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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

San Lorenzo Chapels

2004 San Lorenzo Chapels Florence

I love notated drawings... here is a very neat sketch of mine from 2004 - comparing two chapel in San Lorenzo Florence

Monday, November 21, 2011

More sketches from the archive

2000 Ely West Front
Ely Cathedral
2000 St Stephens Walbrook
St Stephens Walbrook
Following on from my last post....There is a big difference between sketching from the comfort of your desk and sketching out on location. Here are some of my typical ‘desk sketches’ dating from 2000. These are sketches that I did from photos post trip to the UK. I thought naively that I would be able to do this kind of sketch on location as easily as I could from the controlled environment inside my studio.

I did approx 50 sketches like these of elevations, plans, sections, small axonometric studies and detailed sketches from the buildings that I visited during my first trip to the UK in 2000. These two pages were my favourite....but there were a lot of pages with distorted perspectives and over hatched sketches. I might put them together as an issuu edition one day.....

Friday, November 18, 2011

The passage of time

2005 'first' SKETCH - buildings in Hobart Tasmania

A sketch from 2005. Perhaps my first ever on location sketch (ie. where I sat down specifically to do a sketch as opposed to uni assignments or little doodles)This was one single sketch that I completed during my week visit... done sitting down in a bus stop opposite these two buildings.

This is what I wrote in my photo album at the time about this experience

"It was in the sun and so was beautiful temperature wise. The lanes of cars whizzing past was perhaps the least attractive part but I didn’t really notice as I opened my notebook and actually attempted to do a sketch of the two buildings opposite me.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 one of the highlights of the trip! It was also a bit of a break through in my ideas about how to look, learn, record and enjoy architecture.
I spent more time looking at the Butler building but this one was quite nice as well! I more considered it in contrast to the more elaborate building to the right.
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!"


I find discovering these kind of early adventures with sketching fascinating and often strangely ironic! I was a fanatical photographer at the time and this sketch was such hard work.

So of course a few days after re-discovering this sketch...I did a very quick sketch of it....
111116 Getting Tasmania Out of My System 1
Of course, these days, I just do this kind of sketch as a matter of course... while there are a few interesting quirks with this facade, I would not call it 'hard' now!

ah... practice practice practice.... anything is possible (almost) when you have desire and dedication to hard work.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Relaxation vs Experimentation

111931 Venice Sketch Therapy
Another attempt

Here are two versions of the Doge's Palace in Venice (sketched from a photo)
The first one is an example of how I relax in the evening - give me a very complicated building and a good cup of tea (Lu Shan Oolong?)and I am very happy. my hand just seems to do its own thing... and then I have a bit of fun splashing some colour around.

The second version I tried to think before I sketched. As my notes indicate I am currently exploring ways of more expressive sketching. There is a tendency to try to draw every detail or part of the building - so here I was trying to be selective.
I intend to try again as one this second sketch I realised that I need a better view.

Venice Breakfast

While thinking about my time in Venice in Sept 2010- here is a photo that I came across yesterday of me in action during breakfast (one can't draw architecture all the time!?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I am ALWAYS sketching architecture

Whether it is out on location....
111105 JMWedding 02 Outside church
St Matthews Manly from my cousins wedding on Saturday
111928 Luna Park- Just for fun
111928 I ended up drawing the Opera House anyway!
An hour at Milsons Point ...having fun sketching the Luna Park gates and then a very quick opera house sketch witn my new 3.8mm pilot parallel calligraphy pen (I never get sick of sketching this buidling!)

..... Or just some relaxation sketching after dinner.Trying different techniques and pen/colours....

111027 My usual Barouqe sketching therapy

111027 Basket Case Baroque

111026 Borromini in Pilot Parallel

111102 A little bit of Corb

.... Or a doodle at work
Italian work doodle
(from my Italian desktop calendar) while waiting for something to print
This is an example of my standard work sketching style - my bread and butter sketching that I have been doing for 20 years done with an Artline 0.4 black felt pen. Before I discovered watercolour I was totally addicted to cross hatching- it is the way that I think when designing – and it wasn’t until I started drawing my food that I started to restrain myself...now I hardly ever use it.


It doesn’t matter what you sketch as long as you keep sketching. Whilst I much prefer being outside sketching, I find it very useful to be constantly sketching and experimenting from photos in training for on location sketching.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Kedleston Hall Sketches

Sorry, things have been a little quiet here lately... been a bit busy doing architectural work and no leisure for architectural sketching!
0907 TU_02 Kedleston Rear
0907 TU_03 Kedleston Front
So here are the sketches that i did during a few hours visiting Kedleston Hall last September.As it was sunny when I arrived I went and sat in the grass at the rear and at the front of the house to quickly sketch the exterior.
0907 TU_04 Kedleston Hall
Then I went inside and was very surprised that I was allowed to paint inside! It was also special chat to numerous staff members including the curator a number of times - the last time all about Palladio!! What a treat!!! If you want to sketch during a great house visit you must work very fast or else you need all day... and I had another house to visit that day.
0907 TU_05 Kedleston Saloon
My final sketch was in the saloon - this sketch which was done very quickly and rather than being a literal view of the room is a distorted diagram which captures the essence of the room -the dome, the pattern of the dome, the alternating trianglar and semi-domed niches and the urns contained within the niches. I can fully construct an image of the room in my head as a result of this sketch.

This kind of abstraction is something I want to explore further - part diagram/ distorted perspective - in order to describe a complex space in a single drawing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A discussion about perspective

111006 Question for perspective experts!!!!
Last week I posted this sketch to my flickr with the idea of making sketching perspective on location simpler. The main intent is to sketch a simple building on a flat site without having to establish the vanishing points (which are often off the page of your sketchbook) (click on photo to access the explanation)
What happened on my flickr was an amazing discussion about 3 point perspectives... leading to a wonderful method by wernerk - not for the faint hearted but it appeals to the mathematical side of my brain!
Perspective without vanishing point, another method...
and then Gerard Michel (the master of perspective) shared this amazing technique...which has all to do with moving the page of your sketchbook up to your eye (having one eye closed) and drawing parallel lines... took me a while to figure it out....
Click on the photos to go to full explanations.

Meanwhile I have been having fun lately sketching contour drawings and abandoning perspective all together!!!
111005 S'Ivo Doodles 1
A quick 'paper' exercise based on photos I took last year in Rome (Borromini is naturally one of my favourite architects!)
111008 02 St Marys Combo
Quick sketches done in 30 minutes before going to a sketching event in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hardwick Hall Revisited

0908W_03 Hardwick Front

The two pages below represent another go at sketching Hardwick Hall. I was there last year and somewhat overwhelmed at the time (in a good way!) by the enormous windows “Hardwick Hall more glass than wall” that I drew the sketch above... Large sketch showing every pane of glass and got so sick of it by the end.

110928 Hardwick Hall Revisited 01

Today I wanted to achieve two things
1. Understand the building BEFORE I sketched it (last year on location I discovered things about the building while I was sketching and wasn’t able to correct my sketch as I was doing it on the run)
2. Find a more expressive way of sketching the building without having to draw every window.
Well I did achieve the first but sadly had a break in time before I sketched the building...so in effect lost the benefit of the analysis...so a number mistakes in the number of panes in the sketch on the first page... This sketch I faded parts of the building according to structure... ie. I started to draw the building from the centreline and faded my linework and colour as I moved out from the centre.
110928 Hardwick Hall Revisited 02


On the second sketch I sketched and painted in response to the light hitting the fa├žade. This was a suggestion of John Haycraft and I am very excited about the possibility of exploring this idea further – following the light across a building.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Visual Note Taking - An amazing insight into FLW's work

110927 FLW's Diagonal Planning- An AMAZING INSIGHT!

Since starting this blog, I have already had the feeling a number of times of doing a full circle. This page of extremely quick sketches (mainly plans) is one of those occasions.

I purchased the book "On and By Frank Lloyd Wright - A primer of Architectural Principles" edited by Robert Mccarter five years ago and tucked it under my arm as 'light' reading when I went to the airport to pick up some friends...one of whom was 'Eza' the friend that shortly afterwards introduced me to the small WN Cotman Field Sketching Kit... and what a change that moment has made to my life. On Saturday- having a break from my computers and my sketching is it somewhat significant that I happened (after picking up a few other books first) to decide to re-commence reading this book. It made me realise that since I have started sketching regularly I have stopped reading... but also, as I mentioned last week, that the constant sketching is certainly making it easier and quicker for me to take visual notes of the book that I am reading. It is also funny that I am now MUCH more concerned with making the page look nice - through colour and random composition... plus the inclusion of a few silly notes to self and comments about the appropriately themed music I was listening to at the time!

Anyway... FLW is SO famous and SO well known and loved but this book argues that few people actually really study his work. This week I read an amazing essay (towards the back of the book - you can't expect me to read the book sequential can you?) by Neil Levine on the Diagonal Planning of FLW and I have to say that this idea is one of the most amazing concepts I have come across for a while. SO obvious and yet I have never realised it before.... the way that he composed rectangular spaces and more importantly the experience of these spaces is so rich and dynamic because of his use of diagonal axes across rooms and open corner.

Despite this essay being a great read... it only has very small plans and the concepts are described verbally. I REALLY want this principle to sink in so I looked up the plans Neil referred to in my book of every built work of FLW and then drew my own diagrams of what (I think) he was taking about. I wish more architectural books used DIAGRAMS!!!!

This week I am reading and NOT sketching - well tonight anyway!!
I could write more...but I think that is enough for tonight!!! BTW, the other book in this photo is AMAZING too!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sketching is really the best way to understand architecture

I will try to post more contemporary architectural sketches on the blog (promise!) but as I was recently looking through my travel sketchbooks from last year's trip I just feel compelled to share with you all (again) some sketching that I did where I was totally in the groove.. eye saw, hand drew and the brain understood how the building was put together as the other two were doing their thing together...
(these sketches are also found on the UK sketches page)
0903 FR_04 Seaton Delaval Front Corner
0903 FR_05 Seaton Delaval Hall

The first two are at Seaton Delavel by Sir John Vanbrugh (yeah- more Baroque! This time English baroque... love his amazing use of volumes and rather outlandish heavy detailing!) When I sketched these I wasn't really caring about perspective but just recording in as quick and as loose a manner as possible what I was looking at

0909TH_03 Blenheim Clock Tower
0909T_06 Blenheim Front Detail1
0909TH_07 Blenheim Front Detail2
These three are details from Blenheim Palace (Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor)
One of the amazing things about posting your sketches online via iphone on the day...is there just might be someone that sees it and reads your silly notes. Someone knew exactly what John Summerson quote I was wanting and typed it up for me so that evening I could read it! Which was
There is a double beat, then [the Doric Order] wheels round. Another double beat: it turns, enters the towers – it disappears. Then out it marches from the near side of each tower, marches forward till it is returned as a formal entry with steps inside and a flourish of arms above. (summerson, The classical Language of Architecture, 1991, pag. 71)

How cool is that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Architects Sketchbooks

110921 Architects Sketchbooks

As I have mentioned earlier, for years I have tried off and on to keep a sketchbook dedicated to interesting buildings, details etc that cross my path so that I can absorb and maybe use (reinvent etc) later in a project of my own. I am also a bit of a magazine/book junkie which has now morphed into an architectural blog junkie (archdaily etc)... is there any one else out there like me? What do we do with all this visual stimulation... do we absorb any of it?
Today, I got my latest copy of Houses magazine so within 30 minutes I had flicked through it and drew a few sketches and (of course) splashed a little bit of watercolour over the top.
I haven't done this for a long while and I was very pleasantly surprised to discover how quick and easily I was able to do this sketches... ie. all my on-location sketching (particularly when on a crazy holiday) is certainly helping my ability to sketch quickly in any situation!
100212 Cool LED lighting
100219 Morning Sketches Combo1
Last year, I tried getting to the office early to sketch these 'inspirational' sketches - I started in my personal daily sketchbook..but I go through them so quickly that I would never have them to refer to at my desk in the office.
100225 More architectural thumbnails
Then I tried them in my daily work notebook (which is a moleskine with the thin paper...I kept that up for a number of weeks... but the paper isn't really what I love using...)

So I am trying my A4 size sketchbook dedicated to architectural sketches(which is what I used today)... and I think that this would be a good lunchtime activity (if I am not going out to sketch people!?! hey!)
Old architectural sketchbook
Just for the record, these are early attempts at keeping such a reference/inspirational sketchbook. These sketches were done 10-15 years ago - on A3 cartridge paper and coloured with WC pencils. Done as research for the second house that I designed... I spent the WHOLE day looking through magazines and books to produce this... so labour intensive! It is amazing to look back and see how my desire to add colour and make images (rather than just scribble notes) was there back then!

SO... to all my architect friends out there who sketch on location do you sketch reference/inspirational buildings/details... what do you sketch them in/on and do you have any to show me????? And what do you do with all your magazines....

Friday, September 16, 2011

Do you need perfect perspective to draw architecture?

Yes, it would be nice if we could draw perfect perspective like some artists out there... not to name any names but two instructors at the 2nd international Urban Sketchers Symposium certainly know what they are on about - see here and here ... yes, it is something that all artists 'should' understand. But I would strongly urge everyone not to be put off drawing architecture because of 'perspective'. Paris01_04 Garnier Opera
For many years I have avoided drawing buildings in perspective... Paris05_04 ND Front
in Paris, I tried whenever possible to sit straight on to a building and add people in the foreground to give a sense of space - or if not in a central position I avoided a 2 point perspective as much as possible. 0802M_04 Dekum
Last year in Portland, on my extra day after the Ist USk Symposium I was itching to do a nice complicated building.... I sat in a cafe and sketched the Dekum buidling. This was not actually the view that I was looking at but an abstracted elevation (front on view) from what I could see. This is a very useful architectural exercise(converting what I see into what it actually is- reverse perspective at the top of the building) and I drew some people in the foreground to explain the fact that I was in a cafe. I was pretty happy with this sketch Portland, The Dekum
Later that day, at dinner, I saw Gerard Michel's wonderful version of the same building! He was sitting on the pavement and actually drew what he saw...suddenly I felt like I had 'cheated'. Silly thought but still seeing perfect perspective has funny effects on people. 0806F_04 Soho
So, inspired by the work of Gerard and also Lapin, as I continued on my travels I tried more and more adventurous perspective views. In New York I tried one of this one point facade perspectives and found this was in fact easier than I expected and a LOT of fun!!! 0813F_02 Jenners
On other occasions I just did what ever my hand and pen wanted to do... 0923T_03 PalazzodelPodesta
In Bologna... I started our visit doing the classic elevation with some foreground 0923T_08 Medieval Bologna
And then later in the day had fun with 'organic' perspective... my term for when I just do what ever I feel like without establishing a horizon and vanishing point/s 0924F_04 Colonnade
And then the next day I set up a proper perspective.... this was very satisfying. (Having my great friend Eza by my side had a big influence on me as she loves drawing everything in perspective) So anyway... I haven't really answered the question but just rambled away in my usual way... but I do intend to address this burning issue in more detail and in a more structured way in future posts

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why do I love Baroque architecture so much??

110908 SS Sacramento_3

Well... that is an interesting question! I love the fluidity and forcefulness, the bold 3-dimensionaltiy, adventurous complexity and all the fun games that are played with curved vs flat surfaces and all the crazy decoration. Today while tidying up my study/studio I came across a print out of a photo I took in Rome last year of a building that I didn't have the energy to sketch at the time. So I decided to have a bit of fun analysing it before I sketched.
110908 SS Sacramento_1
110908 SS Sacramento_2
So here are the exploratory sketches that I did in order to understand it. I also consulted the BEST book out there on Roman architecture. Not Built in A Day by George H Sullivan. George was my constant companion last year in Rome. I am no expert in Classical Baroque architecture so I couldn't have told you after an initial review of the facade that the broken pediment was not doing its job properly... but as soon as I read George's opinion I could see what he was talking about.

Not only do I love drawing them, but I get so much mental stimulation out of studying facades like this. I am certainly no advocate for classical architecture in our day...but I learn so much about composition, balancing of various elements, proportions and trust in Le Corb's words on the top right hand corner of this blog. I am still thinking about if some of these characteristics and principles can relate more directly to today....

but in the meantime below are some other more successful Baroque facades that I DID sketch last year when in Rome (most of these were sketched standing up on the street) and I hope you can see how much fun I was having at the time!!!!!
1001FR_01 SM Campitelli
0929WE_05 S Vinc Anastasio
0930TH_04 S Celso e Giuliano

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