5 Minute Sketching Architecture: How to see

September 30, 2016 | 7 Comments

My book is due to be released next week but it is already on the shelves in bookstores in Asia and on its way to people who pre-ordered. So I thought I would start to share a little more about what it contains.

The book has four chapters and each contains at least ten different topics. Each topic (a concept or technique) has its own double page spread with five practical tips for fast sketching on location. My hope is that this format will make it a very handy reference book of ideas. As I mentioned previously, I am already using it that way as I prepare more in-depth content for other workshops/ online courses. The book is really a summary of all the important concepts and ideas I have on sketching architecture!

The emphasis of the book is fast sketching and when it comes to architecture this means approaching your sketch in a series of five-minute techniques. Thinking of your sketching process in terms of 5 minute steps will really decrease the time that you need to complete your sketch.

The critical step is to establish the most important aspect of the sketch in the first few minutes and to work on having a clarity of vision so you can say more with less.

The first chapter – How to See – is a summary of all the important techniques that I believe you need in order to sketch architecture quickly, and ways of changing how you see buildings so that you can in turn sketch them faster. The very first one being the most important – finding your story. Story is something that is often thought of in regard to sketching people, but not so much when it comes to buildings. Yet this is the most important decision you need to make when it comes to sketching complex architecture. I will come back to this topic in the next article as Chapter 2 is all about ways of finding a story for different building types.

The rest of the chapter goes through the basic techniques for seeing buildings more clearly – looking for shapes and volumes, easy ways of measuring, looking for thickness and depths and then some quick tips for perspective (including a summary of my approach to pointless perspective). It’s jammed packed with lots of ideas to help you see buildings more clearly.

I use these techniques all the time, and during my big trip in Europe this year I was able to create many more new examples from ideas in the book.

Here is a sketch of Castle Howard that picks up on a number of ideas from Chapter 1. It is a massive grand house and rather complicated so my sketch took a little longer than 5 minutes. However within the first few minutes I had established all the important elements – the main volumes, the perspective, the structure and the big shapes for the foreground garden, all with a few brush strokes. (Aside: more about using line and colour in Chapter 3.)

I wanted this sketch to tell a story about the grandness of the building which involved showing its scale, and this focus freed me up from worrying about the detail. So after the first step (only three minutes?) I was then able to complete the line work and the additional washes with a lot of freedom because the hard work was already done.

I suppose some of you are wondering if I have any sketches of Castle Howard that were completely done in 5 minutes… yes, I do! Here is a collection of very quick sketches that I did while walking around the grounds. The sketch of the Pyramid in the distant fields was probably a 1 minute job, don’t you think?

Important Note:

I worked for an architect for 20 years and for the last 10 years have been intentionally developing ways to increase the speed of my sketching. I want to produce more spontaneous sketches that still have an underlying accuracy that is ‘good enough’. The key is this first step and even though I am able to do this in only a few minutes, it is important not to rush it. So if you are a beginner, don’t force a literal 5 minute rule.

I work fast because it suits my natural pace, but it is always important that you listen to yourself and only work at a pace that feels good to you. But my hope is that with the techniques in this book you will be able to become more directional at the beginning of your sketch and as a result reduce the overall time it takes, however long that is!



And, just finally, here is the first photo of my book(UK version) purchased from Kinokuniya in Bangkok! More about the two editions here – they are the same book just different cover and spelling.

Thanks again to this amazing group of artists whose work is also featured in the book:

Asnee Tasna | Carol Hsiung | Daniel J Green | Delphine Priollaud-Stoclet | Inma Serrano | Isabell SeidellJames Richards | Luis E Aparicio | Luis Ruiz | Lynne Chapman | Marc Taro Holmes | Matthew Brehm
Murray Dewhurst | Peter Andrews | Peter Rush | Rene Fijten | Richard Alomar
Rob Sketcherman | Suhita Shirodkar | Tiago Cruz | Virginia Hein

Buy the book today: Amazon.com


  • Dottie Aiken says:

    I’ve received notice from Amazon that my delivery of your book will arrive October 4th. Looking forward with excitement to its arrival. Know you are proud.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    Congrats, Liz! I’m looking forward to reading the book!

    – Tina

  • Suja says:

    Hi Liz ,
    The book is not available in Amazon India site. Is there any other way I can purchase this book ?


  • Rosie Smith says:

    I’ve received notice from Book depository Uk that my book is on the way. It should arrive any day. I’m waiting with anticipation and watercolours at the ready. So glad you have finally got a book out. As I follow your blog, just have not made to a workshop. Congrats Rosie

  • Mayela Lameda-Lyver says:

    I just received my copy of your book today and I am impressed with the quality of the printing and the format. The content is awesome. You make sketching architecture super easy. I look forward to read your book from cover to cover. I browsed it as soon as I got it and was happy to see how the information is laid out and your concepts are so easy to understand. The examples are plentiful and your work is beautiful. I look forward to taking your foundations on-line course in the new year.
    Congrats on your success and thank you for this wonderful book.

    Mayela Lameda-Lyver
    Ottawa, Canada

  • Annie says:

    Your book arrived, today, Liz, and I thank you for writing it. I immediately got right into the middle of it. The size is perfect to handle and use.I have read through in spots and already see about ten things that I needed to explore about angles and perspective and focus and volume and foreshortening and shading quickly and working small (I DID NOT EXPECT THAT). Now to sit down and study and practice.Great illustrations and your beauty of the Flinders Street Station–ooh, I think I’m in Love….

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