Iowa's American Gothic House

With this watercolored house drawing inspired by Iowa, I only have six states remaining to meet my goal of at least two crafts per state. Do you recognize this house? Have any clue why it represents Iowa?

Here's a hint: 
  • Grant Wood, who was born in Anamosa, Iowa in 1891 and died in Iowa City, Iowa in 1942, made this house famous. 

Now do you recognize it? Maybe another hint: 
  • Wood painted two people standing in front of that house. He used his dentist and his sister as models. Do they seem familiar?

In case you didn't guess, this is the house that appears in the background of Wood's famous American Gothic painting, first exhibited in 1930. The house still stands in Eldon, Iowa and offers tours and a free visitor center.

I thought it would be neat to make a painting of just the house, without Wood's iconic farm couple. I chose this photo as a reference, then used a ballpoint pen and a ruler to draw the house on watercolor paper. 

If you are saying, "I could never draw that!" I assure you that you are wrong. You CAN draw it, but it takes a lot of patience. I did most of the basic shape in pencil, then I switched over to ballpoint pen because I wasn't being patient. I should have done it all in pencil first, then traced. If you look carefully, you'll see that I made mistakes in pen that I could have fixed if I'd been using a pencil. For example, the front porch roof has the trim of the upper story of the house going through it. The roof line on the right is not quite parallel to the other side of the roof, so I added an extra line. There are other mistakes, too. 

The key to success is to draw what you see. Do not draw what you think a house looks like. Do not draw what you think you see. Look at the drawing and choose a single line. Place your ruler on the paper and draw a line that matches the line you see. Repeat this a hundred times and you'll have the house. Start with the basic shapes and finish with the details. The trickiest part for me was dealing with the roof line of the porch. The lines don't go where my head thinks they should, so I had to force myself to draw what I saw and not what I wanted or expected to see. 

Once I finished the pen drawing, I grabbed my Koi watercolor set (affiliate link). 

I love how portable this kit is. I painted right at my computer (with my drawing on a clipboard) so that I could match all the shadows in the inspiration photo. Again, paint what you actually see, not what you expect to see. It felt weird having the shadows cover only parts of the front of the house, but it ends up looking right if you copy what is there. 

Overall, I'm happy with how my painting turned out. It was a fun challenge and I learned a lot about Grant Wood and his paintings along the way.  


  1. Looks AMAZING!!! Quite a few years ago, the traveling statues of those two came to our town... they were HUGE!!!!!


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