Chicago: My Wrigley Tower collection

September 13, 2017 | 7 Comments

As I mentioned in a previous article Wrigley Tower became my “SOH of Chicago” (iconic building – like the Sydney Opera House – that I ended up sketching over and over)

So I thought I would share with you all the sketches I did of it in a single article. I wish that I had sketched it from a few more angles and done a few closeups as its details are exquisite. But ah! this is an essential characteristics of a SOH building, that a handful of sketches are never enough.

Wrigley Tower Sketch #1
My first sketch was from the twenty-something floor of the nearby Equitable building, drawing it in context with the gorgeous Chicago river.

Wrigley Tower Sketches #2 & #3
Two detail sketches from the same location. The really funny thing about these sketches was that even though I was so close to the building, and only focusing on the details of the tower, I was still struggling to fit the tower onto my page. This was the major theme of sketching in Chicago!

Wrigley Tower Sketch #4
The next day, I sketched it from the riverside (sketching alongside Lynne Chapman). I was still in the stage of adjusting to the scale of Chicago and was struggling to fit the right number of storeys into the overall volumes I had drawn. I was also chatting non-stop to Lynne.

Wrigley Tower Sketch #5, 6 & 7
I wasn’t totally happy with this sketch, so I did another three studies trying different things! Note: I am always looking for better ways to sketch things, and mixing it up!

Wrigley Tower Sketch #8
I wanted to attempt a neat and accurate version, but it didn’t work the way I had hoped due to a number of factors:

  1. I wasn’t quite in the calm and comfortable mood I needed to be to do a slow careful sketch.
  2. I started rushing because the shadow I was sitting in was rapidly shrinking
  3. I thought I understood the structure and was a little over confident in my own abilities to draw accurately without doing all the steps I teach in my SketchingNow Buildings course. Ha!
  4. I got bored halfway through mainly because I wasn’t in the right calm mood.

Wrigley Tower Sketch #9
After the symposium, I returned to the area with Suhita (who hadn’t done a riverside sketch) and did a similar view. Once again talking non-stop so I was a little distracted. Still this sketch happened fairly easily – I did it in my reflex-sketching mode.

Wrigley Tower Sketch #10
This sketch is of the view from my seat on the boat before the Architectural Boat Tour.

Wrigley Tower Sketch #11

And in the final sketch from the boat tour coming back to the wharf I managed one more sketch of Wrigley Tower.

For those of you who are doing my SketchingNow Buildings course:
I hope that you can see a number of different approaches used – feeling edges, abstracting shapes(mapping light and dark) and constructing volumes! And especially how I always establish the volumes and the structure first and then fade away the pattern of the windows. Due to the nature of this building, I didn’t really do a fully shaped based version of it.

Please let me know if you want me to explain any sketch in particular

Summary: I still want to sketch Wrigley Tower more as I didn’t feel I achieved the type of sketch I was searching for. But still, I’m happy with this collection and hope that one day I will be able to return to Chicago and have another go… or another 10 sketches!

Question for you:
Do you have your own ‘SOH’ – a building or place that you sketch over and over again. Do you like sketching icons or do you prefer to record more everyday scenes?



  • Elsie Hickey-Wilson says:

    Hi, Liz! Really enjoying seeing your sketches from Chicago. Since I was there, too, it is great to see approaches to buildings I had a go at, too. My “SOH” is the Wisconsin State Capital building. Our USK Madison group tries to meet a couple times a year in that area and it is a real challenge. But is has marvelous details and angles. Thanks for this blog post as your comments on each sketch really helped me.

  • Lael Sorensen says:

    I’m in your Buildings Course now and DO see you finding edges, abstracting shapes, and constructing volumes. I particular like the “finding your feet” stage in #1-3, then love #9. It’s almost as if once you had grappled with the amazing detail of the tower, you could let go to discover a “less detailed” version that nevertheless really tells. Is that me just reading too much into it? Can you do it the other way around? Is that kind of more relaxed but still with distinct volumes possible from the start or only as the result of careful study?

  • Elsie Hickey-Wilson says:

    Hi, again, Liz! Just was looking at some things on the internet regarding the Wriggley Building and found this site that talks about the building and a recent find of one of the details.


  • Sue Hodgetts says:

    I love the variations that happened and your commentary on the possible reasons each style/outcome. Especially Wrigley Tower Sketch #8 bullet points… Note to self – 1. breath and be calm, 2. embrace the creeping sun/shadow line, 3. remember to remember the basics, 4. don’t forget to keep breathing and be calm. To be honest, living in a small seaside town, I can’t even begin to imagine being surrounded by such a crazy landscape of buildings! Huge respect Liz 🙂

  • Great idea to put all the sketches of the Wrigley Tower together for us to see. It is interesting to see what part you focused on for each and how you sketched it. I tend to go back to the same locations here on Long Island, so often I am painting the same marshes or same lighthouse over and over again.

  • sigrun hodne says:

    Thank you, Liz!, It’s such a wonderful thing to be able follow your process with this building – instructive & inspiring.

  • Ilse says:

    I live in the north pf Amsterdam and there is the ADAM tower -former Shelltower. I love to draw it. And I can see it from al lot of places in town,as it it quite high, so I am able to sketch it in al lot of different positions/contexts. Will take a while to get bored with this one :).

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