"There are just so many nice home designs such as Craftsmen, Tudor, Spanish, New England, Eichler and more in Palo Alto," he said. "When you think about it there are many wonderful designs in the entire Bay Area such as the traditional styles of homes built back in the 1800s, to various Revival and Modernist styles. It's great to be able to include the finer details of architecture, especially if it is of a specific historical period."
Working from his Redwood City studio, VanEss creates paintings of houses, in a field dominated by photography. He said his portraits serve as a unique memento for those looking to preserve lasting images of their homes.
"When people choose to live somewhere, it's a very personal decision of what kind of house they want to live in. They are really proud of the moment they choose a particular home," he said. "Besides that, if they ever find themselves at a point in their lives where they have to move, they can remember their previous home through one of my portraits."
His paintings will be on exhibit for the next few months at the Palo Alto office of Realtor Ken DeLeon.
"The appeal to me was that his work seems to evoke positive emotions of peoples' homes. ... a kind of nostalgia, or great memories owners have created for their homes," DeLeon said.
For example, VanEss has worked for a newlywed couple moving into their first home in San Francisco.
"They didn't actually own this house, but she wanted the artwork done to commemorate the first example of them living together; she wanted that moment to last," he said. "So, I did a portrait from the street for their nice four-story building."
Sometimes he works with homebuilders and architects to give a preview of what the blueprint will reveal when actually built.
His process is to always first photograph the home himself. "I need to photograph it because I need a specific perspective and angle. You need a unique eye to capture all the interesting facets of a home, and to make sure the lighting, shading and landscaping is revealed correctly," he said.
Beginning from the day of photographing, a portrait can take up to one week.
"Most of my paintings fit an 18-by-24 frame, but I will do some smaller ones as well," he said. "I use mixed-media painting, depending on the texture I'm trying to show. I typically use watercolors, pastels, ink and art markers."
Although homes are his specialty, he has also painted stores, motor homes, stadiums, cars and sailboats."
VanEss majored in art in college, and had always wanted to pursue a career in home architecture and painting. "Painting homes just seemed like a natural thing for me. I suppose if a couple things had been different, I perhaps would have been an architect," he said. "I have a very keen interest in residential home design."
Initially, he was a high school teacher in the Midwest, while pursuing his art career on the side. He began offering house portraits for a charity fundraiser at his school, which eventually led to his career as he drew interest from local homeowners.
He moved to the Bay Area in 1999 as a full-time architectural painter, and has been involved with a cooperative gallery in the East Bay as well.
VanEss also teaches introductory acrylic painting classes at Michael's in Mountain View. The two-hour classes are offered with choices of landscape, seascape, still-life or floral.
Not all of his portraits are of actual houses. VanEss is currently working on a cohousing project — a community planned by the future residents — in the Mountain View area. He is working with architect Ross Chapin to design and paint these homes to draw a community for their project.
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What: Exhibit of architectural portraits by Alan VanEss
When: through July 6
Where: 2600 El Camino Real, Suite 110, Palo Alto
Info: 925-788-3832, citroenicity-vanessstudio.com