The trouble with San Francisco’s Painted Ladies is that they are just so hard to sketch! I sketched a few over a couple of days with Laurie Wigham and Liz Steel. It was a hit and miss process for sure, and my sketches were more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’. But you can see that between drawing things a few times over and all the ideas we were bouncing around between us, the later sketches start to have a glimmer of hope…
This first one I drew stands on a corner near Alamo Park. It wasn’t so hard to draw but I didn’t know it until I tried some other homes: darker-colored victorians are not that hard to draw, because the overload of detail and the too-much-fiddly-line just makes them look heavy and dark, which they are…
But my next sketch of the more famous Painted Ladies of Alamo Square is one I felt really didn’t work. For one, it’s hard to bring something new to such a cliche of a view. But also, if you’ve seen photos of these houses, you’ll know that even though these Victorians are full of fussy detail, the overall impression all that light colored trim gives is of lightness- a bit of a frivolous air…and my Victorians looked pretty dour.
So I kinda gave up and did two quick sketches of the view to my right.
But that didn’t solve my problem with trying to draw Victorians.
When I’m stuck and can’t articulate what isn’t working for me, I’ll often think of the work of an artist who I imagine will do a wonderful job of the subject. The very first artist that came to mind was Andrea Joseph. There’s such a sense of whimsy in Andrea’s capture of even the solid-looking brick buildings of Manchester.
With Andrea’s buildings in mind, I made these next sketches a couple of days later in Laurie’s neighborhood in Bernal Heights.
That’s (left to right) a green house, a white house and a blue house. To keep it ‘light’ I left all the sunny sides of the houses in white and only indicated their color in the shaded side. That’s a bit tricky when one of the houses is white, but I think it worked here. Color came before penwork in this piece: another way to keep from overdoing the line and making a heavy sketch.
What really helped with this sketch is that both Laurie and Liz told me to stop working on it at this point. And knowing when to stop is one of the hardest bits of making art.