5 Minute Sketching Architecture: Looking for stories

November 18, 2016 | 5 Comments

Continuing on with the series I started a few weeks ago, today I want to discuss the second chapter of my new book, called Quick on the draw.

One of the mistakes people often make when sketching architecture and cityscapes is trying to draw every detail. If you want to sketch faster, try limiting what you attempt to say in your sketch!

When I was recently in Lucca, Italy, on two occasions I made the most of short opportunities to sketch:

  • It was getting crowded on the top of Torre Guinigi so instead of attempting a wide panoramic sketch of the gorgeous view, I focused on a vertical composition and simply drew in ink. I was able to tell a lot about the full view by this sketch.
  • Later in the day when I was walking through the streets, I stopped for this 5 minute sketch of Torre Guinigi using an expressive ink line and a few simple washes of colour.

The key to both sketches is that I had a clear idea of what I wanted to sketch. In the first sketch, it was more about the design and height of the towers and how they relate to each other and the city below. In the second it was about the glimpse of the tower with the trees on top that I had as I was roaming the street. In both cases, I had a story to tell and it informed the composition and the amount of detail.

To get back to the book… Chapter 2 explores a lot of different building types and elements and suggests some ideas for possible stories. The topics range from individual elements (windows, walls, roofs), small houses, classical buildings, skylines, bridges and interior spaces.

Personally, I found this chapter of the book the most rewarding to write, as it explores a lot of ideas that I really want to develop more in my own work. I truly believe that focusing more on story is the most powerful way to speed up your sketching – to say more with less.

My word of advice: Don’t think it has to be fancy – just think about what is the most important aspect of the scene in front of you and start drawing that.

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

Question Do you ever think about story when sketching architecture?



  • Great idea for simplifying and doing a quick sketch.

  • Anney Rehm says:

    I love your new book and i loved your BUILDINGS course. I realized the true results of that course and book when I recently went to San Francisco, CA, USA and found all these beautiful historic buildings. I was in building heaven. I have drawn many of the historic buildings, Ferry building, row houses and more. Even the cable cars, buses, golden gate bridge etc can all be planned out similar to buildings. I found better results than ever before because of your course and book. Thanks a million!!!

  • Dee Ludwig says:

    I too love the book..not only are the contents wonderful, but it’s size is just right to take with me when I am out, just for reminders of “slow down and keep it simple”. Same size as my sketchbook!

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