing and creating a dimensional house portrait. Most of the time the construction has not yet started or is only half done. Many of the homes being buiilt in my area of New Jersey are sided with beige or gray. This house was a welcome change .... a distinctive and beautiful shade of green. Though it can be frustrating when the builder makes changes mid-stream, such as using brick instead of stone, this work has become one of my favorite things. I usually have a free hand with the landscaping. Something simple, yet effective, to show the house to its best advantage… Continue reading… 0 comments