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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Perpective issue again...

Musings further to sketching Lambton Rotunda - sketching it myself and instructing others during my travel sketching workshop last month for Newcastle Art Society.

Do you need to understand perspective to draw buildings or do you just draw what you see?
How do you draw what you see - how do you switch off the objective brain and use your visual brain?
When something looks wrong can you work out how to fix it?

I share a few ideas (for starters!) over at my main blog.

(I have been working hard over at my blog and my new SketchingNow online class site and hoping to get a fully integrated solution for this architecture blog soon - I promise!)

I hope you can join me SketchingNow from November 12
Foundations - 12 week course. Essential Concepts for Spontaneous Sketching

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A building I DID sketch again - Tasmanian Heritage Council Building

So... first day in my trip to Tasmania last month I did sketch 'that' building from my previous post that I sketched in 2005. That building is what I call the 'Butler Bank building'  - originally the Commercial Bank designed by Frank Bulter  in 1866. It is now the home of the Tasmanian Heritage Council.

There are some sketchers that once they have sketched an object or scene - it is 'done' and  they want to do something different. I am the opposite. There is a part of me that wants to sketch the same thing over and over again. It is like visiting old friends - like renewing acquaintances and having a new dialogue with them (hmm, not only do I talk to myself - I talk to buildings so it seems!)

I also think there is a lovely creative memory that is brought back when you sketch something for the second time. (or third or fourth) To quote from my sketchbook
"It is a really complicated building - of course I looked at my first sketch of it (from 2005) recently but I do think that I would have remembered it (it = its design and basic configuration) - or at least what to look out for"

Anyway - I thought I would share with you a diagram what I saw at the time - this is what I drew first. I often (not always) do a very quick setout with watercolour pencil of the main guidelines and you can see these lines in this diagram and how I adjusted the spacing when I drew with ink.

There are lots of lovely design features - double columns, square and round, interesting patterns of brackets and modillions.... but nailing this overall structure is crucial to put all the details together. A beautiful building.

As I have said often.... the most important thing about sketching architecture is the ability to be able to see the structure.

And finally, here is a sketch I did at crazy pace the next day. I didn't do any setup lines but just went for it. This is the waterfront facade to TMAG - Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

I made many mistakes while I was sketching this... but I am struggling to see them all now... 'just keep going' is another important piece of advice I give when it comes to sketching architecture (and many other things as well)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A building I have to sketch again in Hobart

Before I sketched, I used to take a lot of photos and put together elaborate photo books from my travels.

 In 2005 I had a long weekend in Tasmania of 5 days. I put together a 160 page book which I printed myself of quality paper and got professional bound. Here are three pages from that book….and the important part of these pages is that it records my first ever attempt to seriously sketch a building on location.

I just love the comments that I wrote at the time

"actually attempted to do a sketch of the two buildings opposite me"
(comment: I always wanted to sketch but never found the time)
"the sketch was pathetic - but the experience of actually looking and then recording a building on location was so novel for me that I think it is one of the highlights of the trip!"
(comment: love the process of looking and record and not concerned by the result)
"it was also a bit of a break through in my ideas about how to look, learn, record and enjoy architecture"
(comment: this is also very interesting - I think the same things often! I am always having break throughs and new ideas as how to look, learn, record and enjoy)
"I realised after attempting this sketch that I would be better off sketching diagrams and details rather than try to draw the whole elevation accurately - this is just too hard for me to achieve on location - at the moment anyway, till my skills improve"
(comment: ironic thinking that sketching was too hard… but realisation that I need to work on my skills"
"Wow - I got a lot out of it"
(comment: exactly!)

Friday, May 9, 2014

A very quick sketch of complicated building

Those of you that follow my daily blog would have seen these images during the week (from last Saturday's USK SYD event at Rivendell Rhodes), but I want to write a little more about the step by step of this somewhat crazy sketch.

The whole thing was completed in just over 15minutes and has been done in a large A4 moleskine watercolour book (so the width of the sketch is 2 x A4) I think this is the fastest sketch I have ever done at this scale. I have been doing a lot of sketching lately so am 'in the groove' and therefore decided to risk attempting this sketch of a large complex building in a short time frame.

So… a few comments on my approach (which in many ways was unplanned)

First: I knew I didn't have much time  so I decided to go with watercolour pencil - I certainly find using pencil of any kind a lot freer than ink. I started with the main tower (I always seem to start from the top and this is the important feature of the building) and then worked left then right (running out of steam as I moved right… sometimes it is good to be impatient… my 'running out of steam' is a good way of not overworking secondary elements - I was not sure how much of the secondary building I would want to include)

Second stage: I haven't really decided what I was going to do (ie. I didn't necessarily intend to use ink) but as time was short so the paint had to get on as soon as possible. So I quickly splashed on some colour in the areas of shade/shadows. After doing this, I realised that it would take too long to try to build this sketch up with paint - it would be a lot quicker if I had ink lines to hold it together so pulled out my sailor pen (with an up-turned nib) and added the major edges. All of that scribbly pencil work provided guidelines and helped me be strong and confident with my ink.

Third stage: Running out of time… so quickly splashed on more colour … can't really explain in any detail… just going with the flow at a crazy exciting pace. As soon as I thought "should I do sky? - do I have time?" I paused and then realised it was time to go for the show and tell.

Finally: I decided to add the sky once I got home as there was so much white on the page… and having blue sky was a rather special part of that morning (had been raining when we woke up but turned out lovely for our sketching event)

Anyway - there are a lot of 'mistakes' in this sketch - things that don't align or are not evenly spaced… but do you think I will lose sleep over that? NO!

This sketch is another example of my approach to sketching architecture:  the most important thing is to understand the major components of the building form .. and not to stress about perspective
(hmm, was I supposed to use perspective on this sketch?? - oops didn't even enter my head!!!)

I hope that seeing the stages- and in particular the first stage is useful to see what I think is important…

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sketching architecture with Watercolour pencils

In the last week (or two..since my last post here) I have been continuing to experiment. And out of the blue I got out my watercolour pencils..the very night of my previous post in fact! I had not seen that coming at all.

Well it wasn't quite that random- I was prompted by Koojse's coloured pencil exercise of Week 2 of Sketchbook Skool to get out my (watercolour)pencils (WCPs). I don't have any serious set of normal coloured pencils. Although I use WCPs regularly in association with watercolour paint I rarely use them on their own mainly because I just LOVE paint and water so much. So decided it was time to really get to know them better on their own!

Of course the first sketch I did was a tea cup but them the second subject was a baroque facade

… and then I did a step by step of a bigger sketch. I am working in a very similiar way with the pencils as I do with ink and wash. Draw all the edges first and then lay in the colour- leaving plenty of white for the sunlit area. And then adding the areas of shadow. I am very bold with my use of pencils and then easy with the water! After I had applied the water I needed to go back and add some more details.

BTW I will be holding some workshops in Tasmania next month - using both watercolour and WCPs...more details here

Friday, April 11, 2014

Linelessness - painting buildings shapes not edges

One of the things that I love about keeping a sketchbook and sketching regularly is that you never not what direction your art might take. The regular habit puts you in the space that can lead to the unexpected. Last week, I started keeping a food diary and decided to paint with no lines…

This week this state of linelessness has taken over…and interestingly extended to my architecture sketching.

What is really  fun about this is that it is so different from my normal approach of clearly defining edges according to the architectural form of a building. This week I have just been playing with shapes. In the delightful tension between painter vs architect, I think the painter is winning at the moment!

My first sketch was from a photo (I am heading to Tasmania for some workshops next month) and I was drawing with paint here and trying not to describe every element the same way. Really trying to make the most of the power of the white on the page as well.

The next sketch was a local Federation house (in Mosman) and I was really concentrating on drawing shapes or the negative shapes to describe form. Working Very wet as well.

My third sketch is a Tasmanian building from a photo again… and this time I started with the openings and worked my way around from there. The very last thing that I did was to add those paint lines that describe the architectural details - the columns and the moulding details.

And finally, yesterday, I did two versions of a local house. (ok...the second version has some watercolour pencils lines in I have not totally abandoned my indeed intend to)

I took a photo after my first step - once again drawing shapes first and not the important edges.

Who knows what I will be doing next week….

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What has happened to my architecture sketching???

yes, once again, I seem to be missing in action when it comes to regularly posting on this blog. But to be honest, I have done very little architecture sketching this year.
Lots of teacup and cake sketching and lots of sketching on Cockatoo Island which is often more about cranes and texture. If you missed it, the Cockatoo Island focus was in preparation for a big 2 day workshop I taught with Paul Wang from Singapore (more here)

However, this title does not just refer to my slackness in posting here… it is also poses the question of the style of my architecture sketching… it is getting looser and looser and more colourful...and more fun!

I think the change is seen in my teacup sketches as well - more about it here. (Oops this blog is supposed to be a tea cup free zone!)

I am playing with paint and watersoluble pencils, mixing up the order of colour and line… and basically just having fun and working in a state of play. But behind it all is my foundational working method of working from overall form to details.

I haven't even been doing any late night Baroque sketches- something I used to do a lot of … this is the only example in months and months!

Even my SOH sketches are going crazy!!! (SOH = Sydney Opera House)

And if you haven't noticed I feel totally free at the moment from the dreaded p-word (perspective)!

Someone asked me in a workshop I taught on the weekend how the architect in me coped with abandoning perspective rules!!

That is a good question…one that I will answer in a separate blog post soon (I promise!)
I am starting to get focused on my trip to Brazil in August where I will be teaching at the 5th International Urban Sketchers Symposium. My workshop is called "feeling the edges, a tactile approach to sketching architecture' so there will be more activity here... seriously there will be!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Sketching Architecture Workshop in The Rocks - 22 February 2014

I am very pleased to announce another Sketching Architecture Saturday workshop out on location in The Rocks. Saturday 22 February 2014

Exploring the fundamental aspects of sketching architecture:
building forms - structure -details - edges - tone and colour - perspective - space

This one will be similar to what I ran in November 2013 - though we will be sketching some different buildings. Check out this blog post which describes in detail what we did.

The course is suitable for any drawing level - we start with lines and shapes before moving on to buildings. We are not trying to achieve perfect perspective or porportions in one day, but we will explore the basic principles for you to use as a foundation.

Please email me if you are interested

Email me now to secure your place - spots are limited (Maximum class size: 12)