Thinking about Flaf

May 7, 2016 | 15 Comments

The Urban Sketchers community is shocked today by the news that Florian Afflerbach (Flaf) was killed in a tragic traffic accident yesterday.

Flaf was one of my friends on Flickr in the very early days of Urban Sketchers – maybe even before that. He was known for his incredible perspective architectural drawings and cars. I think recently I was seeing more car sketches than architectural ones. He was also a great architect, educator and scholar. He was on the faculty of the Technische UniversitĂ€t Dortmund, Germany.

I feel honoured that I met him twice and he was one of the sketchers I was most looking forward to catching up with in Manchester in July as I hadn’t seen him since the Barcelona in 2013. I was hoping to ask him about his masters research on architectural drawing and other things.

I have so many great memories of him, especially from the 2nd symposium in Lisbon, when I first met him and spent some great time together, including talking about architecture sketching and perspective. (photo by Matt Brehm).

I was very inspired by his perfect perspective (as a fellow architect) and he gave me some great tips about sketching cars that I think about ever time I draw them. I refer to his work in every Sketching Architecture workshop I do.

Here is a photo of the last time I was with Florian (at the Barcelona USK Symposium) looking through his amazing big sketchbook. (Photo by Debo Boddiford)

I was obviously saying to him (just out of the photo) how amazing his work was! One of his tricks was to draw small-ish in a very big sketchbook so the vanishing points were on the page. He didn’t do that every time, but that is the ‘secret trick’ that has stuck in my mind!

Today, after spending a little time on facebook, I had to rush out to door to make it to our monthly USK Sydney event at Marrickville. I grabbed my copy of Florian’s Card Playing Cards to take with me. These cards have a special significance for me since I use to play with similar cards Ace Trump Cards with my brothers when I was very little.

I find sketching enables me to process things and remember going outside after my nanna’s funeral to sketch her house which really helped. This morning I just had to move the paint around on the page initially as I was still in shock, in fact I was a bit of a mess after my teary announcement to the group.

But mid-way through the sketch I started to think about what I was doing and realised that this was a complex scene (the dark sheds were in the sun and the light sheds were in the shade). I needed to start concentrating!

I also noticed Flaf’s cards sitting on the ground and the memories of conversations, emails and comments came rushing back. So in many ways this was a reflex sketch and I couldn’t help thinking how different this style of sketching was with Flaf’s.

Anyway, with his voice in my head, I decided to do a pencil perspective version in honour of the artist and friend who inspired me so much in the early days of my sketching. I understood perspective theoretically but didn’t know how to use it out on the streets. Florian’s work was so important to me back then. Although I prefer to work looser, the technical aspects are always in my mind.

I think that Flaf would have laughed and said something like “see Liz, you can do a technical perspective drawing if you put your mind to it!” Oh! I will miss our banter.

Of course as I was using a water soluble graphite pencil I had to mess it up a bit, but the Flaf inspired pencil construction lines were there.

At the end of the meet we took this group photo everyone holding one of Florian’s cards.
We support each other and draw together

He was such sweet guy, and great artist/architect. I feel truly blessed to have met Florian, but his work will live on, inspiring many Urban Sketchers in years to come.

I am very sad, but most of all right now I am feeling heartbroken for his partner Tina, his family, loved ones and his close (sketching) friends – those who have spent much more time with him. I am also thinking much about the USKers in Germany and those who were with him in a workshop in Malaga only a few days ago. You all will certainly be in my prayers.

Sending you all a big hug!


  • alissa duke says:

    Thank you Liz for this thoughtful post. The global Urban Sketching community is a real family of friends. We share joys and provide support to each other . in 2011 Flaf kindly provided a sketch in your book to me when I was ill, even though I had not yet met him. Even if we have not met (and especially if we have) we grow as friends online over weeks, months and years, His gentle nature, thoughtfulness and patience was shown in his perspective workshop in Barcelona Symposium. Sue Pownall learnt a lot !

    • Dina Dajani says:

      Very thoughtful and emotional it made me cry and I haven’t met him. And I am amazed by his beautiful and accurate kind of work. Truly amazing.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Alissa, I couldn’t help thinking about that sketch (and how much he loved it) even before Luis A shared that photo on Facebook.Yes very gentle guy… I am sad that I never did a workshop with him.

  • Gordon Scott says:

    Very sad news Liz. 🙁

  • Gabriela Ehrling says:

    Danke Liz fĂŒr deine wunderbaren Worte. Leider war es mir nicht möglich ihn persönlich in einem workshop kennenzulernen, habe jedoch online in allen SketchForen, jeden seiner BeitrĂ€ge mit Freude und Spannung verfolgt. Ja seine Autosketche sind legendĂ€r, ich bin selber ein grosser Autofan und bewundere sehr seine Details und seine Art zu zeichnen. Ich bin unendlich traurig , um diesen grossartigen KĂŒnstler und sende eine grosse Umarmung an seine Familie

  • Elsie Hickey-Wilson says:

    Hi, Liz, thanks for this lovely tribute to Flaf. I have known a bit of his work and will miss opportunities to meet him. I feel a sadness as I am learning what a marvelous world-wide community Urban Sketchers is. Our little sketch group here in Madison, Wisconsin, USA has developed a strong, but small community feeling here. We a celebrating this week as we became officially members of Urban Sketchers. We have become our regional chapter, changed our name from “Draw Madison” to “Urban Sketchers Madison” . This week I have been so struck with the many messages in my inbox each day that unites our groups around the world. I understand now the full depth of that community feeling as I read various tributes to Flaf. It is like the Urban Sketchers are “family”. Sending love and prayers for Flaf’s partner and family.

  • Steve Moore says:

    Deeply sorry to hear the news. I have followed Flaf on flicker and love his drawings; I have “favoreted” his and was deeply humbled when “favoreted” any of my drawings. I never met him but I feel like I lost a friend.

  • Cathy Dwyer says:

    Hi Liz. How unbelievably sad! I have only known Flaf through his work on Flickr and Urban Sketchers. I’ve been a huge fan of his beautiful art and my heart goes out to all his loved ones and friends. The sketching community has lost a wonderful man.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    A lovely tribute post, Liz.

    – Tina

  • Dominic On says:

    I can’t believe it. I have followed his work on Flickr for years and marvelled at his fantastically accurate perspectives. To me, his sketches are a standard to hold myself against. I always wanted to meet him some day, and now that will never happen.

  • Luis Ruiz says:

    Dear Liz, this is a very touching post. It is hard to believe that just a week ago we were talking with him here in Malaga. Your words and photos of him made me smile bittersweetly, and made me remember the old days of flickr when we all exchanged comments without knowing each other in person, and the crossed influences among our respective works. I also discovered USk through GĂ©rard’s and Flaf’s work… I’m sure Florian’s legacy will remain within the Urban Sketchers community and further on. And as you said, he was not only a talented man but also an excellent person. Thank you.

  • Thanks for this beautiful tribute Liz – that trip to Lisbon really woke me up to the connection of spirits that Urban Sketchers makes possible. I feel grateful to have met Florian there, and hoped to do so again someday. Heartfelt condolences to Tina and his family.

  • Serena Lewis says:

    A beautiful tribute post, Liz. His tragic passing will be a great loss to the sketching community. ????

  • Nice tribute to Florian, Liz. I was lucky enough to meet him while sketching with the NYC Urban Sketchers. He was a talented man and an all-round nice guy. He will be missed!

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