Walking is good for the soul, and my art

This summer I started walking to work, instead of driving. It served a few purposes, including saving on gas and calming the spirit in this time of COVID-19. As I walked I became amazed at what you see when your view isn’t through the windshield of a moving vehicle at 35 mph. By the end of the summer I had discovered that walking is good for the soul and my art.

My route would take me through Boise’s North End neighborhood. Down 15th street, past an assortment of craftsman bungalows, tutor revivals, and Queen Anne homes. One day I noticed each house was an art form unto itself. The homes, made of wood, and sometimes brick or stone, became an inspiration to me, as well as my art

A painting of a North End home by Mary Butler.

The bungalow, with it’s small-stature, was almost always the gem on my walks. 

I began taking iPhone pictures of some of my favorite homes. In a few short weeks, my iPhone offered a collection of images that spoke not only of light, color, and form but of Boise’s rich architectural history.

Boise’s Architectural History

Boise’s first suburban neighborhood was started in 1878, in a small area between 9th and 13th street. Its first inhabitants were working and middle-class people. Some of these homes are located in historic districts. Designated by the City of Boise, there are 10 such districts in Boise. Five of these districts are in the North End neighborhood. The district’s purpose is to remind people of the “historical, archaeological, architectural, educational, and cultural heritage of Boise city.”

A painting of a North End home by Mary Butler.

The neighborhood also has historical ties to national figures. One of the area’s most beautiful and striking roads, Harrison Boulevard was named after President Harrison, who signed the Admissions Act making Idaho a state. Following Harrison’s visit in 1891 the Boise City Council renamed 17th street his honor. The addition of a grass-covered median with lights came to in 1916. Today the boulevard is known for drawing incredible crowds on Halloween and its tree blossoms in Spring. 

Cozy Porches

Most homes on my daily walk date to the early 20th century. Some have warm and invited walks leading to brightly colored doors, others might have cozy enclosed porches. I imagine the porches as a center-piece on fall evenings, as owners snuggle up with a warm blanket sipping tea or hot cocoa. It is an idealistic view for sure, but one I’d bet has happened many times.

North End neighborhood home by Mary Butler

One day this summer, after accumulating dozens of images from my morning walks, I decided to create my record of these unique and beautiful homes. Shown here are the first three homes I painted, using acrylic and matt board. They are 5″ x 5″ each.

If I learned anything from this summer of COVID, it’s not to fear a change of scenery – you never know what will lead to inspiration.