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Process: Sketching the California State Capitol

Well, if you’re going to be doing a theme of California landmarks, eventually you’re going to have to tackle our state’s capitol. While a bit intimidating at first, this one was a lot of fun to do. The key was to capture the right perspective.

Finding Inspiration

For those who haven’t visited before, the building and the grounds are immense. Capitol Park is roughly 40 acres worth of expertly planned landscape and the building itself is oozing with character and intricacy. Honestly, it would be cool to plan a show of all the interesting angles of this space. Anyway, I was extremely lucky to find an inspiring shot by William Thompson, who I’d discovered via the Sacramento Board of Tourism Instagram account (@visitsacramento).

So, for those interested heres’ a bit a few shots to show off the inspiration and the process along the way.

Here’s the original Shot. Gorgeous…


Map out the structure and break out the ink.

To get started, I always dive in with a fine point HB pencil. The soft lead is very forgiving and lifts from the paper easily later in the process. Essentially, this step allows me to quickly map things out and ensure that my proportions are solid when I start making the more permanent decisions.

With pencil in place, I can now confidently begin laying down the laying down in with my pigma micron pens. This line of pen is perfect for my style. They are so precise, and more importantly, waterproof. Lately, I’m loving the 02 size. It’s small enough to include a lot of details yet the lines are still large enough to admire when you step back a few feet.

Once everything is in place, I break out the big eraser and kill off all the original scaffolding – a very satisfying step.

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Next I begin bringing things to life with some watercolor.

It’s funny. I started this piece totally enthralled by the building itself, but as I got further into it, I noticed my attention shifting more to flowers and the greenery of the trees. Accordingly, I took my time with them to ensure that I could convey the depth and organic quality of the flora.


Finally, with the landscape in place, I shift my attention to the structure itself.

As I mentioned before, the building is truly iconic and having the opportunity to focus solely on dome and upper half of the structure really gave me the opportunity to do it justice. For this section, I used various shades of grey with just a touch of brown and yellow blended in to convey warmth.


And there you have it. That’s the story on this piece. I’m really happy with how it came out and I look forward to creating several more that highlight our hometown history and culture. If you have a shot that you thing would make a great illustration, let me know. I’m always on the hunt for new inspiration.

Thanks for reading :)


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