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Eye of the Artist: San Francisco

Apr 26, 2010

by Heather Burkman handmade and vintage goods


Have you ever studied a piece of art and pondered “how” or “why”? Here’s an opportunity to learn straight from the horse’s — ahem, artist’s — mouth, about their inspiration, unique technique and creative background.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was impressed by the multitude of picturesque streets and diversity in architecture. So, I went on a mission to find Etsy artists who shared this appreciation and paid homage to the City by the Bay through their work. Follow their creative stories that are as varied as the city itself.

Artist: JamesKeniston, photo by Jennifer Geisert


I am an artist and illustrator originally from the UK, living and working in California. I have a bachelors degree in fine art, with a strong background in painting, and specialize in architectural illustration. I originally started working as an oil painter, but when I came to the States I began making watercolor illustrations of the historic homes and buildings, which I continue to do today.
I visited San Francisco briefly last year and fell in love with the city and its architecture. Alamo Square is such an iconic part of the city and I knew the “Painted Ladies” houses that surround this area would translate well into these detailed, and at times quirky, illustrations. I stumbled upon the Greek embassy entirely by chance, considering it’s located on a predominantly residential street. I loved the blue of the building and the way that it tied in with the national flag of Greece. I realized how diverse San Francisco is as a city and how much history it has as a settling place for people from across the world — this seemed very poignant to me as an immigrant myself.


Artist: rileynoehren


I’m a lifelong artist and writer, but my work as a lawyer still pays the bills. Although quitting my day job for good is not in the foreseeable future, I’ve recently taken a short break from my legal career in order to focus on my artistic endeavors. During that time, I also relocated from Los Angeles to the Bay Area after falling in love with the place on my many trips here.
On one of those trips, I snapped a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge while on a harbor cruise. It was a great photograph, but it looked like any of the millions of pictures we’ve all seen of the bridge before. I decided to attempt a different take on the structure by turning the photograph into a simple screen print. When I pulled the first print I got the result I wanted: the color and frame make it recognizable, but the lack of other details, including any background, leave it a little abstract. Most of my printmaking work has a similar “simplified realism” style, which is a product of the process I use (always beginning with a photograph) and my personal taste.



Artist: chantaldefelice


I grew up in Oregon but have now lived in Southern California for the second half of my life. I am attracted to cityscapes — the structures inspire me with stories of the past and I see my paintings and drawings as backdrops for this ongoing drama of daily life. The city of San Francisco is so rich with that, I can’t help feeling mesmerized by all that lovely architecture and imagining the lives lived in those neighborhoods over the years. I feel myself especially drawn to Chinatown and North Beach, for the endless sensory stimulation and also for the focus on food culture, which is always a wonderfully descriptive element in the story of a place and its people.

I graduated from Laguna College of Art and Design feeling oversaturated with instruction and media techniques, and so began a return to simple yet detailed, direct, almost intuitive drawing — using mainly black ink on white paper. Each drawing becomes a session in concentration and control, as I lay it down with no prior sketching and no erasing. I was using scrap blocks of wood salvaged from a woodshop trash bin to mount prints on, and kept getting these beautiful pieces that I simply couldn’t cover up. So I started painting on them, using the wood grain as underpainting. I love how people respond to this method and view the wood texture as integral to the painting.


Artist: bluecole


Blue Cole Press is a small letterpress company in San Francisco, born out of my love for paper and letterpress. I’ve been printing for two years and I love how it allows me to express myself creatively, both working with clients on items like wedding invitations, as well as doing my own designs for my Etsy shop.

I started doing letterpress prints from photographs a year or so ago and really liked the effect — and that it allows me to blend my love of photography with letterpress. Living in San Francisco, there is a neverending supply of great places to photograph! This design was originally used in my 2010 calendar, which featured architecture in SF. This was my favorite, so I decided to use it again in these cards.



Thanks to JamesKeniston, rileynoehren, chantaldefelice, and bluecole for sharing their stories.
Are you inspired by urban landscapes? Share in the comments below!

Artistic Endeavors Series | More Interviews | Shop Local: San Francisco

Pink House On Scott St., San Francisco - Postcard
Pink House On Scott St., San Francisco - Postcard
Consulate General of Greece, San Francisco - Postcard
Consulate General of Greece, San Francisco - Postcard
Town House, Castro District, San Francisco - Postcard
Town House, Castro District, San Francisco - Postcard
Pearl City 1.25x2, Paper and Wood Earrings
Pearl City 1.25x2, Paper and Wood Earrings
Walking in Bloomfield, 1.5x3.5 Paper and Wood Necklace
Walking in Bloomfield, 1.5x3.5 Paper and Wood Necklace


  • papercutworks

    papercutworks said 7 years ago

    Christie's photo-press method is brilliant - I love this image application!

  • laurelinsailor

    laurelinsailor said 7 years ago

    Very fascinating! thanks for sharing!

  • SeaFindDesigns

    SeaFindDesigns said 7 years ago

    Wicked cool! Love the earrings!!

  • EvenAndy

    EvenAndy said 7 years ago

    I love the pics. I use to live in San Francisco and I know exactly where the pink house it located. It brought back memories of San Fran and made me realize how much I miss Cali:)

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 7 years ago

    Great article and beautiful pictures!

  • VerreDesign

    VerreDesign said 7 years ago

    I want them all! Love how each artist captures in its own very personal way the heart of the city and the "architexture". Thanks for sharing:)

  • JMCdesigns

    JMCdesigns said 7 years ago

    love San Francisco!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TwistedCrystals

    TwistedCrystals said 7 years ago

    These are fantastic! Thank you for sharing :)

  • sarahknightdesign

    sarahknightdesign said 7 years ago

    wow! that red print of the golden gate bridge is amazing! lots of talent on the west coast:)

  • sweetsmilesbaby

    sweetsmilesbaby said 7 years ago

    I've always lived and worked in and around San Francisco. It never gets old to me, it is always a thrill to be there and to know others love it too.

  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel said 7 years ago

    lovely article - such beautiful architecture!!

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    SimpleJoysPaperie said 7 years ago

    Wonderful artists and artwork in this feature!

  • christyscrafts

    christyscrafts said 7 years ago

    Thank you to all the artists who recognize the most beautiful city in the world !!

  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord said 7 years ago

    Love these cityscapes!

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 7 years ago

    oooh, i love architectural art! all of the renderings are amazing.

  • tastesorangey

    tastesorangey said 7 years ago

    Such a wonderful compilation of Bay Area inspiration! I was just in the city yesterday, and it was beautiful.

  • KnockKnocking

    KnockKnocking said 7 years ago

    This is too much, I simply love all the gingerbread details and colors. I'm so glad these artists are so talented that their loves can now be ours too!

  • dreamyvintage

    dreamyvintage said 7 years ago

    I love Bay Area! Great article highlighting some of the gems :)

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 7 years ago

    San Fran has the most amazing cityscapes! Great article!

  • throbackvintage

    throbackvintage said 7 years ago

    Aww, I love the painted houses, so nostalgic.

  • VibrantTrains

    VibrantTrains said 7 years ago

    Awesome artwork!

  • HighRidgeRockNbeads

    HighRidgeRockNbeads said 7 years ago

    Just love SF. Very talented artists featured in this article!!

  • AZCreativeStudio

    AZCreativeStudio said 7 years ago

    Very talented and brilliant artists!

  • HandmadeFlowers

    HandmadeFlowers said 7 years ago

    I love these pictures and I love San Francisco. Wish I could do this.

  • SatinandBirch

    SatinandBirch said 7 years ago

    Incredible talent.!

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry said 7 years ago

    Very interesting! Love all of the artwork here!

  • BlackDaisyDesigns

    BlackDaisyDesigns said 7 years ago

    Oh wow, memory lane! I worked as an au-pair in S.F for 10 months about ... eeehhh, oh any many .... maaaany moons ago. Oh heavens, it's 22 years ago!! Yikes! Anyway - despite of all those years, I still get memory flashes when I hear a certain song or if is that certain kind of weather or when I take out the glasses I bought in Crate&Barrel ... and I feel a little twinge in the pit of my stomach. It's such a beautiful city and for me coming from Europe does it feel very European in a way. Yes, I miss it. Great article.:)

  • BululuStudio

    BululuStudio said 7 years ago

    Gorgeous stuff.

  • StylesbyHolly

    StylesbyHolly said 7 years ago

    I love the artwork featured here, particularly the Alamo Square cards! Nice work.

  • ginaregina

    ginaregina said 7 years ago

    realy nice Pearl City

  • Krystyna81

    Krystyna81 said 7 years ago

    wonderful artwork...I love that you can take any subject, and a few talented artists, and see things in so many different ways. I love the simplified bridge, the textural surface that is a vital element to the painting...everything! Thank you for sharing :)

  • jewelrybyjackie

    jewelrybyjackie said 7 years ago

    I would love to travel to San Fran some day.....I have always been fascinated by the culture out there, and being from NY, want to experience the other side of the country....someday. Thanks for the day-dream, great article.

  • handcutpaper

    handcutpaper said 7 years ago

    I just Love San Francisco!! So artsy, eclectic, unique......

  • sherrytruitt

    sherrytruitt said 7 years ago

    In Cape May the houses are also called "Painted Ladies", I didn't know San Francisco called them that as well. No matter, I love both cities. xoSherry

  • MelroseFields

    MelroseFields said 7 years ago

    Amazing Artwork!

  • AmityUK Admin

    AmityUK said 7 years ago

    Love this post!

  • seragun

    seragun said 7 years ago

    Great article! Hi San Francisco

  • JoyandWhimsy

    JoyandWhimsy said 7 years ago


  • polkadotmagpie

    polkadotmagpie said 7 years ago

    It's wonderful to see the before and complete pieces. Yay for printmakers too...I know I'm nutty! :-D

  • VintageScriptPress

    VintageScriptPress said 7 years ago

    ah Beautiful San Francisco we are so lucky to be based here! Beautiful pictures

  • HandmadeHandsome

    HandmadeHandsome said 7 years ago

    San Francisco is still on my wish list - I'd love to go there someday. Great article.

  • CositasSeriasVintage

    CositasSeriasVintage said 7 years ago

    How I LOVE San Francisco. My first trip there was last year and I adored it. My youngest brother is going to school there now, how lucky he is! Wonderful article here. I adore the art!

  • GeeZees

    GeeZees said 7 years ago

    i love al these artists ... great collection , great city

  • nowonder

    nowonder said 7 years ago

    Such a beautiful city! Such great talent!

  • tiemee

    tiemee said 7 years ago

    I love SF!! Getting ready to get my yearly dose of inspiration as well next month when I partake in the annual Bay to Breakers race through the city!! Yahoo!

  • ArtisticIntentions

    ArtisticIntentions said 7 years ago

    Great architectural stuff!!

  • ClaudiaLord

    ClaudiaLord said 7 years ago


  • bedbuggs

    bedbuggs said 7 years ago

    Fun Art!

  • FrankiesArtwork

    FrankiesArtwork said 7 years ago

    Wow these are amazing and inspiring. I love looking at architectural art like this, probably because I can't do it myself. These artists are very inspiring!

  • vitamini

    vitamini said 7 years ago

    Beautiful collection! The photographic letterpress of Alamo Square is so cool!

  • MagicMarkingsArt

    MagicMarkingsArt said 7 years ago

    what a great post = i love seeing how different artists create their own unique works based on the same theme but using different mediums and techniques. love the work shown here - and i am dying to get to S.F.

  • AuclairBlueSquare

    AuclairBlueSquare said 7 years ago

    I just love San Francisco! So inspiring and colorful. Nice work!

  • adrienneaudrey

    adrienneaudrey said 7 years ago

    The houses in San Fran are gorgeous. I would love to have a home of that style

  • TessaKim

    TessaKim said 7 years ago

    I love sf! We are actually moving there soon, great article!

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm said 7 years ago

    Amazing artists thanks for this wonderful article too.

  • elemegibere

    elemegibere said 7 years ago


  • JemmDee

    JemmDee said 7 years ago

    Beautiful. I hope to see these beauties in person one day.

  • LaViejaTunTun

    LaViejaTunTun said 7 years ago

    I love living here!!

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 7 years ago

    I love SF and wish I could visit it again! Love all the amazing artwork, especially Chantal's paintings. Thanks for sharing!

  • gailfrienddesigns

    gailfrienddesigns said 7 years ago

    What a great article,,, amazing and very talented artists. Thanks for sharing.,, gail

  • gailfrienddesigns

    gailfrienddesigns said 7 years ago

    What a great article. Very amazing art and talented artist. Thanks for sharing.

  • redsofa

    redsofa said 7 years ago

    very cool!!! and who doesn't like SF

  • craftpile

    craftpile said 7 years ago

    Someone above mentioned the Bay to breakers...flash backs!! I grew up in the Bay Area and worked in SF and have very fond memories. Thank you for sharing beautiful artwork!

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass said 7 years ago

    Gorgeous interpretations. So interesting to see how each artist expresses what they see in architecture.

  • DPKministat

    DPKministat said 7 years ago

    Super peek into the artist process.

  • frenchtoastfriday

    frenchtoastfriday said 7 years ago

    i'd love to go to sf someday!

  • IndyGrrrlProductions

    IndyGrrrlProductions said 7 years ago

    I LOVE that pink house!

  • Harem6

    Harem6 said 7 years ago

    So beautiful houses!

  • rakshniyavintage

    rakshniyavintage said 7 years ago

    wow those creation are beautiful! people are so inventive and talents :) it's great being part of this community

  • lunahoo

    lunahoo said 7 years ago

    Thank you!!I'd love to go there someday!!

  • wensaccessories

    wensaccessories said 7 years ago

    Wonderful Work

  • kasiabishop

    kasiabishop said 7 years ago

    lovely work

  • babook

    babook said 7 years ago

    Fantasy sweet architectural i love them with those talent artist What they painted the colorful dreamer house ... i real want ;)

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 7 years ago

    Great pieces, I love Jame's work its really technical but the colours really soften it and it looks beautiful.

  • OhMafelt

    OhMafelt said 7 years ago

    these artists do their fabulous subjects justice..thanks for the beautiful images....

  • grandmamarievintage

    grandmamarievintage said 7 years ago

    I adore all of those pieces!

  • VelveteenHabbit

    VelveteenHabbit said 7 years ago

    My favorite visual memories of San Francisco=the "Painted Ladies" with their exquisite victorian architectural details=love the pastel colors and softness of the artist's various artworks

  • JeansVintageCloset

    JeansVintageCloset said 7 years ago

    Very beautiful and historical architecture artwork, colors are sensual for the eyes and makes one feel as if they were looking at the architecture in a dream, Thanks

  • undermyfeet

    undermyfeet said 7 years ago

    I love architecturally inspired art. Great work!

  • jargonhead

    jargonhead said 7 years ago

    It is so great to hear the perspective of other Bay area artists! Thanks for sharing!

  • evihan

    evihan said 7 years ago

    how cooolll

  • wildcatdesigns

    wildcatdesigns said 7 years ago

    some really cool illustrations :)

  • paperholiday

    paperholiday said 7 years ago

    Such amazing artists!

  • Stephaniegeology

    Stephaniegeology said 7 years ago

    Beautiful artwork. I too am an artist (but just an amateur)- I love the watercolours- Such soft warm colours.

  • bayousalvage

    bayousalvage said 7 years ago

    omg! i lived near the house on scott st. great work. someone please make an homage to el farelito on 16th and market!!!

  • urbanoceans

    urbanoceans said 7 years ago

    i miss sf!

  • lauraprentice

    lauraprentice said 7 years ago

    such beautiful buildings! my work is very inspired by urban architecture... but in Chicago!

  • eastbaycalifornia

    eastbaycalifornia said 7 years ago

    I want to move back! Ive only been gone 2 whole months and I hate not being there!

  • slingzprings

    slingzprings said 7 years ago

    I love these write-up :) I'm currently sketching street-scape of the cities that I have lived in, visited, and currently living in, so this is definitely an inspiration! Awesome.

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares said 7 years ago

    i enjoy hearing stories and getting to know a little bit about artists and their interests. thanks for the great read.

  • milemarker

    milemarker said 7 years ago

    Very cool article - I liked the little glimpses of different artists that all had subject matter in common.

  • LulaMatilda

    LulaMatilda said 7 years ago

    I love how Chantal has integrated her painting and the wood surface. It adds an element to the work that really takes it to another level.

  • Whimsywares

    Whimsywares said 7 years ago

    That's so awesome! Great article ;)

  • ilgattoselvatico

    ilgattoselvatico said 7 years ago

    neat! great illustrations.

  • roued

    roued said 7 years ago

    I so love the illustrations of house facades. My husband was talking about drawing something like this for me so I have referred him for inspiration.

  • aliciablim

    aliciablim said 7 years ago

    I really love reading about these artists from San Francisco since I'm originally from the SF Bay Area and I miss it sooo much!

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