Local Artist Immortalizes Homes, Works With Lakewood Company For Worthy Cause

Late afternoon sun washes across the deep salmon-colored bricks and green shutters of the Georgian colonial in a watercolor painting that hangs above Gary Richard’s fireplace. The home depicted in the painting is the very house in which it hangs—the 97-year old home on Lake Ave. near 116th St. that Richards has lovingly restored over the last decade.

When he completed the restoration, Richards chose to have his finished project immortalized by watercolor artist Bill Mannion of Bay Village, a painter whose other collections Richards had seen and admired. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished restoring the house,” Richards says. “I hope the painting will stay with the house for the future generations who will live here.”

Mannion has been creating these renderings—“housetraits,” he calls them—for more than 25 years. And it is not just the residents of Cleveland’s great or historic homes commissioning Mannion to paint pictures of their houses. Homeowners from tiny bungalows to grand mansions come to him to capture the places they call home.

“I like the idea that sentiment is there,” says Mannion. “That a house is not just brick and mortar, shingles and siding. Everything about the house matters to the people who live there.”

Mannion has a master of fine arts degree and had already been commissioned by corporations and showcased in galleries when he began to make small pen and ink drawings of the homes and buildings that caught his eye. He then added watercolors to the drawings. The work caught the attention of an acquaintance who then commissioned Mannion to paint the home of a neighbor as a going-away present. Since then, Mannion has painted hundreds of “housetraits” of homes as far away as Alaska.

The reason for the demand lies probably in the both the detail he captures in the renderings and in the intangible element he lends to his subjects. “Housetrait” owner Julie Helm says, “It looks just like your home down to the littlest touches, like the door knocker.” Mannion’s “housetraits” also show the home in the best light, subtracting things like chipped driveways and telephone wires. “It looks like you live there and it is just right,” Helm says.

Mannion works from photos he takes himself or that are provided for him by the homeowner. He likes the qualities of watercolors. “There is a clean, clear, fresh look you get with watercolor that you do not get with oil or acrylic paints,” Mannion explains. “The paper comes through in certain parts and helps to give some light and transparency to the painting.”

In 2008, Lakewood-based contractor Neubert Painting launched its annual Charity Paint Giveaway. When Mannion found out Neubert had chosen Providence House as its 2009 Giveaway recipient, he offered to create one of his signature “housetraits” to help celebrate the rebirth of the cream and red 6,000-square foot Victorian home. “It was such a good cause, and my wife and I had a chance to go there and meet the kids who live there...It was such a worthy thing to be involved with.” Mannion will again paint the recipient of Neubert’s 2010 Charity Paint Giveaway.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 8:25 AM, 05.19.2010