Written by Shayda Windle
Ever since Monica Weiss and her husband, Michael, have known each other, she’s endearingly been known as “Hollywood” to him. So, when the couple decided last February that it was time for a home renovation, it’s no surprise that Monica enlisted the most talented remodelers, designers, and artists in the area for help. Their 1823 Victorian-style home in Hamilton had already undergone several renovations when they purchased it in 2006, but after many years of hosting guests for Thanksgiving and other special events, the pair decided it was time to expand the space a bit more.
Monica says prior to the renovation, they never had a foyer so when the opportunity to decorate came along, she wanted to make it special. She knew she wanted something that was reminiscent of Hunt Country, and thought she’d be able to find it with new wallpaper. She set out on a mission to the Paint and Paper Place in Purcellville hoping she would find it there. When the salesperson told her they didn’t have what she was looking for, she asked if they knew anyone that painted murals. To her luck, local multi-media artist, Patricia Taylor Holz, was working at the store that day.
It turns out Monica struck gold upon meeting Taylor Holz, whose body of work includes clients from Disney, MTV, CBS, Phillip Morris, and Jim Henson, just to name a few. As a multi-talented set designer and artist whose experience with large-scale art spans every industry imaginable, it was clear Monica had found the perfect person for the final addition to her home renovation project: a mural that would depict the family’s love of Hunt Country, and the attributes that make this area so unique. It was also important to Monica that the mural would be personalized and include the ones they love the most — their dogs.
Taylor Holz visited the Weiss home to discuss Monica’s vision in more detail and quickly noticed the home had an antique aesthetic, with a wide variety of old-fashioned books, furniture, and décor on display. It was then that Taylor Holz began envisioning a historic equestrian and hunting scene reminiscent of the Civil war era with sepia and neutral tones to give it the right look and feel.
One caveat to the project was that it needed to be completed in advance of the next family event in a month. Taylor Holz knew the job would require more than one person so she enlisted local artist Penny Hauffe, whom she met through the local art community, for help to complete the job. Taylor Holz says she wanted to work with someone who “had positive energy, because, there is a lot of emotion that goes into artwork that’s put on display in your home and projected out to the viewers.” Taylor Holz says she considers her projects to be a “labor of love” and that she wanted to work with a “midwife who would help her deliver a bundle of joy” to their new clients. Hauffe was naturally the best fit for the role.
Hauffe already had street credibility with murals completed at The Leesburg Auto Wash, Leesburg’s King Street, One Life Fitness building in Brambleton, and the private dining room at the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg. The added bonus for Taylor Holz was Hauffe’s cheerful disposition and positive energy that she brought into the process.
The two began the creative process by searching for inspiration in photographs. Luckily, Taylor Holz had met local equine photographer, Deb Morrow, when she came into Western Loudoun’s art scene and they were Facebook friends. It was by chance that Morrow posted some of her recent work on Facebook and let her friends know they were free to use it for their artistic endeavors with her permission.
When Taylor Holz began sifting through Morrow’s work, she realized her equine photographs would be key in creating the hunt scene the Weiss’ were looking for. From there, she gathered the photo sources – from sidesaddle photographs by Morrow to photos of the Morven Park Mansion, Bluemont Vineyard, and Bear’s Den, and began working on the renderings for the mural.
She then created a concept of a 19th-century hand-colored sepia illustration on parchment with “just hints of opaque brown, black, red and white on the riders, animals, and dogwoods,” Taylor Holz says. She goes on to say that she wanted a transparent, aged quality to the whole mural, “like ink fading & flaking off old parchment,” and used a variety of mediums and techniques to achieve the look, including a palm sander for the distressed aesthetic. She also used a monochromatic underpainting technique called “grisaille” on the horses and riders, which she says, “involves lightly sketching a form, glazing it over completely, and then sculpting dimension by removing highlight areas with a rag or brush.”
The final result has ended up to be nothing short of fascinating, so much so, that Monica tells us “it feels like you’re walking into the land of Narnia.” Guests have been so amazed by its intricacies that they will sit down with a glass of wine to stare at the scene for hours. Upon entering the foyer, viewers are presented with a winter scene of two Victorian-styled ladies riding sidesaddle, which wraps around to a larger scene that includes more riders on horseback, overlooking the hills and vineyards of Hunt Country with the Weiss family dogs looking down from Bear’s Den. At the very end of the mural, Taylor Holz and Hauffe included a vintage, old-fashioned painting of the Morven Park Mansion in spring with Virginia’s state flower, the dogwood, in bloom.
With so much talent to be shared between these women, there has been no shortage of interest in their work. Taylor Holz and Hauffe enjoyed their first collaboration together so much that they’ve continued working together on another mural for the Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America. Be on the lookout for an upcoming story about their next big project with the MFHA. ML
To view more of Patricia Taylor Holz’s work, visit her website at pthvisualarts.com. For more about Penny Hauffe, visit pennypaint.com. To see more of Deb Morrow’s photography, visit deborahmorrowphotography.smugmug.com.
This article first appeared in the June 2021 Issue.