PAINTING A "SHADE TREE" GARAGE



     My grandfather was a shade tree mechanic.  On his farm in West Virginia he had a mechanic shed or small garage where he kept all his tools and the stone wheel upon which he sharpened them.  It was turned by a large crank and guess who he had turn it when we were there.  Yes, and I developed strong arms too!

     I guess I am dating myself here, but those were peaceful, fun days when children could run free and happy playing in their apple orchards and swinging from the rope tied up in the barn.  We had many chores, but we also had lots of free time to play.  Children were taught skills and responsibility back then and I appreciated it,  but enough of that..

     I decided to paint the old mechanic shed or garage as Grandpa called it.  That shed no longer exists, but some of the other things he built still stand, including the large four bedroom house.  It didn't have running water or a bathroom, and the only electric plug was a cord hanging from the ceiling light in the dining room. The house was heated by fireplaces and one huge coal/wood stove in the living room. We walked up into the woods to a spring to get water each day, an adventure for us girls! When they got older, grandma and grandpa moved into the city during the winter because the snow could get so deep they would be snowed in for a month at a time.  What I loved most was that grandma cooked on a huge wood burning stove, it gave the food a unique and wonderful flavor!  Every morning she made oatmeal, eggs, biscuits, sausage gravy, bacon or sausage, fresh or home canned blackberries and fresh cream from her cow. She even made her own butter.  Or if we were there, we churned the butter in her old wooden butter churn.  Her washer sat on the back porch.  It was the original Sears washer with four legs and a wringer bar that you had to run the clothes through and crank by hand to get the clothes dry enough to hang on the clothes line. We were not allowed to do that, it was too dangerous for small hands.


     When grandpa died, grandma sold the farm.  It left the family and that's sad because it had been in the McAllister family from the year 1800.  West Virginia didn't become a state in until 1863!  The family that lives there now is restoring the house and added a bathroom, electricity and city water. My husband and I visited there a few years ago and I was able to take some photos.  I am so glad we did, it brought back a lot of memories.  Much  has changed, but the house, a small barn, the icehouse and woodshed are still there.  It is located in Lookout, W.V.  A lot of my extended family still live in the neighboring town of Hico about 5 miles away.

     Sorry, I got carried away, but I have a photo of the house below. There is scaffolding up for restoration but I took photos anyway.  I have done a few small paintings of it as gifts for the family over the years.

The farm was named Little Egypt, I'm not sure why. The county has now named the road Egypt Road. This house was due for restoration as grandpa built it in the early 1900's.  If you look closely, behind the green car is a wide area where the garage used to be, just to the left of the road.  This whole area of land is bowl shaped and surrounded on all side by hills.  As a result it was swampy.  Grandpa had an engineering degree and he used it to drain the land and make it suitable to build on and cultivate.  Until then, only the hillsides had been cultivated. The new owners have enlarged the front porch.  It originally had only 2 columns like below.

This is one of my small 4 x 6 paintings of Little Egypt. (sorry the photo is fuzzy)  Grandma loved flowers and had a huge bed of them with a small bridge and a purple martin house above.  There was a porch swing attached to the big maple tree and the ice house was behind the tree.  The yard was fenced to keep the cows out but is now gone. I remember a huge hydrangea tree between the house and flower bed. Don't see those anymore!  It was a really beautiful home in it's heyday.  But I digress, the garage begins below.  I hope you like it!

Working on a 14 x 18 canvas, I drew in the garage with 2 bays and a lean-to using vine charcoal. (grandpa's garage only had one big bay or opening)


I painted the sky area, adding sky behind the lean-to and windows in the bays. Then greenery for the trees and shrubs, etc.

Here, I have blocked in the garage, darkened the interior and created the lean-to.  Then I created the grey barn/garage using burnt sienna, Ultramarine blue and white.  The green is yellow oxide and U. Blue + white.  I painted apple trees as grandpa had orchards and some trees very faintly so as to appear set back.  The interior of the garage is pthalo blue and green from the tree mixture.

I blocked in some tree trunks, the fence, and started the old Model A ford sitting in the garage.  It is sitting up on blocks.  Oh, and I drew in the window panes with a script liner brush.  I made the back wall just around the windows very dark to show depth. Compare the photo above and you will see the difference. I will not put in the detail on the barn just yet.  I want to block in the foreground first. I darkened the barn color for body of the car while the windshield and fenders are the barn grey.

As you can see I've started the foreground.  I have also started highlighting the grey boards on the garage and adding things into the bays. Basically I just made a few shapes that allow the viewers eye to finish. It isn't necessary to paint every little detail. There's a close up photo below.

It looks like I have details, but all I did was make brushstrokes and to your eye it looks like shapes!

I have blocked in two signs above the door.  I actually used an electrical tape roll to draw the circle.  It happened to be sitting by my table, I picked it up and it was the perfect size! I use whatever happens to fit my needs.  The bottom sign I drew with a ruler.

Now you can see a big difference!  I painted the Gulf and Coca Cola signs. You can always look online for photos of old signs to use in your painting if you want something different. Also to the right I have two old wheels and a roll of wire.  It is amazing how just brushing in shadows make these come alive!

Now for the trees and grass!  My photo had the sun coming from the left, but I changed it to the right. Not sure why, I guess I just liked it better.  I may add more leaves though and another tree on the right.  After all, this IS a shade tree garage, LOL!  I also added a ladder on the left bay.

Ok, I added more branches and leaves to the tree, but I still think I'll add more. And I haven't added the last tree. As I write this, I can see that the shadow coming down to the left of the signs is too big for the light.  It needs to be smaller.  And I think that I'd like to add just a little to the left of the garage.  I don't know why, it just feels off somehow.  I will add some pebbles to the driveway and touch up the grass some more too and it may just be finished after that!

After filling in the front tree I decided that I didn't need another tree.  All it needed was more shadows and more greenery on the main tree.  It IS a shade tree garage after all so there needed to be shade! I also added a board with objects hanging under the lean-to. I had fun with this one and it brought back a lot of fond memories of summers on Grandpa Festus and Grandma Iva's farm, those were their real names.  Grandpa's family was from Scotland, hence the name Festus McAllister!

To see the final photo, please go to my AVAILABLE PAINTINGS page and look for the name
"GRANDPA'S GARAGE"





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