Want to create realistic buildings and architectural details in your paintings? In this simple step-by-step art demonstration, artist Andrew S. Conklin shows how to add realistic architecture in your artwork by painting texture in an art-deco style. Enjoy!
Art Architecture | Painting Texture, Step-by-step
A brush full of oil paint is a much different tool than an architect’s mechanical pencil. The latter suggests precision — straight lines and clean-edged forms, which are necessary when planning a structure on a draftsman’s table. But what does a painter do when attempting to convey the solidity and texture of a brick wall, a wooden door or a decorative relief?
For this demonstration in painting texture in architectural works, I wanted to honor Chicago artist Edgar Miller. He had trained as a painter but collaborated with architects, including Andrew Rebori, on a whimsical art deco-style brick building, the Frank F. Fisher Apartments in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
Specifically, I wanted to capture a section of the curved outer wall, which features a relief figure by Miller, along with one of his hand-carved wooden doors. To do this effectively, I sometimes hewed closely to the building’s exterior and other times made changes.
- Cremnitz white
- Mars black
- Raw umber
- Transparent earth yellow
- Spanish earth
- Burnt sienna
- Venetian red
- Alizarin crimson
- Neutral tint
- Illustration board, 14×14, sized with rabbit-skin glue
- Synthetic flat wash and angle watercolor brushes, from ⅛ – to 1-inch
- Genuine squirrel watercolor mop brush
- Palette knife No. 96
Now, let’s get started.
1. Contrasting Textures
I decided to focus on the contrasting textures of wood, bas-relief and brick. To show the concrete-cast relief figure, which is about 16 inches high, I decided to enlarge it considerably. I wanted a bit of color, so I swapped the iron-gate entrance on the left for Miller’s red wooden door, on the right.
2. Setting the Square Surface
I chose a square surface (illustration board) to connect the design with the Modernist influences in this 1938 building. I toned the surface with raw umber and let it dry.
Then, with a soft pencil, T-square and draftsman’s triangle, I placed the main contours of the structure and freehanded the curving wall. I counted the courses of bricks to ensure accuracy.
3. Mixing it Up
With a synthetic watercolor brush dipped in Gamsol, I mixed a transparent warm color of Venetian red and burnt sienna for the red door in partial shadow and the doorway brickwork. I then mixed a slightly cooler transparent shadow color for the brick courses, this time using raw umber and transparent yellow oxide.
4. Painting the Wall
Next came the painting of the wall. I used a mix of Cremnitz white, raw umber and transparent earth yellow. I placed these semitransparent colors in the curving doorway and the shadows on the relief sculpture, at right.
5. Blocking in the Light
I blocked in the lighter part of the wall with Cremnitz white and a little Mars black. The mix wasn’t too thick, so some of the warm tone shows through. I planned to add another layer to create stronger value contrasts between lights and shadows, since the wall consists of only white. I also covered the concrete sidewalk with white, raw umber and black.
6. Drawing the Brick and Mortar
Once the layer described in step 5 dried, I used a soft pencil to draw horizontal lines representing each brick course and the gaps for mortar.
7. Thinking Outside the (Litter) Box
I rendered the relief figure a bit further, bringing out the features of the face and body. The relief’s scythe-like form suggested a cat’s tail and prompted me to include two of my brother Peter’s cats — both to repeat this form and add live elements to the composition.
8. Applying Cat Contours
I drew the first cat’s profile on tracing paper, adjusting its proportions slightly. Then I transferred the contour to the panel by rubbing the reverse with graphite and redrawing the outline.
I painted this cat with a mix of Cremnitz white, Mars black, raw umber and neutral tint. To mimic the softness of the fur, I blended the tones with a small squirrel-hair watercolor brush.
9. Adding Lines and Stripes
I added another layer of white to the brick courses. For the shadows of each row, I used white and raw umber to emphasize the strong horizontal lines of the deco wall. These lines are echoed in the tabby stripes of the cat, which I began at this stage.
I added thin, dark shading to the door with Venetian red, alizarin crimson and Spanish earth — then added a red collar to the cat to match the door. I also blocked in a second cat in the doorway to break up the large shadow shape.
10. Bringing Out the Textures
I used a wide, flat watercolor brush when painting texture on the brick to help bring that texture out. I piled up the white paint on the edge of the brush, turned horizontally, and touched the bristles down in one spot — not stroking — to leave a line of thick white paint where it was applied. I moved from row to row and left to right in sections. I added a second layer of paint to the left cat, keeping the brushwork loose to add fur texture.
11. Drawing the Carvings
Now to the door: Using a soft graphite pencil and a triangle, I drew angled lines indicating Edgar Miller’s carvings.
12. Using the “Oil Out” Technique
I painted the door details with a mix of white, Venetian red and Spanish earth. I added the brick entryway with the same colors plus raw umber. I also added sidewalk lines in perspective to finish the painting. After a week, I used the “oil out” technique to revive the darks that had dried matte.
The Big Reveal
About the Artist
Andrew S. Conklin earned a B.F.A. from the American Academy of Art, in Chicago. He attended the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of New York before earning an M.F.A. from the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco. He’s represented by Gallery Victor Armendariz, in Chicago. You can find more information about this artist here.
Conklin’s demonstration on painting texture in architectural elements/buildings first appeared in Artists Magazine. Subscribe here to never miss an issue.