Sketching Buildings: Learning to see volumes and parallel/horizontal lines

November 5, 2021 | 3 Comments

As I mentioned last week, I always get SO much out of doing a Group Run-through of a SketchingNow course. And this current run-through of Buildings continues to clarify so many concepts in my own mind. It’s so easy to get caught up with thinking you need different tools or paint colours to improve your sketching, but the most important thing is to be constantly sharpening your observational skills.

This week in Buildings we are looking at how to see architecture as a series of volumes (boxes) with added and subtracted elements.  We haven’t yet covered perspective (that’s coming in week 5!) but I’m really emphasising a few ways of seeing and feeling perspective before we get to the technical system in detail.

Last week I introduced the term ‘the fan’ and this week the big concept was learning to see the parallel and horizontal lines in buildings. This is a foundational skill that you need to develop as these are the edges that you apply perspective to. It also helps to break down tricky elements like dormers!

Obviously, I go into this in more detail inside the course, but it’s such an important skill to have that I wanted to share it here on the blog too. Do you have this observational skill?

Another thing that came up this week during our livestream was the difference between understanding the concepts when watching a demo and then applying it to your own work when urban sketching. So true! This is why I firmly believe that an extended period of time, learning to apply new concepts is needed and why I include lots of different exercises inside the Buildings course and why I love reviewing people’s work. Every building we sketch is different so learning to analyse it is critical… and this process of discovery and exploration is why I find sketching architecture so rewarding.

Here are my super quick sketches of the Lesson 2 indoor exercises that I did to refresh myself on some of the main issues. I was focusing on my angles (and pleased at how accurate they were) but that meant a few inaccuracies in length. Ha! I’m always training my reflex sketching skills, and exercises such as these are perfect for that.

More articles on essential techniques for sketching buildings can be found here.

A huge thanks to everyone who is part of the current Buildings Group Run-through and making it such a special experience. I hope that you’re starting to see these edges more clearly!


  • Jamie C says:

    The fan is such a helpful idea! Especially for those dormers, or other smaller items, even windows, which always went boxy for me before. Now I know, they need to fan, not box! Lol! I’m also impressed your assignment page has such great flow and design!

  • Fran Arthur says:

    Liz, I am enrolled in your Building Run Through and I am behind (finishing lesson 2); but at the same time, I am learning so much from your class. I have been sketching buildings almost every day. Loving your class, the format the ability to return to the subject indefinitely, the material provided including your notes that I am practicing by read and draw. Your u tube interactive session are awesome. And not to mention the pool of students ranging from all artistic skill levels to a variety of professionals all over the world. Yes now I see edges, volumes and shapes. What an eye opener. This venue is just to valuable to pass up. Thank you Liz it has been great!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Oh Fran! that is so good to hear! You know how much I love teaching these concepts 🙂 and we have the most amazing group don’t we?

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