Phil Thompson and Katie Lauffenburger
If you tend to notice every detail in your favorite house tours, you may have first spotted a Cape Horn Illustration on Apartment Therapy here, in Marti and Jarrod's Lincoln Square house tour. If you're seeking to memorialize your first home, your current home, or your last home (or any building that's meaningful to you), look no further than Phil Thompson, who will draw your building's portrait as if he knows it as well as you do. The final outcome is a reminder that your home is like none other, that it's all in the details. We asked Phil some questions recently, and got a peek into the illustration process of a recent commission:
AT: How did you get started with your illustration business?
PT: I love drawing. My whole life I've been either doing it myself or enjoying others' work. I get into a flow when I'm working and can forget to eat and sleep — you get to a point when a work starts to take shape and the thought of finishing it becomes addictive. My wife and I started working on personal projects for about 5 years while I still had a full-time job, and eventually it got to the point that it consumed my thoughts so much I had to make the leap and start my own operation.
AT: What inspires you most?
PT: The excitement of turning an idea or observation into a finished piece of art. Home portraits in particular combine three major sources of inspiration: Chicago, residential architecture, and history. I am in awe of the incredible homes and buildings that preceding generations of Chicago designers and builders put together — and to me, there is nothing better than rediscovering every brick and cornice of a given Chicago home through the process of drawing it.
AT: With home and building portraits as your core work, what other types of illustration do you offer? Do you ever get commissions from renters?
PT: There are some applications here even for renters. Many of my clients are young professionals who grew up in the suburbs and want to give their parents a portrait of their family home. The home portrait is a common gift for life transitions: when the parents are retiring and moving out, or when people are making the move to a new place that excites them as another phase in life.
We also do work that is inspired by the city and our interests, and have prints that reflect that: an illustrated map of the city's beer bars; an "antique map" of the cityscape and lakefront; a map of the Chicago marathon and illustrated vignettes from the course.
The foundation of all our prints is pen and ink, which is what gives the work a classic, etched look. Other custom illustrations include logos, custom-made maps, holiday cards, etc.
AT: How long does a custom drawing typically take you?
PT: For a standard dimension illustration (8"x10"), from 2 to 3 days, depending on the complexity of the home. That's the production time. The delivery time depends on the amount of work I have booked. The holidays can be very busy.
AT: Do you need to visit the subject location before you start working?
PT: Usually photos are enough, as long as they are clear and show the entire place! Also, I do whatever I can to show the home and landscaping at its best —that's where artistic license is helpful. One thing I really strive for is showing the details that make a house a home. I love to include pets, plants, and sculptures.
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(Image credits: Phil Thompson)