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, 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…


  1. Thanks Liz. I found this blog post very useful, especially given that I'm rather new to sketching and watercolours. What kind of watercolour pencil do you use?

  2. I appreciate how you "talked it out" rather than just posting a pretty see-what-I-did picture! What's a sailor pen, though?

  3. i love it. that's a lovely painting!


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  6. Much obliged Liz. I discovered this blog entry extremely helpful, particularly given that I'm somewhat new to outlining and watercolors. What sort of watercolor pencil do you utilize?

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