Portraits on paper


A portrait on paper can be a good solution where a clay portrait isn’t possible for some technical reason, or for time limitations – or can simply show a different side of a house. Because we don’t have to wait for the clay’s drying process or the firing cycle, a portrait on paper can be much quicker to achieve, and so may fit the bill when time or budget is tight. Some of Liz’s clients have chosen to have a drawn portrait on paper in addition to their commissioned clay one – the one shown above is an example, and you can see the clay portrait of this lovely Georgian house and barn on the Gallery page of favourite past commissions.


A portrait on paper begins in the same way as the clay portrait: Liz makes a detailed working drawing on graph paper from your photos – the more detailed the better – and then transfers this drawing by hand onto densely textured handmade paper, drawing through the graph paper with a blunt needle to incise the lines into the surface of the thick handmade paper.


This incised outline is then drawn again in pencil, then modelling and light/shading are added, and the drawing sealed. So the portrait is, in effect, drawn three times, brick by brick, and a hand-lettered inscription is often included in the design, either below the drawing or to frame it. The result is a detailed black and white/ grey-tone signed original portrait of your special place, in graphite on acid-free handmade cotton rag paper.

These portraits start at £300 on A4 paper and £400 on A3 paper for something very straightforward, and they can be supplied framed or unframed; framing usually adds about £50. Liz is always happy to give an estimate of cost from a photo, and though she usually has a waiting list for clay portraits, she can often make a portrait on paper for an earlier date.

Royal London hosp drawing

Portraits on paper can also be in colour; sometimes a particular house or building asks to be given the full colour treatment, like this portrait of Kentish Town Baths, with its stunning Arts & Crafts detailing:


This subject works particularly well because of its lovely brickwork and the gold A&C lettering announcing St Pancras Public Baths. (For more details of this drawing, and other North London portraits in clay and on paper, please see the Exhibition page.) A much loved family home can also work beautifully in colour, bringing the details of facade and garden into close relation:


This image shows how the lines of the drawing are incised into the texture of the handmade paper, giving a strong feeling of depth to the picture plane, and allowing for very effective detailing of the brickwork and decorative elements like the lovely doorcase on this York house. (For portraits in clay of this particular house, please see the Gallery page.)

Liz sometimes makes a collection of portraits of one house – a comprehensive architectural study, that can show the different moods of a house’s several aspects. She’s recently made a group of six studies of a lovely Arts & Crafts house in Ireland, a place full of character and exciting detail, where each aspect turns a different face to the sun. Four of these studies were on paper, two in clay, and the overall effect of the group is of a richly detailed visual feast that reflects the house’s many glories, and the relation of each side to the whole.

The drawings were each given a lettered inscription and framed to show off the deckle edges of the handmade paper, each sheet chosen to reflect the shape of the house’s aspect portrayed.

“These studies in colour were really exciting to make on handmade paper, using the texture and density of the paper to build a feeling of three-dimensionality into the drawing, by means of the incising method, and the play of light on each facade. I’m most interested in the individuality of each subject, and this house gave me four individual faces, all closely related, but each with its own unique character.”

Please have a look on the Gallery page for detailed photos of the two portraits in clay of this lovely Irish house, and visit Liz’s gallery-blog Daughters of Earth for a Work in Focus feature on the making of this collection: One house, six portraits.

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