Little House on the Main Line

I was commissioned to paint a bridal shower gift recently – a portrait of the little brick home that the happy couple will soon be settling down in. It’s located in one of the charming towns on Philadel-phia’s Main Line, the string of villages that grew up around the Philadelphia Railroad line from the center of the city out to its western suburbs in the 19th century.

My client gave me several photos of the house that were very helpful, and also photos of the couple, since we wanted to depict the newlyweds sitting on their porch.

I started with a basic pencil sketch of the house from the front with the couple on their front porch together.

I drew a tighter but simple sketch of the couple, and then we thought to add their dog into the scene, so my client sent me cute pooch photos.

I tightened up the whole drawing to show to my client before I started painting, and with her approval I transferred the drawing to illustration board and began adding color.

The finished painting is below – it looked great in the frame my client picked, and the bride-to-be was thrilled with her very personalized gift!

A Building that No Longer Exists

The Doylestown Historical Society helps to preserve many aspects of my hometown’s past, with speakers, tours and printed publications, and a very important part of that mission involves researching the historically significant buildings in this town and nearby communities. I was recently asked to develop a sketch of a building in the borough, which is no longer standing today – a shoemaker’s shop and home.

Adam Dick and his wife, originally from Germany, had six children born in Doylestown and by 1870 they were living in the borough, in a building whose left half housed their boot and shoe shop. Old maps show the house on the corner of E. State and Pine Street with a one story front porch on the shoe shop side. By 1891 the two-story wood frame house now had a one story back porch with a tin roof. The Historical Society’s researcher is Kurt Spence, who has restored many historic homes, and he sent me part of an old lithograph of the town with this tiny representation of the house from the rear –


I started with a rough sketch of the basic shape of the house, with questions for Kurt.

Happily Kurt has the building experience that I lack, and so with his corrections I replaced the front porch gable with a shed roof, and added a roof gable to the house side of the building, for the second sketch. But I still had some questions.

Finally with some finished suggestions from Kurt I was able to render the version below. It’s unfortunate that the present site is now a parking lot, but we can at least imagine a fairly close version of what our borough boot and shoe shop may have looked like in the late 19th century.