Sketching Architecture in Edges, Shapes and Volumes: Preview of my Manchester Workshop

May 31, 2016 | 7 Comments

I just posted about this sketch of St Thomas church (in North Sydney) over on the USK Symposium blog, but I want to share it with you here as well – and post the full step by step images!

This is a sketch I did both as prep for my symposium workshop and also for my upcoming SketchingNow Buildings course. There will be a little overlap in the content, so if you can’t make it to Manchester you will certainly get all the important concepts and much more in the online course.

Basically the core of what I will be teaching in Manchester is the way I use edges, shapes and volumes spontaneously to create lively but (relatively) accurate architecture sketches. The emphasis of my symposium workshop is to be fun and experimental, which is certainly what I was doing while sketching this!

So here are a few progress photos showing how I was switching between edges, shapes and volumes.

Relying on the basic observational skills of Feeling Edges, Abstracting Shapes and Constructing Volumes can be used in more accurate work too – stay tuned for more about this tomorrow! In fact, I strongly believe that they are the key to more efficient architecture sketching in any style when out on location.

All the perspective theory in the world will not in itself enable you draw what is in front of you (I know this from experience) – it is far more important to build your foundational drawing skills (what we look at in general in Foundations). This will be the starting point for SketchingNow Buildings, applying these concepts specifically to buildings. I will then share with you lots of techniques and tips combining my sketching skills with the knowledge of building elements that I have from 20 years of working as an architect.

Just to finish off today, here are a few examples of sketching architecture by feeling edges, abstracting shapes and constructing volumes.

Feeling Edges:
Working slowly from one edge to the next. Here I was having fun with a single line, but feeling edges doesn’t have to be continuous like this

Abstracting Shapes:
Painting shapes (maybe even the sky!) not the individual elements.

Constructing Volumes:
Starting with the big boxes and then adding the details but also thinking about adding or subtracting volumes and working in a structured way.

So who is going to Manchester? Anyone signed up for my workshop?


  • Susan says:

    I’ll be in your Manchester class. Looking forward to finally meeting you in person!

  • Debbie Thornhill says:

    I’ll be in your class in Manchester as well! Very excited to be at my first Symposium and to meet you in person!

  • Peter Joscelyne says:

    Hi Liz
    I note your comment about working spontaneously, but I have to ask, when you approach a sketch on site, do you pre-determine to use one of the three approaches (or perhaps pre-dominantly use, accepting you may choose to combine approaches to some degree), and if so, what influences the decision to proceed with a particular approach – be it edges, shapes or volumes?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Peter! Great question! this is the heart of my workshop and a bit part of SketchingNow buildings. But in essence constructing volumes is the most suited to sketching architecture with the support of feeling edges and abstracting shapes.

  • Stephen Reed says:

    I’m heading to Manchester as well. Will be my first time in the UK. Really looking forward to meeting you and taking your class.

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