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This week we talked about buildings or man-made structures in a landscape.  We discovered that most man-made things are very geometric in form and that the rendering of them might be like putting a series of shapes together, such as triangles, squares, rectangles, ovals and circles. Arches are good examples of rounded forms and are found in many bridges and entryways. We considered values and how our building/ buildings sat within the foliage and landscape that surrounded it. Were there shadows cast by eaves or trees on the side of them? Was one side of our structure in bright sunlight and the other darker? Where would our center of interest be? Would it be the doorway, a reflective window, a person standing outside? How did our structure or structures contrast or fit into the landscape surrounding?

I chose a photo of Bodie, California that I found on Wet Canvas. Thankyou to Wet Canvas for that! I had only attempted a cluster of buildings once before and saw this reference as an excellent one to practice putting shapes upon shapes within a landscape.  I was intrigued with the large and sloping landscape of the background hills against the old ghosttown and the tiny shapes nestled within them.


My first concern was gettting the buildings on my format where they belonged, so I chose to grid my paper for my drawing. If you do this, remember to erase those lines before starting to paint.


I also took the time to plot a simple value sketch so I could determine how I was going to divide the space so the lighter buildings would be visible in a largely light landscape setting.


I began with the background hillsides and worked my way down to the ghosttown.


I worked my way through the main cluster of buildings. I realisied, at that point that the cluster pointed to the road on the right, so I left that very light as I worked because that road seemed to hug the town and circle around and behind it and could possibly serve to lead the viewer’s eye through my painting.


To finish, I put a light wash of burnt orange behind the lighter cluster of buildings to help to make them more visible and defined the area of the roadway. I scrubbed (with a damp sponge) away a portion of the pigment to the right and left sides of the main cluster to provide contrast. I put finishing touches on the loose foreground grasses and darkened the areas to the far right and left of the scene in order to hold the viewer’s eye on the scene. The smokestacks and poles were the last things I painted.

I wonder what it would have been like to work live and work here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.




  1. Reblogged this on Sound Art Creator and commented:
    You captured the sunwashed California landscape really well.

    • Thankyou for reblogging me, Sound Art Creator. I took a trip over to your site and really liked what I saw. Many of the artists you featured I did not know about. I will return.

  2. This is really lovely Leslie, I like the way you have captured the light in this painting.

  3. Beautiful painting, Leslie. It’s my favorite topic!

    • I know how much you like architecture, Nuno. You are so very good at rendering buildings! Thankyou for this comment!

  4. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I really like not only your finished painting, but seeing your step by step tutorial. Loved the value study and seeing your gridded paper. And you know I love buildings. I also really like the fact that the road curves around the buildings and brings the eye right back into the center of the painting. Was the reference photo the same way or did you do that? Either way, it works really well.

    • My value studies still leave something to be desired, I know, but thankyou for commenting on that, Carol. It has taken me years to just get to the point that I could visualize and make decisions about value transitions with a reference photo. Still haven’t mastered it on site. The road was something that caught my attention right off, maybe it was because it looked so much easier to render than all those buildings. The road was there in the reference photo, but the values were not. Everything read more like a midtone. I cropped the photo, though, to a long and narrow format and that placed the road and buildings where I wanted them. Thankyou for these comments!

  6. Spectacular! I walked down the little road out there and reached to the farther most house in the back! So much of light and depth you achieved!

    • You did just what I hoped you would, Padmaja. That is what I imagined I’d want to do if I visited this place. I visited several sites that pictured areas of this town and it is so much bigger than this distant scene lets on. Thank you for that about light and depth. I was hoping the differing slopes of those background hills would help with the depth and the idea of this road perhaps winding in and around and though them. All the other paths or roads must branch off this main one is all I can figure.

  7. Wow, I just love the buildings. I really like the separate group of white buildings and then the group of brown buildings. And the limited pallet on the whole painting is beautiful. Terrific work, as usual!

    • Thankyou for talking about the limited palette with this painting, Cindy. I didn’t even think to mention it. The whole area around the town seemed so barren and vast, I could not push myself to add more color fearing that it would hinder the feeling of arid climate and bright light; or maybe even the ghostly silence of the place as I saw it in the reference photo. Those white buildings that are really metal must have something to do with the mining that went on here years ago. I found each building interesting and different and wondered what they all were used for. Wouldn’t all those little houses that you create look neat all clustered in a little town like this with a road and some hillsides? Thankyou for the visit and the comment!

      • It really is a terrific collection of buildings with their angles and details. I would love to branch out into a neat city or town, I just need to take the leap, I suppose!

      • A city full of your creative little houses. Love it! 🙂

  8. How gorgeous!! Nestled into the hillside as it is, I get such a feeling of comfort…If I were a ghost, I’d want to be someplace like this!

    • I’m with you. Looks like lots of room to ramble around in. Thank you, Sherry!

  9. This is a gorgeous painting. Thanks for the progressive. Happy Thanksgiving, Leslie.

  10. Really enjoyed to see this painting , step by step!
    Beautiful painting Leslie ❤️

  11. Great color palette and use of value. Your paintings sing with light and soft color.

    • Thankyou so much for that singing comment. You boost my confidence when you share visions like that! 🙂

  12. The buildings look perfectly nested in the hillside. I like the softness of the watercolor.

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