Reference photo for watercolor painting

"Down the Hill Photo Inspiration"


I had the pleasure of chatting with a client about his extraordinary life and how we shared different yet similar humble beginnings. He pointed to a picture on his fridge and said "Can you believe there were nine of us kids living in there with both my parents?"
In astonishment I instantly was drawn into this peculiar and ominous shack. So many things happened here I could feel it. So much came from this tiny piece of paper. A paper copy of a photo that no longer even exists. The only physical evidence of how this shack looked was in my hands. I was inspired.
I had to paint this painting. I had to do it in watercolor. It spoke to me.
After a little convincing he let me have the picture and not just a copy of the photo but his only copy. I took it home and instantly went to work. I worked all night and through the next two days. Every small detail was exciting. Every tiny thing held a story; a purpose. Everything was absolutely relevant. It was a "look how far I have come" in a photograph. From there to here, and all that has unfolded in-between those two points of time.
It was finished... or almost finished...

Down the Hill unfinished
I sent him this snapshot for feedback before tightening up some of the finer details for completion. He asked "Did you photocopy it? It looks just like the photo." Hearing that undoubtedly rewarded me for laboring over the details and how meticulously I worked to capture them. So many intricacies, like the roof tiles or the wheel, or the trees, or the reflections in the glass were my favorite parts.
But then...
He said "it's too perfect. I like it, but it doesn't have that feel of how you, Rachel Cross, do your interpretations. It looks nice, but there were nine kids living there. It wasn't so perfect. A lot happened there and not all of it was nice. It was hard living."
I got a spark. A jolt. A prelude of my own life. I felt it.
I knew if I had a picture of my humble beginnings it would be whatever the viewer saw and interpreted it for themselves. A child's perception of a familiar photo drastically changes the reality of the picture into actually living and existing there. So, that's what I set out to recreate. Hearing of what happened there, what it was like to live there, how the people got along, how life was before... before you were in control of your own destiny and changed the course of your own fate.
Without divulging personal and family stories. I hope you can feel something very different than just a happy ending of a not so typical rags to riches story. I hope you feel a sense how far this man and his family have come from then till now. Without knowing him or how exceptional and utter his dwellings have changed but also how extraordinarily life can change if you're passionate enough to change your trajectory.  Here is the final version of this painting my client titled "Down the Hill" before they moved "Up the hill".

Down the Hill by Rachel Cross in watercolorDown the Hill
Watercolor for hire
Rachel Cross

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