Last Sunday, I attended a book signing by Gabi Campanario at Elliott Bay Books in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. In addition to The Art of Urban Sketching, the event featured two more of Gabi’s recent publications. The first is Seattle Sketcher, based on Gabi’s exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry highlighting his five years of work documenting the people, places, and events in the Pacific Northwest for the Seattle Times. The second is the first in a series of more focused urban sketching handbooks, Architecture and Cityscapes: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location. Both are highly recommended.
Much of my attention recently has been attuned to preparing the fourth edition of Architecture: Form, Space & Order. Working on this revision is giving me the opportunity to explore and attempt to understand the spate of irregular forms and compositions that dominate our consciousness.
Beginning a project is always enjoyable; thinking about all of the possible directions a work can take can be liberating. But beginnings can also be difficult when innumerable false starts interrupt the work flow and inhibit a sense of progress. I have come to realize, however, that these friction points are a necessary part of the creative process for they compel us to slow down, to pause, and to think ahead rather than simply charge forward into uncharted territory. One way I occupy these uncertain spaces is by roughing out ideas with a pen on paper and teasing out possibilities with a certain tactile rhythm. Here are a few examples.
The process of handlettering and drawing camera-ready pages for my books continued throughout the 1980s. But in the early 1990s, armed with an Apple Macintosh SE, a laser printer, and digital typography, I made my first foray into using digital technology as I prepared A Visual Dictionary of Architecture.
After assembling and organizing the terms and definitions into sets, I laid the material out on oversized sheets in Aldus Pagemaker. It was fortuitous that Adobe had just recently scanned my handlettering and created the digital font, Tekton, which I used for the dictionary terms and definitions. After printing the pages out, I laid tracing paper over each page and roughed out the size and position of each illustration to fit. I would then work back and forth, adjusting the placement of text in Pagemaker as necessary to accommodate the illustrations before doing the final drawings by hand on Clearprint vellum. After having the drawings scanned, I placed the .tiff files into the Pagemaker files.
In 2000, I began working with Steve Winkel on the first edition of Building Codes Illustrated. Knowing that the International Building Code, on which the text was based, was going to be updated every three years, I decided to do all of the drawings in Adobe Illustrator, learning the program on the fly.
I use Illustrator basically as a drafting tool to create the visual ideas I have in mind. The many benefits of vector graphics include: using the Save As capability to try out different options; having precise control over line weights and tonal values; being able to resize drawings easily to fit a page layout; and reusing elements that I had already drawn. Most importantly, when working on a revision, instead of having to completely redo a hand drawing, I can open an existing drawing file and make the necessary changes to create the updated version.
Because I am using digital tools more and more in my bookmaking, I cherish even more the opportunities to draw by hand when out on location. Even as I experiment with drawing on my iPad, the connection between eye, mind, and hand when I draw with a fountain pen in a sketchbook remains a pleasure.
Following up on a previous post about the making of Green Building Illustrated, here is a brief history of my publications.
My first book, Architectural Graphics, was published 38 years ago, in 1975. Due to the efforts of Forrest Wilson, Van Nostrand Reinhold offered me a contract based on of over 400 pages of notes I had prepared for the very first class I taught at Ohio University. I still remember condensing those notes and handlettering and drawing the final camera-ready pages with a Scripto lead pencil, a triangle, and a scale. I completed all 128 pages in a little over three weeks. Here is a sample page.
Building Construction Illustrated soon followed, using the same tools and process. But this time I worked on tabloid-size paper instead of letter-size bond paper. Interestingly, after a few years of complaints from bookstores, the pages were reduced to letter-size.
Wanting to use more subtle hatching and shades of gray, I used a 0.3 mm lead pencil to handletter and draw the images on Clearprint vellum for the camera-ready pages of my third book—Architecture: Form, Space and Order. Here are a couple of screen shots for a visual comparison.
My next post will describe the first time I used digital technology in my bookmaking.
I’ve been busy this summer developing a new textbook, Green Building Illustrated, which attempts to explain the theory, practices, and complexities of sustainable design. Working with excellent material written by engineer and researcher Ian M. Shapiro, my focus is on presenting the ideas and information in graphic form, as I have done with my previous Illustrated texts. Here is a few drafts of page spreads that I hope will whet your appetite.
I’m laying out the book in Adobe InDesign and producing the drawings in Adobe Illustrator. Even before I begin work in Illustrator, however, I usually have a pretty good idea in mind of the image I want to produce and sometimes use freehand sketches to review and refine the possibilities I will be exploring.
In a future post, I will explain the reasons for my use of digital media to produce the drawings.
[Note: I’m reposting this from my Facebook page from January 2011.] As I was going through my old files last year, I rediscovered this portrait of Forrest Wilson that I did for his 70th birthday. I owe Forrest more than I can ever repay for what he has done for me and my family. As Director of the School of Architecture at Ohio University, he offered me my first teaching position and was also responsible for my entry into the publishing business when he showed my drawing course notes to Van Nostrand Reinhold, his publisher in New York. The notes were subsequently published as Architectural Graphics in 1975. Forrest is warm and generous—an artist, sculptor, writer, and builder who has written and illustrated many delightful and insightful books, such as What It Feels Like to be a Building; The Joy of Building; Structure: The Essence of Architecture; A History of Architecture on the Disparative Method: With Apologies to Sir Banister Fletcher (all eighteen editions). I titled the portrait: You Are What You Draw. If you look closely at the drawing, it incorporates the animal and human figures that Forrest used to illustrate his books.
In thinking about how to teach drawing more effectively and how others might better learn how to draw, I find that books are a useful companion to which one can refer early and often. There is something comforting about seeing and feeling physical drawings on a page. When a book is well written and illustrated, one can almost hear the voice of the author. But the thing that books lack is the guiding eyes and hand of a live instructor when looking out upon a scene and trying to understand how to capture whatever it is that interests us. For this, one must take classes that deliver hands-on instruction.
To help fill this gap between the printed book and hands-on instruction, I’ve been working with Nan-Ching Tai on an ebook on architectural sketching. The idea is to develop 40 or 50 focused lessons or modules that can be viewed in any order. While the text is still rough, I’ve been mocking up drafts using the Keynote presentation program, focusing on the content that consists of a combination of photographic analyses, examples of my own sketches, as well as Quicktime movies of sketches that I’ve done using the Brushes app on my iPad. Here is one such module. There’s more work to be done refining the modules, clarifying the text and captions, and adding more videos, but it’s been a fun project thus far.
Have not been able to post this past week since I’ve been busy working on a new book project, a general introduction to architecture distilled from a number of my previous publications: Architecture: Form, Space and Order, Architectural Graphics, Building Construction Illustrated, A Global History of Architecture, A Visual Dictionary of Architecture, and Interior Design Illustrated. My co-author, James Eckler, is helping me compile an abbreviated but coherent collection of material that would introduce students to the art, science, and discipline of architecture. Still a lot more work to do but here is a sample two-page spread from the chapter on elements and systems that inform architectural design.
Before I began using a computer in the early 1990’s to design and layout my books—before Aldus Pagemaker, QuarkXPress, and Adobe InDesign—I produced camera-ready pages by hand using white bond paper, a Scripto pencil with 1.1 mm leads, and a couple of drafting triangles. Later, I switched to Clearprint paper and 0.3 and 0.5 mm lead pencils but the hand-lettering and hand-drawing process remained essentially the same.
For me, the way a book is laid out and organized is an essential part of the message and so I often storyboarded my ideas before developing the final pages. Here is a sample storyboard for Drawing: A Creative Process. Even though the content and layout often changed as ideas were refined with lots of yellow trace overlays, storyboarding was an essential step in the book design process.
The beginning phase is always the most exciting time for a book project, involving floating a lot of ideas and experiencing false starts as well as a lot of trials and numerous errors, but once the basic structure of a book’s organization is established in outline form, the real and time-consuming work of production begins. And for that, I am happy to be able to use Adobe InDesign and the Tekton font.
While I encourage design students to develop the habit of maintaining a visual journal while they are in school, the first real journal I kept was while I was a visiting faculty at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1992. During the month-long stay, I set myself the goal of doing a sketch a day. The result of this effort was the publication of Sketches from Japan in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons.
Since the book is now out-of-print, I am posting the first page in the sketchbook, for which I wrote the following caption:
“This is one of the main streets of O-okayama, a few blocks from the International House where visiting faculty stay while at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Drawing this established the process for the remaining drawings in this sketchbook, starting with a significant contour or shape, sized and positioned relative to the dimensions of the page, and then filling in this frame with the contours of the smaller shapes and details. This deliberate, methodical way of working enabled me to pay attention to the pattern of the whole as well as the multitude of details I saw and experienced.”