Dr. Peter and Mary Meyers weren't planning to commission a house portrait. But, when the couple saw paintings by local artist Tate Nation, they began to imagine a piece that captured all of the fun things that living on Kiawah Island represents.

So, the part-time residents decided to commission a painting.

"It makes me feel at home," says Mary Meyers, whose family lives both in Texas and South Carolina. "When I see it, I am back in my home environment."

Houses have long been a subject of artistic interpretation. That's especially true in cities such as Charleston, which have rich architectural traditions. The tradition has been fostered here by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (1876-1958), Elizabeth O'Neill Verner (1883- 1979) and other artists.

Today, local artists continue to capture the essence of residences, built in the recent and distant pasts, and inhabited and uninhabited. Those artists generally say that patrons, like the Meyerses, see such portraits as a way to capture memories.

Offbeat and casual

Tate Nation paints contemporary and historic homes in his signature whimsical style. Nation's clients usually have seen his work and are as attracted to his style as to the idea of having their home immortalized.

"What I do is try to make them as personal as possible," says Nation, included an alligator, a car, two dogs and a patriotic symbol to the Meyers's painting. The artist has long conversations with patrons to determine what they like best about their residences and includes such things in their paintings, he says.

For Nation, house portraiture began with "On the Harbor," a quintessential downtown Charleston scene. The image ties together the look of Rainbow Row, the Battery, the harbor, some azaleas and more.

"It's and all-in-one piece that represents the feel- good experience of a visit to Charleston. Initially I steered clear of doing paintings that were the typical Charleston scenes, although many of them are beautifully done, because I just thought it's been done so much.

"But then I thought, 'It's never been done in my style. I thought this will be a one time thing, I will get the Charleston painting out of my system.'"

People saw it and started asking him to paint their homes.

Impressionism, expressionism and shimmer

Lese Corrigan also paints residences around the Lowcountry. Corrigan see's it as something that results both from the area's stock of homes that have strong characteristics and pieces by earlier Charleston artists such as Ravenel and Verner, she says.

Her paintings of residences, which she describes as a blend of impressionism, expressionism and shimmer from the light bouncing off the water on Charleston Harbor, are usually commissioned. But, she also paints some just because she likes the way they look.

One of her recent paintings was a gift from a real estate agent to a client; another was for a young couple who loved a house and restored it, but was moving to a different home and wanted a remembrance; and another was for someone who wanted to present the painting as a Christmas gift to a family member.

While the interest in house portraiture has been around a long time, it is something that comes and goes, she says.

Renderings with a soft touch

Dale Watson's career grew out of an architecture apprenticeship. Watson decided to become an illustrator instead of an architect. While he draws for architects and developers, he also paints images that have softer ages for clients and brings them to life with watercolor.

He has done renderings of clients' childhood homes; one for a client who wanted a painting of his residence on Kiawah to hang on the wall of his home in England; and pen and ink sketches of homes for clients who want to feature the images on their note cards.

"Most of my work is line drawing with watercolor wash," Watson says. "A lot of architectural renderings can have a mechanical feel. I like for my paintings to have soft edges. People like that mine have more personality."

Details, an artistic strength

George Roberts enjoys working in Charleston because its homes, which often have trim and moulding, fit his style of painting, he says. Roberts has been creating his watercolor and pen and ink works since moving to the Holy City from Atlanta four years ago.

"People joke that I paint every single brick on their house, which I almost do," says Roberts who was commissioned by Historic Charleston Foundation to do the Aiken-Rhett House. "The primary reason people contract me is to focus on the details of the homes. Details are my strength.

Most of the homes Roberts captures on canvas were built in the 1700s or 1800s. The subject of one of those paintings is a Charleston single house done for a couple who no longer lives here, but rents the house.

Home portraiture lets the artists focus on what the client wants to remember about the house, Roberts says. Unlike a photograph, an artistic rendering of a home lets artists exclude trees, powerlines and stop signs and highlight features such as flower boxes.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705 or wminis@postandcourier.com.