This blog is devoted to my architectural sketching adventures and musings about the integration of architecture and sketching.
I hope not only to share my own on-location architectural sketches but provide tips and methodologies for sketching and understanding architecture.
Also, most importantly, I wish to explore ways in which, in a digital age, we can not only defend but
promote freehand sketching within the architectural profession.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Preparing for Barcelona

As many of you know, I am booked to go to the Urban Sketchers symposium in Barcelona in July. So as part of my 'trip prep' I am reading up as much history/ architectural history as I can so that I know better what I am looking at… and also because by the time I arrive in BCN there will already be other sketchers in the city… it will be a case of hitting the ground running. So much distraction… excitement from meeting other USKers that the time to personally connect with the city might be hard. Last year I was the first to arrive in Santo Domingo. As I didn't have any spanish and had never been to a developing country before it was a little challenging… but being able to connect myself so personally with the place was very special.

I have been to BCN before - 10 years ago for 1.5 days (before my sketching days) and we managed to visit most of the top Gaudi buildings in the time. I have been a fan of the work of Gaudi since 1989 when I bought my first book on him (the photos in this book are all so grimy - it was before they cleaned them up)… but there is a lot else to see. AND the wonderful Catalonian over the top decoration is exactly my cup of tea in terms of what I want to sketch!

So… how much do I prepare for? I don't want to kill any excitement from discovery when I am there… but I also want to be prepared mentally to tackle very complex architectural subjects….
Thinking that I will try to find some buildings that won't be on my hit list to sketch or that I have visited before.

So here are 4 sketches that I have blogged about in my daily blog... I think a recurring theme will be obvious....

Anyway- I thought it might be useful to share my secrets (they are not secrets at all)… my approach.

Rule No 1 (which applies to any architectural subject) Look at the structure and don't get distracted by the details. Look, look, look first! Try to make sense of it (if you can! some of Gaudi's work doesn't fit in the category of making sense!) and then try to map out the main structural components.

This building is near the top of my BCN hit list. I know yesterday I decided not to sketch those on my must see list...but I weakened this morning. There is a LOT of detail that I simply omitted in this sketch - just trying to get the overall form. It has started me thinking about how I want to get a better feel for the decoration... thinking of watercolour pencils for the decoration and textures - I want to express its richness but not get bogged down in the drawing it all with ink(which could get too heavy!) Maybe tomorrow (or the day after) it will be time to look at a Gaudi building (BTW I started reading a biography of him at the moment)

Love the space and the dramatic darks in this place. I was trying out a dagger brush and love the random strokes I was getting as I tried to get a fel for a new tool. One of the great things about ink and wash is that the wash part can be really loose and rough and yet the ink lines holds it all together.

 finally I tackle a Gaudi. I am doing this little series in the hope that it might help some people going to BCN who might be a little overwhelmed by the architecture - actually I think we will ALL be overwhelmed by it. But maybe working out my approach will be useful for others. it is also getting me in the mood.

When I came across a photo of this structure I immediately wanted to sketch it but it was a very complicated structure and covered in mosaics- so I just spent time looking first. The important thing that I was looking for was the underlying structure - ie. I was trying to ignore the tiles and look at the 3D form. Once I could see this, I then started looking at the mosaics and worked out where the full rectangular tiles and where the broken tiles  (trencadis) are. It was all very logical and geometric as the rectangular tiles followed the edges of the structure.  Totally easy to draw now - right? Well, maybe not easy but a lot more manageable and I was happy because I now UNDERSTAND it! The resultant sketch is less important to me as I am now satisfied with my discovery.

So, this was no different from any building that I attempt to draw - I study the overall 3D form/ structure first and then look at the decoration. What will be challenging in BCN is the fact that the decoration which we can often see up close and feel can easily distract us when we try to sketch at a larger scale. The best thing might be to do 2 sketches - the overall and then the detail. Try not to get distracted or overwhelmed by the detail when drawing the overall - so my explorations are trying to find ways at hinting at the richness of the decoration. Today I used a small flat brush. I am also thinking about water colour pencils…. but whatever approach I use, I assure you that I will not have the patience to draw every tile and brick like some other USKers do.


  1. Love your sketches ! Love that city ! Been there countless times or quite ! Check out Grasshopper, IFC and RhinoPython for top notch sketching on - interoperability rulezzzzz !!!

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing this information. I gained quite a lot of knowledge after reading your blog thank you.

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