If you have been following my Californian adventures over the last few weeks, you will already know that I got slightly obsessed sketching the gorgeous Pasadena City Hall. I managed to sketch it 16 times during my 13 day stay – which has to be a record even for me. Having a great view from my hotel room was a major factor in achieving so many sketches.
It was designed by Bakewell and Brown and completed in 1929. Wikipedia says that it has elements of both Mediterranean Revival Style and Spanish Colonial Revival Style. But when I was sketching the dome I was always thinking about the architectural precedents of a dome sitting above one or more cylindrical drums – namely St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London. (To compare here are some links to my sketches: St Peter’s and St Paul’s.)
The really interesting thing about this building is that there were many different aspects to it – all of them very sketchable. There is the dome, the main pavilion and entrance way, a courtyard and surrounding buildings with corner pavilions.
But I don’t want to get distracted by an architectural discussion (although that would be really fun!) and instead I just simply want to share my collection.
So here are all my City Hall sketches:
First (direct watercolour) sketch as soon as I arrived, trying to capture the main volumes and the shadow shapes.
My frenzied sketch (click here to find out why I call it that). This one was almost a fully ‘reflex sketch’ – ie. it just appeared on the page.
Immediately after I finished my frenzied sketch I was in the mood to have another go – this time in direct watercolour. It came out a lot better and was one of my favorites.
This was done early morning, before breakfast on the first day of Sketchkon. I decided to do this using a traditional ink and wash approach, drawing with lines first and then applying watercolour. This enabled me to separate the volumes and architectural details from the colour. You will note that I only really applied colour to the shadow shapes. One of the challenges of painting this building was how complex the shadow shapes were!
Saturday morning during the Sketchkon sketchcrawl which I led.
#5 (centre) A quick demo sketch applying paint first then line
#6 (right) A quick diagram of the shadow shapes
#7 (left) Another quick diagram showing how I sketch the main volumes first and then the architectural details
During the sketchcrawl I did a quick demo showing a small group how I sketch ‘paint first.’ The two smaller sketches on the side explain the two steps. When I was painting this building in ‘paint only’ – with no line – I had to combine the two steps.
The sketchcrawl was only 1 hour and despite talking a lot, I managed to do another two versions.
So I had to do another version before I changed hotels, didn’t I?
I wanted to do a loose almost abstract sketch but my washes in this one were a little too wet and I lost the strong shadow shapes so I stopped early. I didn’t quite achieve what I wanted but had time to have another go.
But before I did that, I decided to do a small context sketch of the entire view from my window. Tone was added with an Ecoline marker. This sketch helped me to think more clearly about the shadow areas.
And then I tackled the dome again. This time I established a cleared shadow shape with a light wash first, and was more controlled with the pigment:water ratio of my washes.
Phoebe, Debbie and I returned to Pasadena after sketching in the downtown. We wanted to sketch the main facade which was still in sun but there were a few guys hanging around playing very loud horrible music. So we had to retreat inside the courtyard. This corner pavilion was the only part of the complex that was still receiving any direct sunlight which we could see from inside the courtyard. Another direct watercolour sketch!
#14 Thursday afternoon sketch – Sketch 2
While waiting for my sketch (#13) to dry to add one final wash, I did this fun (mostly) continuous line version of the dome and the central pavilion.
I was very thankful that the loud music players were not around, so that I could finally sketch the main facade in the glorious afternoon sun. I did this sketch (another direct watercolour) using WN Naples Yellow for the wall colour.
And then I couldn’t resist doing one final quick sketch of the dome mixing line and colour.
So there you have it. Although there is a lot of repetition in this collection, I hope that you picked up a few little tips (especially if you have done Sketchingnow Watercolour and/or Buildings, so that you know the way I think.)
I don’t have a single favourite version but these four are my pick. I find it interesting that these are all direct watercolour sketches.
Do you have a favourite from this collection?