Grand Style

Arden artist captures Central Valley houses and history

By Jessica Laskey
November 2021

There aren’t many coffee table books that combine original artwork, architecture, history and humor, but James Patrick Lane’s new book, “Painting the Grand Homes of California’s Central Valley,” fits the description.

“This is not your standard coffee table book,” the Arden-Arcade artist says of the project he began in 2019. “It’s actually quite rare to find a book like this with paintings instead of photos. Plus, I’ve included painting tips like, here’s how I made the light in the windows. If you’re an artist, you should get a lot from this book.”

You should get a lot from this book whether you’re an artist, architecture aficionado or just appreciate a good read. The book includes 54 beautiful watercolor and oil paintings of homes throughout the Central Valley—Redding to Bakersfield—that Lane selected for beauty and background. Painted renderings of local botanicals are sprinkled throughout.

All kinds of architectural styles are represented, including Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian, Italianate, mid-century modern, gothic, Queen Ann, French chateau and Victorian.

Lane interviewed homeowners to find out as much as he could about each property. He features his findings in informative, often tongue-in-cheek text.

“In many cases, the homeowners provided their own perspectives of what it’s like to live there,” says Lane, who spent months traveling the region to scope out houses and learn the stories. “It shocked me how cool people were—I guess when they buy a house like this, they know they’re part of history.”

Lane is passionate about sharing the history of his native Central Valley. He hails from Livingston, a small town in Merced County known for its “majestic sweet potato” and diverse population.

Growing up surrounded by different cultures made Lane curious. He started traveling as a teen. He spent a year living in Chile in high school and taught English in Tokyo for four years after college. When he returned to California, he earned a master’s degree in instructional design.

Lane is passionate about his artwork, which he admits he didn’t take seriously until his father passed away. Then he became “obsessed with leaving something behind.” He’s exhibited artwork around the region while maintaining a frequent world travel schedule.

When he got the idea for “Grand Homes,” it seemed like the perfect way to combine two interests—painting and meeting new people.

Lane recalls a young couple whose house burned in the Paradise fire. They used the insurance money to buy Magnolia Manor, a Victorian built in the 1880s in Palermo near Oroville.

He visited the wife of a founder of Gallo winery whose Livingston home was built from huge wine vats. They gave the house a distinctive red color—and alcoholic smell.

Then there’s Stockton’s Wong K. Gew Mansion, erected by a Chinese businessman in 1921 in defiance of racist laws that prohibited him from living in the north part of town.

“He bought the land south of that and built a mansion. I love that he went along with the rules but still managed to be successful,” Lane says. “This book is all about interesting human stories, about people dealing with whatever life threw at them.”

For a signed copy of “Painting the Grand Homes of California’s Central Valley” by J.P. Lane, send an email to The book is also available at For information, visit Art of James Patrick Lane on Facebook.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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