Sketching Columbia

I have sketched the Gold Rush Town of Columbia many times with various degrees of success. I was returning here in winter when the historic streets are not as crowded with summer visitors. I sketched either in the early morning or at the end of the day when I would have more options for selecting my perspectives.

I had a few buildings on my sketch list, some of which I would be sketching for the first time, while others, I was making a second or third attempt.

One building that I returned to is probably one of the most famous buildings in the Gold Rush town of Columbia. This is the 1858 Wells Fargo office building. This building, which is photographed many times by visitors, has also appeared in the Clint Eastwood movie Pale Rider (1985), filling in for Yuba City. The exterior and the interior was used when the Preacher trades his collar in for his guns.

I’m had attempted to sketch this building on two other occasions but I made some mistakes with perspective and aborted the drawings. This time I sat on a bench, across the street (Main Street) from the building and carefully measured out the side ratios by holding out my pencil at eye level. Once the perspective is correct, everything else just falls in place.

In the end, I was very satisfied with the final sketch (featured sketch) which goes to show that patience and perseverance wins the day.

Another building I was interested in sketching was the firehouse, just down Main Street from the Wells Fargo Building. I took a seat across the street at a picnic table and started to sketch. The pole topped by a weather vane reached across the gutter onto the other page.

The firehouse sitting in front of me was built in 1911. Inside of it’s swinging doors is one of the town’s water hand pumper fire engines “Papeet”, built in Boston in 1852. This pumper and the firehouse are featured briefly in the very beginning of the masterpiece High Noon (1952).

At one time, Papeet was bound for Tahiti but the government there was overthrown and the pumper was stuck at the docks of San Francisco. The citizens of Columbia raised money to buy “Papeet” and was eventually returned to Columbia.

2 thoughts on “Sketching Columbia

  1. The perspective looks great! I appreciate how you keep proportions and true to scale, even with not perfectly straight lines. I sometimes get to perfectionist in the precision that one thing off is extra noticeable. Your sketches have character while still being true to what you observe. Thanks for sharing! It’s been years since I’ve visited Columbia. Your post makes me excitement for a 2023 visit!


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