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Watercolor Cityscapes and Buildings

I enjoy the challenge of drawing buildings. It's fun, but if you get the perspective lines wrong, it's clearly wonky. I've included in this section paintings where the building or buildings are the main focus. Under landscapes you'll see some buildings and bridges that are incidental to the landscape.

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atkinson-house-rutherford.jpg Watercolor: Atkinson House Rutherford (20"x14")
This Queen Anne house was built in 1882 by Joseph and Louis Atkinson. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places in Napa County, and is located at 8440 St. Helena Hwy. in Rutherford, California, on the grounds of St. Supery Vineyards and Winery. My son Dan works in offices on the second floor of the tower. Watercolor, 20" x 14".

auburn-co-courthouse-sw.jpg Watercolor: Auburn County Courthouse from the SW
Another watercolor of a fascinating and beautiful building -- what I think is perhaps the most beautiful public building in California. 10.5" x 11"
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auburn-county-courthouse.jpg Watercolor: Auburn's Crown Jewel (20" x 14")
Auburn, California County Courthouse, built in 1897. Watercolor by Ralph F. Wilson, 20x14. Exhibited in juried show, "Celebrating Auburn's Past," sponsored by the Auburn Arts Commission, June 10 to Aug 1, 2013
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blue-goose-loomis.jpg Watercolor: Blue Goose Fruit Shed, Loomis, California, ca. 1930 (20" x 14")

This was adapted from several historical photos in Images of America - Loomis, by the Loomis Basin Historical Society (Arcadia Publishing, 2009). This shed no longer exists, but it was once at Taylor Rd. and Webb. Watercolor, 20x14 inches. Exhibited in "Along the Lincoln Highway," A juried art show by the Auburn Arts Commission, Dec 12, 2013 to Feb 7, 2014.

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colonnade-san-juan-batista.jpg Watercolor: Colonnade at San Juan Bautista Mission - 21" x 14"
A trip down US 101 to Santa Barbara several years ago inspired this painting of the colonnade at San Juan Bautista Mission near Hollister. I used a pouring technique, successively masking the lighter areas, and then pouring primary colors -- thalo blue, quinacridone red, and new gamboge yellow. This painting was voted "Watercolor of the Month" at the WASH Watercolor Club, Sacramento Fine Arts Center, for April 2017. Watercolor, 21" x 14".

commercial-st-old-town-auburn.jpg Watercolor: Commercial St., Old Town, Auburn, CA - 14.5" x10.5"
This was painted plein air on an overcast October Saturday morning. About 11:15 am I got rained out and finished at home. These are brick buildings built in the 1880s, with the Placer County Courthouse towering in the background. Watercolor, 14.5" x 10.5".

delft-shops-near-oude-kerk.jpg Watercolor: Delft Shops near Oude Kerk (Old Church) - 14 x 20 inches
Here's a view just down the street from my hotel in Delft, Netherlands, in mid-September 2014. The shops are just over the canal bridge across from Oude Kerk (Old Church), founded in 1246 AD. Of course, Nieuwe Kerk on the other side of town was founded in 1584. I found Delft to be a charming city, much slower-paced than Amsterdam. Watercolor and watercolor crayon, 14 x 20 inches.

old-town-auburn.jpg Watercolor: Old Town Auburn - 8" x 10.5"
On Saturday morning, Feb 11, 2017, Placer Art League sponsored a "sketch crawl" in old town Auburn. Here's my two-hour plein air product, with the Placer Co. Courthouse at the top of the picture. I think it is perhaps the most beautiful building in California. This is my fourth attempt to paint it. Watercolor, 8" x 10.5".

lincoln-shopping.jpg Watercolor: Shopping in Lincoln, England - 14.5" x 14.5"
The old streets and quaint shops of Lincoln, England, are charming. This painting includes my wife Jean and her sister Connie shopping in the Bailgate area of Lincoln during a trip to England in July 2009. For this painting, I began with a pen-and-ink sketch and then used watercolor to finish. This won the "Painting of the Month" for October 2017 at WASH, the watercolor club at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center. Watercolor and ink, 14.5" x 14.5".

Watercolor: State Theater, Marysville - 10.5" x 14.5"
This old theater opened as the National Theater in 1927 in Marysville, CA. Its baroque decoration is striking. Watercolor, 10.5" x 14.5".

Watercolor: Amsterdam Street View - 10.5" x 14.5"
During my trip to Kenya and Amsterdam in September 2014 I caught this busy street scene. I had just seen a demo by watercolorist Qian Gao who greatly simplifies complex scenes. Here's my first attempt, though I have a lot more simplification to go! Watercolor, 10.5" x 14.5"

Watercolor: Canal to the Basilica of St. Nicholas, Amsterdam - 14.5" x 14.5"
I tried to simplify this scene, with the tranquility of a canal that ended at the Basicilia St. Nicholas (1887) in the distance along old town canal. It started as a 14x20, but a square format worked better.

Watercolor: Street Scene, Lincoln England, 14.5" x 10.5"
The shops along this Lincoln Street are picturesque. Here the street is going downhill some. Another attempt at simplification. Watercolor, 14.5" x 10.5"

dawn-at-auburn-courthouse.jpg Watercolor: Dawn at the Auburn Courthouse - 20" x 14"
I love the light and color that shone their way into this painting of the gorgeous Placer County Courthouse in Auburn, CA at dawn. This building is certainly my candidate for the most beautiful public building in the State of California. This is my fifth attempt at painting it. This painting is exhibited in the juried 2017 WASH "Go with the Flow" Open Show, Sep 6-Oct 1, 2017 at Sacramento Fine Arts Center. Watercolor, 20" x 14".

blue-door-grand-canal-venice.jpg Watercolor: Blue Door, Grand Canal, Venice - 10.5" x 14.5"
My son David took a striking photo of a weather-beaten blue door on the Grand Canal in Venice in June 2015, from which I made this painting. Earlier photos I found on the Internet of this popular door show that it once had a lamp hanging over it, and posts to which to tie up one's gondola. The sea is hard on sinking Venice. Watercolor, 10.5" x 14.5". June 2017.

PeekingatLincolnCathedral-11.25x21.5-171030.jpg Watercolor: Peeking at Lincoln Cathedral - 11.25" x 21.5"
During a 2009 trip to England, Jean and I spent time exploring Lincoln Cathedral. It was begun in 1088 AD and built over the next several centuries. This painting is of a view of the building's flying buttresses. The more I worked on this painting, the more I grew to appreciate the level after level of intricate decoration of even the slice I was painting. It's amazing! Victorian writer John Ruskin declared: "I have always held... that the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles and roughly speaking worth any two other cathedrals we have." Exhibited in the in the "Awash with Color" WASH Members Show at Sacramento Fine Arts Center, April 3-22, 2018. 171031. Watercolor, 11.25" x 21.5". In a private collection: St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Antelope, CA.

ShopsintheShadowofOudeKerkOldChurchDelft-14.5x14.5-171116.jpg Watercolor: Shops in the Shadow of Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft - 14" x 14"
In mid-September 2014 I visited Delft, Netherlands on my way back from Kenya. Across the canal from my hotel was Oude Kerk (Old Church), founded in 1246 AD. Of course, Nieuwe Kerk on the other side of town was founded in 1584. This is a scene down the canal at the bridge and shops beyond the church. This painting was juried in to the WASH Open "Go with the Flow" watercolor show at Sacramento Fine Arts, September 4-30, 2018. 171116. Watercolor, 14" x 14".

CarmelMission-14x14-180517.jpg Watercolor: Carmel Mission and Colonnade - 14" x 14"
Instead of the familiar view of the Carmel Mission near the entrance, this view from the school courtyard views the outline of the bell tower above the colonnade. Since Jean and I visited on our anniversary in early February, I needed to imagine the garden in full bloom. 180517. Watercolor, 14" x 14".

CarmelMission10x10181018.jpg Watercolor: Carmel Mission, 10" x 10"
Here's a view of Carmel Mission from the courtyard in front of the doors. Certainly one of the most beautiful of the California Missions, Carmel was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1770, this building being completed in 1797. Father Serra is buried here. 181018. Watercolor, 10" x 10".

BankofLoomisTownHall-12x9-181025.jpg Watercolor: Bank of Loomis - 12" x 9"
I sketched this painting on-site, and after beginning to paint, three-and-a-half hours had passed. I came home to have lunch and finish. The Loomis Bank Building was built in 1918, so it is 100 years old this year. It was built in a Neo-Classical style, and is doubtless the grandest old building in Loomis. It has been occupied by several banks since then, then the Placer County Water Agency, and in 2010 the Town of Loomis. The rather gaudy blue, aqua, and yellow paint wasn't original, but accentuates the numerous architectural details. 181025. Watercolor, 12" x 9".

OldtimeSutterCreek-14x14-181011.jpg Watercolor: Oldtime Sutter Creek, CA - 14" x 14"
Jean and I visited Sutter Creek, CA for our anniversary in February 2015. The town is one of the jewels of the Gold Rush towns strong along Hwy 49. Here's a view looking south along Main Street (Old Hwy 49), with the Methodist church in the background. The building was built in 1862, but the steeple wasn't added until 1976. The cars parked along the street didn't look like, so I took artistic license to replace them with a couple of wagons -- but I kept the steeple. 181011. Watercolor,14" x 14".

PalaceofFineArtsSF18111520x14.jpg Watercolor: Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco - 20x14
In January 2014, Jean and I stopped by the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts in a trip to the city. It built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and rebuilt in 1965. It has a gorgeous reflecting pool, to which I added a couple of swans that were swimming in another section. (They didn't mind.) I tried to make a photo taken on a dull day bright and full of color. But the colors seems to clash a bit. 181115. Watercolor, 20" x 14".

CocaColaBarn-14x10-200220.jpg Watercolor: Coca Cola Barn (14" x 10")
The barn I used as my photo reference wasn't colored, nor did it have an inscription. But I felt that worn red paint was appropriate, and the Coca Cola ad brought back thoughts of another era when Mail Pouch Tobacco ads were painted on hundreds of barns in the Midwest and East. But I didn't want to promote chewing tobacco, which killed many from cancer. And I know that some old barns used to advertise Coca Cola and Pepsi. So, voila! 200220. Watercolor, 14" x 10".

SanJuanBautistaCampanarioBellWallatDawn-10x14-191119.jpg Watercolor: San Juan Bautista Mission Campanario (Bell Wall) at Dawn - 10" x 14"
I've always loved San Juan Bautista Mission near Hollister, CA. Though the bell wall or Campanario isn't ancient, but added in the 1970s, I wanted to capture the colors of dawn coming through openings. 191119. Watercolor, 10" x 14".

North Carolina Tobacco Fields - 10 Watercolor: North Carolina Tobacco Fields - 10" x 14"
When I visited my son in Greenville, North Carolina, a decade ago, you could see tobacco barns dotting the countryside. Tall barns in the center of fields that would be used about three weeks a year to dry the newly-harvested tobacco. When I visited again in 2019, there was hardly a tobacco barn to be seen. So I constructed this painting from three sources, a typical red tobacco barn, a tobacco field, and a wonderful storm-cloud sky. (I'm trying to learn to paint grand cumulus clouds.) 191005. Watercolor, 10" x 14".

Virgennes, Vermont Dairy Farm - 10 Watercolor: Dairy Farm, Virgennes, Vermont - 10" x 7"
In September 1998 Jean and I took a trip to Vermont. We especially enjoyed seeing the working farms, this one near Virgennes, Vermont. I like this painting. Though it is small, it makes me feel good. It's currently hanging on the wall in my study. 190729. Watercolor, 10" x 7".

WethePeople-14x20-210130.jpg Watercolor: We the People (US Capitol and Flag) - 14" x 20"
On January 6, 2021 we nearly lost our democracy as a mob who believed a lie about a stolen election shamefully stormed the US Capitol. In the aftermath, I began to appreciate more the democracy that I've taken for granted. "We the People" is my way of honoring the oath I took many years ago to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same." 210130. Watercolor, 14" x 20".

TwoCathedrals-14x20-210221.jpg Watercolor: Two Cathedrals (Lincoln Cathedral) - 14" x 20"
In August 2009 Jean and I spent a couple of days poking around Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England. This is a view from Lincoln Castle. I call the painting "Two Cathedrals" because the towering cumulous clouds roil up to 30,000 feet, a far grander monument to the glory of God than even man's best attempts. 210221. Watercolor, 14" x 20".

FlyingtheFlaginVermont-8x8-210708.jpg Watercolor: Flying the Flag in Vermont - 8" x 8"
On our trip to Vermont in September 2018 we saw a number of traditional houses. This one caught my eye, especially the proud American flag flying over the porch. Long may she wave! Part of my 31 Paintings in July Challenge. 210708. Watercolor. 8" x 8".

OldDelftStation-8x8-210718.jpg Watercolor: Old Delft Station - 8" x 8"
In September 2014 I spent an enjoyable day in Delft, Netherlands, arriving at this wonderful old railroad station that was in the process of a huge glassy addition. This is a quick pen and ink sketch from a photograph on 100 lb. Canson Bristol with a Lamy fountain pen and a fine nib. Part of my 31 Paintings in July Challenge. 210724. Watercolor and ink, 8" x 8".

NieuweKerkSteeple-7x10-210724.jpg Watercolor: Nieuwe Kerk Steeple, Delft, Holland - 7" x 10"
When I visited Delft, Holland in September 2014, I saw two high steeples. One was from Oude Kerk ("Old Church"), built in 1246, with the tower 75 years later. The other was Nieuwe Kerk ("New Church"), whose tower was built 1396-1496. My painting shows how the Nieuwe Kerk spire towers over the city 357 ft. in height. Part of my 31 Paintings in July Challenge. 210724. Awarded second place in August 2021 WASH Painting of the Month. Watercolor and ink, 7" x 10"

PointPinosLighthousePacificGroveCA-10x10-210730.jpg Watercolor: Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove, CA - 10" x 10"
One of the beautiful lighthouses on the California coast is the Point Pinos Lighthouse at Pacific Grove, where Monterey Bay meets the Pacific. The lighthouse was originally lit in 1855, and is the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of the United States -- even the lens is original. It is operated by US Coast Guard personnel. Part of my 31 Paintings in July Challenge. 210729. Watercolor and ink, 10" x 10".

FlyingButtressesatLincolnCathedral-14x20-210727.jpg Watercolor: Flying Buttresses at Lincoln Cathedral - 14" x 20"
Lincoln Cathedral is perhaps the most important medieval building in England. During our trip to Lincolnshire in August 2009 I was particularly interested in the flying buttresses. In this view, you're looking past the Chapter House (which is supported by the large flying buttresses you see) toward King Richard's Door that enters into the choir of the cathedral. You can also see some flying buttresses supporting the windows near the top of the cathedral. Part of my 31 Paintings in July Challenge. 210728. Watercolor, 14" x 20".

TheDeansEye-14x20-210823.jpg Watercolor: The Dean's Eye, Lincoln Cathedral - 14" x 20"
"The Dean's Eye" is the beautiful rose window in the north transept at Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, England. My painting looks up from the Cloisters to the north face of the cross-shaped cathedral. The challenge is to move the eye to a center of interest, since there are so many places you can get lost in this amazing building. You can't see the stained glass from the outside of a normal cathedral, but my cathedral is magic! 210823. Ink and watercolor, 14" x 20".

StanfordArches-14x20-220218.jpg Watercolor: Stanford Arches - 14" x 20"
The Quad at Stanford University is surrounded by a beautiful colonnade. Each arch on the inner Quad is decorated by the most exquisite and intricate frieze work carved of the sandstone to create an almost Moorish effect. This painting is from a photo I took in October 2018 when I was there with Jean for an alumni gathering for an alumni gathering. I love how you peek through the arches to the classrooms behind. Juried into the 2022 WASH Open Show "Go with the Flow," August 16-Sep 10 2022. 220218. Watercolor, 14" x 20" (Private collection).

QuiltBlockBarnHorseshoeBarRd.Loomis-14x10-220605.jpg Watercolor: Quilt Block Barn - 14" x 10"
I've passed this barn for a year or two on Horseshoe Bar Rd. in Loomis, about a mile East of the junction. What makes it stand out is a quilt block on it. So I stopped one day in April and decided to paint it. 220605. Watercolor on Arches rough 140# paper, 14" x 10".

NevadaCityFirehouseNo.1-10x14-220727.jpg Watercolor: Nevada City Firehouse #1 - 10" x 14"
Nevada City, CA has two firehouses in the downtown area, one on Main St., a block downhill from the First Baptist Church of Nevada City that I pastored from January 2010 through August 2013. This one is white, the other, on Broad Street, is red. I've often admired the ornate woodwork. Part of my 31 Paintings in July challenge. 220727. Ink and watercolor on hot press paper, 10" x 14".

MemChuArches-240116-14x20.jpg Watercolor: Mem Chu Arches, Stanford - 14" x 20"
During Jean's 50th Reunion at Stanford University in October 2023, I was photographing the iconic sandstone colonnade in the main quad. Here is a view through an arch to a stained glass window of Memorial Church (known as "Mem Chu" by the students.) It is a beautiful stained glass window of the Annunciation to Mary. Exhibited in the “Awash with Color” WASH Show at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center, April 2 to 20, 2024. 240116. Watercolor and ink, 14" x 20".

GlenEllenDairyBarn-14x10-240224.jpg Watercolor: Old Glen Ellen Dary Barn - 14" x 10"
In mid-December 2023, my son Dan and I scoured Sonoma County for old abandoned barns. We found this old dairy barn on Warm Springs Road in Glen Ellen, just north of Sonoma. It looks like the silo is a few degrees out of plumb, but what stands out to me is its steep roof. 240124. Watercolor, 14" x 10".

Ralph F. Wilson Watercolors
P.O. Box 565, Loomis, California 95650
phone (916) 652-4659
All art works are copyright by Ralph F. Wilson. All rights reserved.