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, 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)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Two recent sketches

Two architecture sketches that I have done in the last week - just for me!

A white house at the top of the hill at Cockatoo Island and St Thomas Church North Sydney.

I am having fun ….
- using a sailor 55degree calligraphy pen instead of a Lamy with EF nib
- using a small dagger brush instead of a #8 round brush
- very loose application of paint
- First sketch -  I was exploring how to achieve a nice wash for the shady side of the white building
- Second sketch - doing a few quick analysis sketches first to free myself up for the real sketch.
- a little bit of scraping of paint with a plastic card and letting the watercolour pigment do its own thing on the page!

This will be my last post for this year as I am booked to leave for a trip on

Thanks for following along this year and I hope to have some more regular features in 2014.

Hope you all have a wonderful 'festive season'

Thursday, December 5, 2013

1 Day workshop in the Rocks

Last Saturday I held a 1 day workshop on Sketching Architecture in the Rocks. It was a condensed summary of the content we covered in the 4 week class and was an action packed day. In addition to my content, we also had lots around to distract us - scattered showers, crowds, markets, passing artists giving advice, police dealing with an aggressive drunk and a wedding! We had it all!

We started in a public seating area thinking about how drawing architecture is far more than just perspective. We then did a number of warmups - doing a few line exercises and drawing some boxes. I am very thankful that the Hero Sushi place allow us to sit outside their store as it started raining and the public seating area is only covered by sail cloth that does not stop the rain.

Our first sketching location was opposite the Australian Steam Navigation Buildings (we sketched this on week 1)… and just to throw everyone in the deep end I gave them only 20 minutes. The idea was to embrace wonkiness, to see the main 3D forms of the building and to add extra details to make it look convincing (despite the distortions) I was totally blown away by the work that was done in the time!

We then headed down to George St (which was a lot busier than it had been during the week). Like Week 2 of my classes this exercise was all about sitting straight on and understanding how to get overall proportions and work systematically from overall to structure to details. This is where there was a very unfortunate aggressive drunk and police incident on the other side of the road which caused a degree of distraction. We also had two artists walk past and add some advice and encouragement (I think it was all positive comments!) Time for a well earned lunch!

After lunch we looked at perspective (and especially the importance of nailing the eyeline!) and a few general approaches to adding tone and colour. We were sitting on a grass area opposite the Garrison Church so had a good view of a wedding that was going on. The various wedding guests walking across the wide road in front of the church was a great example of how you can 'hang people off an eyeline' - I think a few of us were interested in the outfits worn as well!

Once the wedding had cleared out we crossed the road and looked back to the end of a row of terraces along Argyle Place (sorry I omitted to take a photo of the building we were sketching). Trying to conquer perspective in a single afternoon is a challenge - especially as most buildings on location are not simple boxes on totally flat ground. Once again I was very impressed with the work produced and the fact that everyone seemed to grasp the basic principles and all the lines were going in the right direction!

What a great day and amazing group of sketchers - a number are just beginning their creative journey with pen and sketchbook in hand. Sketching architecture isn't the easiest but with a few basic principles and  an healthy attitude towards accuracy and wonkiness (ie. don't stress about distortions) I hope that they will all have more courage to have a go and have fun. Most importantly, keep sketching and sketch the buildings or parts of buildings that you like, that you respond to. Have confidence in your own response and be more concerned about your personal dialogue with the building rather than worrying about the 'correctness' of your lines on the page.

I do hope to start sharing more of the content of these classes in the new year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sketching Architecture Wk 4 - Tone Colour and Texture

Final (4th) week of my sketching architecture class in the Rocks - looking at tone and colour. A lot to cover in one morning so I did an overview.

This week included:
1. how to map the light vs dark areas and then distinguish between what is shade and what is cast shadow.
2. How to get an arsenal together of standard watercolour mixes for architecture - I shared my favourite ones. And, as per my other classes this year, I showed how I like to work with juicy washes and often wet in wet - hitting it hard and leaving it.
3.  Texture - how to decide how much to include and options for line vs colour.

We then went outside to have some fun (and no perspective!)

Thursday was a very warm sunny day. We headed to Susannah Place museum to look at the shadows and the textures of this historic collection of terrace houses. The sun moved quickly so we had to do value studies straight away and then had time to play with texture swatches. Trying to find areas in shade was a struggle and the security guard for the building we were using for shelter came to check what we were doing!

Friday was about 10C colder and raining…so not a great deal of tonal contrast visible but we still had fun exploring different ways to make textures with our watercolour and/or telling a story with one portion of the scene in front of us.

So much fun doing this course… and plan more in 2014.

Tomorrow I am doing a full day workshop summarising the content of this 4 week course- It will be a lot of fun whatever the Sydney weather is doing!

Thanks to everyone that we part of the class either on Thursday or Friday... what a keen and inspiring bunch of sketchers and it was a privilege to be able to share my approach to sketching architecture with you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sketching Architecture Week 3: Perspective

This week was the big week!

Yes, I was teaching perspective in my Sketching Architecture classes in the Rocks. (this is a little doodle sketch I did during the class to show the main setup for our subject)

Based once again in our wonderful classroom in the Tea Cosy, we started doing some line exercises - looking at ways to draw some typical patterns that we see in buildings out on location. Some of these are tricks I have picked up from one drawing lesson I had in 2nd year of my architecture course. Some of these are included in James Richard's wonderful book "Freehand Drawing and Discovery".

We then did a paper exercise with a photo before hitting the streets to draw a beautiful crisp sandstone warehouse. Both days we had very strong wind gusts to cope with as well and 'perspective lines'.

It is hard to find good examples of simple buildings on corners with good light and with shade on the other side of the street…so you can imagine how excited I was to find this! Everyone in the class learnt lots during the process of sketching this building and I think the results are amazing both days are. Many of the techniques were tested by trial and error!

It would require a number of very long blog posts to explain everything I shared this week but in essence I see perspective as a tool to set out the main framework for a sketch. Getting too technical, getting caught up in positioning all the lines perfectly, doing too much measuring and/or using a ruler kills the JOY of sketching for me. There are many wonderful artists out there who can achieve perfect perspective - but I am not one of them and am not trying to be.

So here are a few of my ideas:
(I am not sure how much of it will make sense in bullet point- but hopefully you might be able to glean some things from it.)

- perspective guidelines are used for setting the main elements - but you need to be able to first work out what the main elements of the building are!
- Use perspective to constrain out of whack or wonky lines but don't stress about wavy lines  (ie. small variations in the details are ok - they add life to the sketch - but try to keep the overall as 'right' as possible)
- eyeline (or horizon) is king! Everything is horizontal on the eyeline. This is a very powerful tool for sketching whether using perspective or not. It is the datum point that I use to locate all elements in my page. 'Hang' people off the eyeline.
- Develop the ability to be able to draw evenly converging lines. This is one of the most important drawing skills to well as being able to review what is on the page and see if it is consistent.
- Don't need vanishing points! See this old post for my vanishing point-less approach to perspective and an amazing discussion on flickr . I still use Vanishing points, but don't stress if they are off the page.
- The importance of the VIP - my term for the Very Important Perpendicular. This is the vertical leading edge that anchors and sets out for the whole sketch. I use it to measure the number storeys or major horizontal lines.

Ah - there was a lot more that we went through but I think this list is long enough for starters.