Keith Mountford lives in Lower Makefield, not far from the scenic Delaware Canal and the river. But it took a pandemic for him to appreciate how beautiful his surroundings are.
A professional watercolorist for more than two decades, Mountford is accustomed to spending much of the year on the road, travelling to weekend art shows up and down the east coast. In time, he stopped painting scenes from Bucks County because he rarely exhibited locally and the subject matter was unfamiliar to most people outside of the region.
Last year, however, he was grounded at home, like everyone else. Eventually, Mountford, who originally hails from Staffordshire, England, adopted a new routine. Come summer, he and a few friends rode their bikes every Saturday along the towpath. One week, they would ride up to the park. Another, they’d go as far as Easton.
Each time out, Mountford took dozens of photos, some of which he’d use later help him create paintings in a style he describes as “watercolor realism.” Where watercolor paintings tend to be impressionistic, Mountford’s are filled with photorealistic detail. “You don’t have to think too hard about what you’re looking at it,” he says. “My art’s cerebral while I’m creating it, but it’s not meant to be that way for the viewer.”
On one of his Saturday jaunts last summer, Mountford returned to the Hibbs House at Washington Crossing Historic Park: a place he painted many times before he started catering to his art show audiences. He was struck by the garden, a new addition since his last visit. Later, he spent three months recreating it on a canvas (pictured above).
“I can never usually afford three months to work on a painting,” he says. “With this one, I knew the perspective and what I wanted to do. But when the subject is that large, you lose the desired effect when you don’t devote the necessary time to the details.”
Upon the painting’s completion, Mountford donated a full-size reproduction to the Friends of Washington Crossing Park in the hope that it can be used, he says, “to help draw awareness to all the work that’s being done to preserve and enhance the park’s historic buildings.”
When it’s safe, Mountford plans to return to his art-show circuit, but he won’t be abandoning his rekindled enthusiasm for Bucks County. He plans to develop a “broad body of work” from the hundreds of reference photos he’s taken over the last year.