Rendering Lines

A renovation goes social

Lois Watson

LOIS WATSON, owner of Watson Illustrating, was sketching as far back as she can remember. “I loved to draw,” she says. “My parents always provided sketch pads and paper, and everyone said that I would be an artist one day.”

Watson is an architectural renderer who specializes in drawing houses for builders, architects, and designers. Her extensive portfolio includes illustrations of marinas, churches, business parks, movie studios, condominium complexes, parks, neighborhood amenities, and clubhouses in both streetscape and bird’s-eye views.

Her renderings have been published nationwide in Southern Living magazine and Southern Living House Plans. Watson also prepared renderings for Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association Parade of Homes for seven years.

She has also made her mark in the local fine arts scene as a paper collage artist. Her work is currently being shown at Gallery Citrine on Second Street and WATER + COLOR GALLERY, both in Wilmington.

Watson is a self-taught artist. As a senior in high school, she turned down a full college scholarship to Pratt Institute in New York. “I have no regrets. I think my high school art teacher would be proud,” she says with a smile.

Watson In Article 3

A Jersey girl, Watson grew up in a town where there was a lot of corporate influence. Over the years, she worked for F. Schumacher & Co., IBM, Dow Jones & Company Inc., and Sperry Univac, now Sperry Corporation.

Watson thinks that all of her corporate roles prepared her for her career in art.

“Every job gave me a piece of the puzzle for what I am doing today,” she says.

That included the business side of being an artist: bookkeeping, self-promotion, marketing, and networking.

At Sperry Univac, Watson was a switchboard operator. After meeting the art director who discovered her artistic talent, she was hired into the graphics art department where she worked for two years. Here she learned about schematic drawings.

“My boss was one of my early mentors. He taught me how to use art in a corporate environment,” Watson says. “I was getting paid for doing something that came naturally to me, and I realized that I could make a career out of it.”

Watson In Article1Watson still uses the drawing instruments that she first acquired at Sperry.

At Dow Jones, Watson started in customer service, eventually transitioned into the marketing department where she was responsible for writing and producing user guides.

“It was a creative role. I worked with the art department and went on photo shoots. I loved that part of the job, but it was a lot of technical writing,” she says.

It was also Watson’s first role as part of a team.

In 1986, Watson and her husband, John, moved to Wilmington for her husband’s job opportunity in management. Watson took a position with now-defunct Training Systems, developing training materials for the pulp and paper industry.

“I learned how to read blueprints, an important part of my job now,” she says.

Working at Training Systems, she yearned for something more creative. In 1995, her brother Scott Sullivan needed a renderer for his new business designing residential coastal homes in Wrightsville Beach.

“Give me a house plan and let me try,” Watson says. “I ripped open Southern Living magazine, saw the pen and ink illustrations, and tore them all out. And I got out my pen and ink. With a little coaching from my brother, I began illustrating for a few of his projects, and I picked up a few of my own clients. Then I got a sixty-house project.”

By April 1996, Watson resigned from her tech writing job and began illustrating for Parade of Homes, and by 2001 she was rendering for Southern Living. In 2021, Watson celebrated twenty-six years as an artist-illustrator.

“I feel really blessed. This is not something I could have ever dreamed for myself,” Watson says. “I love bringing a builder’s vision to life through my renderings and seeing his face when I deliver the illustrations. It’s the perfect career for me.”

Art and the Bloom | January 7-9 | Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach

In January, Watson, a member of the Art League of Leland and the Wilmington Art Association, will conduct a workshop for Art and the Bloom. She will teach paper collage painting with little pieces of layered papers creating a floral paper collage, and attendees will take home their pieces.

Art and the Bloom is the New Hanover Garden Club’s floral design exhibition and competition in which floral designers create a floral interpretation inspired by fine art. Proceeds from the event, co-sponsored by the Harbor Island Garden Club, go toward area scholarships and community projects.

Other events, besides Watson’s session, include demonstrations and workshops in floral design, afternoon teas with fashion shows, art sales gallery, and vendors.


To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture