I had the very great honour of giving a lunchtime talk today in the office of BVN Sydney (BVN is one of the top architectural firms in Australia). It was an introductory talk for a series of workshops planned for later in the year to help develop the freehand sketching and painting skills of the staff.
I can’t express in words how wonderful this opportunity is, and how passionate I am about trying to get more architects to sketch more! It is the merging of my ‘two careers’.
There is something extra special for me when I talk to architects or architectural students (read more about my workshop with architecture students in Rio here). Not only because they love buildings as well but because they also understand drawing as part of a process (drawing to design) which is completely different from the standard approach to drawing. It’s a fast and furious spontaneous rapid type of sketching rather than slow and careful contour drawing. This is connected to my recent discussion of thumbnails here.
Using my Foundations framework, today I started with volumes! This is because many architects know how to construct volumes but don’t know how to feel edges or abstract shapes. I am convinced that being able to think visually with edges and shapes in addition to volume swill increase creativity and improve design. I also believe that the ability to record the spaces around us, to be more attuned to how people use these spaces will lead to a greater understanding of our environment and then to more sensitive design.
Not to mention the fact when you draw are forced to make a personal interpretation of it and this encodes your subject in your brain. Hmm, it must be time for that Le Corbusier quote again:
When one travels and works with visual things – architecture, painting or sculpture – one uses one’s eyes and draws, so as to fix deep down in one’s experience what is seen. Once the impression has been recorded by the pencil, it stays for good, entered, registered, inscribed.
The camera is a tool for idlers, who use a machine to do their seeing for them. To draw oneself, to trace the lines, handle the volumes, organise the surface… all this means first to look, and then to observe and finally perhaps to discover… and it is then that inspiration may come.
– Le Corbusier
I must also give a shout out to my great friend James Richards and his wonderful book Freehand Drawing and Discovery which is all about this topic – read my review here.
Ok, to get back to today’s talk… I gave the group today a bit of background about me:
- how I always wanted to keep an architects sketchbook but never managed it,
- how two big turning points were discovering watercolour and then a broken camera,
- how the online community of Everyday Matters opened my horizion to sketching anything in my life (not just buildings) and this in turn got me sketching more and having more fun (the two are related),
- how Urban Sketchers got me out on the streets,
- and how fellow my Urban Sketchers continually inspire me – but particularly my architectural sketching at both the precision end and the loose end of the scale!
I tempted them with lots of possible sketching materials (there is much more on offer than an Artline 0.4 or a Pentel Sign Pen)… but I started with the mighty pencil (a recent sketch that I don’t think I have shared before) and tried to make the point that all you need to start is a pen or pencil and any sketchbook.
Next I explained my approach to sketching which is all about achieving the flow I experience when I am design sketching including:
- Capturing the moment spontaneously (risk taking).
- Recording in a way that is meaningful for me (not necessarily needing to be accurate).
- Focusing on one thing (the big idea) rather than drawing every brick.
I then shared a few sketches and photos from my travel sketching adventures to really explain what happens when you sketch on location. It is easy just to look at finished work without realising what is involved to actually sketch it (where you were, how many people blocked your view or whether the midges got you).
I think mindset is a major factor in becoming a good urban sketcher – a mindset to seize opportunities and take risks (and not worry about what people will think of you!)
Today was different – when I said “Ah! this building isn’t hard, its just a 3 x 2 grid – piece of cake!” my audience nodded! That was very cool.
It was great to meet many of the BVN staff today and I can’t wait for the workshops in October, when I can really get stuck into sharing core sketching skills and get them out sketching on location.
It is an unbelievably exciting prospect to get more architects sketching!