Eccentricities of character

18 February, 2019. Missouri is defined by its small towns as much as anything else, and our small towns are characterized by a distinctive period architecture. The state itself has not yet celebrated its two hundredth birthday, and while it is possible to identify sites older than two centuries it’s much more likely to encounter towns dating back to the late nineteenth century.

The structures that give our small towns their personality therefore tend to be Victorian era “Painted Ladies,” bungalows of the 1920’s, occasional flourishes of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, and a variety of revivalist stylings.

Part of the charm for me is how distinctively “Midwestern” our neighborhoods tend to be. There’s a pleasant variety from one home to the next. After all – the thinking must have gone – why on earth would anyone want to build a house just like one’s neighbor?

Wander the streets and you’ll find a clear boundary evident between older neighborhoods and the new: Even in the most expensive tracts, houses have a cookie-cutter philosophy and homes associations encourage – in fact demand – a uniformity and homogeneity that I view with disquiet.

I love when a mixture of styles seems to have evolved in an organic fashion, each new structure fulfilling a particular need, and representing someone’s individuality. For some reason, I find the eccentricities of character comforting in a way that planned communities fail to ignite in me.


  1. Michael Scandling · February 19, 2019

    These line drawings are remarkable. Beautiful and very restrained. Just enough to tell the story: not too little, not too much.

    • azorch · February 19, 2019

      I remember reading a quote by Andrew Wyeth once, an artist considered by many to be a remarkable realist. In fact, he implied, he considered himself something to be something of an abstractionist. His drawings were often an attempt to capture “the abstract flash,” which I sort of get. I prefer to leave out any details that detract from the story. I get excited by line and shape in my drawings, and often in the balance of positive to negative spaces. Restraint is intentional on my part. Sometimes it even winds up working! An artist I often reference on these pages is Ben Shahn. If you’re not familiar with his work, take a moment to look up his drawings… with a few simple marks Shahn could communicate volumes. I love that.

      • Michael Scandling · February 20, 2019

        I believe much of art, photography, writing, music is knowing what to leave out—and knowing when to stop. I’ve long admired Wyeth for exactly that quality. Thank you for introducing me to Ben Shahan’s unique drawings. You are right—he could say much in a few deft lines. As could Picasso in his line drawings. And John Lennon. So inspired, I could think of a maxim: One line. The right one.

  2. lepastelbleu · February 19, 2019

    and you have every reason! very beautiful sketches and very interesting architectures. When I lived in the south west of France, I was very attracted to those small villages called “bastides” dating back to the fourteenth century. organic architecture, with its own peculiarities and yet wonderfully amalgamated with one another, as if there were a personal thought linked to a collective. It is always seen in the architecture of the past, until the 50s, then the massification has crushed everything

  3. azorch · February 19, 2019

    Oh, I could wander those medieval villages of France and Spain and Italy for the rest of my life and be quite content!

  4. Elizabeth Varadan · February 19, 2019

    These line drawing are just lovely. So spare, but capturing the beauty of the buildings. My husband and I love the old villages in Galicia, Spain for the same reason. (He takes endless photographs in black and white, capturing the stone textures.) And we love Midtown, Sacramento (where we live) for the same reason. Midtown is full of old Victorians and bungalows.

    • azorch · February 19, 2019

      I’ve discovered that sitting and drawing a place like those you describe winds up connecting me in ways I never thought possible.

  5. The Observer · February 22, 2019

    Truly Amazing

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