The importance of edges, shapes and volumes for sketching architecture

October 23, 2023 | Leave your thoughts

The secret of sketching quickly and loosely is being able to assess your subject/scene in terms of edges, shapes and volumes. This involves

  1. deciding on the important edges,
  2. simplifying into big shapes and
  3. seeing the underlying volumes.

For this 15-minute sketch of St Marys, I first thought about the volumes, then I started with the shadow shapes before adding the main edges and details with my pen.

Feeling Edges, Abstracting Shapes and Constructing Volumes are three essential sketching concepts that I explain in detail inside my Foundations course. Being able to see your subject in terms of edges and shapes is important regardless of what it is. ‘Constructing Volumes’ isn’t always required (for example sketching an organically shaped object) but when it comes to sketching architecture starting with volumes is the way to go!

We are in Week 3 of the Live Version of Buildings and it’s been so great to be revisiting this course with an inspiring group of sketchers from around the world. It’s also been fun to do a new Building of the Week Challenge. In each livestream I pick a tricky building from the group’s list of suggestions and then I sketch live.

So far I’ve been focusing on how to analyze a building and work out the best way to start sketching it. This process is really important and has a great impact on how successful a sketch is.

Here is a quick look at the first three Buildings of the Week.

1. Dunham Castle, Wayne, Illinois, USA
Starting with volumes and then adding the edges

2. Carleton Dominion Chalmers Centre, Ottawa, Canada
A building with lots and lots of different volumes!

3. Maria Laach Abbey, Germany
After choosing a view that had good lighting I started with the shadow shapes. I intentionally used a marker for this demo as I wanted to focus on observational skills and didn’t want to be distracted by watercolour techniques. But in the next livestream (tomorrow night) I will start talking about watercolour. 🙂

Thanks to everyone who is part of this Buildings Live Version – we are having so much fun, aren’t we? Looking forward to seeing your building sketches develop as we work through the rest of the course.

If the idea of seeing the world in terms of edges, shapes and volume is new to you please check out my Foundations course here.

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