On the way home last week after viewing the Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, I noticed that the low-rise portion of Rainier Square had been demolished, exposing the iconic Rainier Tower to view on all sides. I immediately made a mental note to draw that scene. A few days later, a post by Andika Murandi on the Seattle Urban Sketchers blog reminded me to head downtown to draw Rainier Tower amid the demolition work that is making way for a new 58-story mixed-use highrise. It will be interesting to see how the old and new towers coexist on the same block.
Designed by Minoru Yamasaki in association with NBBJ and the structural engineering firm of Magnusson Klemencic, Rainier Tower is unique for its 11-story high pedestal base that tapers downward, like an inverted pyramid with curving sides. When I first saw Rainier Tower after moving to Seattle in 1980, I remember wondering how the structure could resist toppling over during an earthquake.
One sidenote: I drew this scene with a rollerball pen, which made me miss how sensitive the nib of a fountain pen is to the slightest applications of pressure.
This is the 2nd Avenue elevator lobby of the Exchange Building, which is situated on Marion Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in downtown Seattle. John Graham and Associates designed the Art Deco building to house grain, ore, bond, and stock exchanges but the stock market crash of 1929 forced the conversion of its upper floors to offices. Reflecting the building’s original intentions, this lobby incorporates such motifs as sheafs of wheat and bunches of grapes into the Art Deco interior. The exterior of the Exchange Building and both the 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue lobbies were granted landmark status in 1990 by the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board.
Like sketching, composing each page of a journal or sketchbook is an extemporaneous act. We may have a plan for how to organize the drawings and notes on a page before we begin, but we should also be open to altering the plan as each element is executed.
For example, we may find that having executed a drawing, its size, shape and proportions may differ, as so often happens, from what we originally intended. By carefully considering the visual shape and weight of the drawing, we can re-balance the page or give it a more dynamic quality with the placement of the next graphic element, whether that element is graphic or verbal in nature. With the addition of further graphic elements, we continue to encounter this opportunity to re-compose the page.
I’m working again with Steve Winkel of the Preview Group, preparing the sixth edition of Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code. When I first began working with Steve in 2000 on the first edition of BCI, I had decided to use Adobe Illustrator to prepare all of the illustrations since I knew that the International Building Code was going to be updated every three years and that many of the graphics would have to be revised on a regular basis.
As I originally posted back in 2013: “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.”
Here are a few examples.
More examples of how changes in media affect not how one sees, but rather how one captures what is seen—the pace of the line, the level and precision of detail, and the voids that speak to the eye.
On Saturday, November 11, 2017, Seattle Urban Sketchers met at King Street Station to help mark the 10th anniversary of USk. USk chapters around the world, beginning in New Zealand and ending in Honolulu, participated in this Global 24-Hour Sketchwalk.
Completed in 1906 to serve both the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways, King Street Station now serves Amtrak and the Sound Transit Sounder commuter trains. The Minnesota firm of Reed and Stem designed the station, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register in 1973. The tower featured in this sketch, with its height slightly exaggerated, was modeled after the Campanile in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
I had been mulling the building of a wood storage shelter for a while. At first, I would occasionally visualize the basic structure in my head and imagine how it could be assembled and what types of connections were needed. Thinking in this way, I could picture the structure both as a whole as well as up close to look at details and revise it over time.
As the time to actually build approached, it was time to put the ideas down on paper to verify my preliminary thoughts. Thinking on a sheet of grid paper with a simple pencil, I resorted to a convention that is now somewhat outmoded but still useful to work out spatial relationships in three dimensions—multiview drawings. I moved back and forth between related plan, section, and elevation views to resolve and lay out the sizes, lengths, and spacings of the wood members.
The intent of these simple sketches was not to produce a finished set of working drawings but rather to figure out the basic set of relationships that could guide construction and also to produce a basic bill of materials.
The Seattle Tower is a 27-story high-rise located at 1218 Third Avenue. Originally known as the Northern Life Tower when it was completed in 1929, the Art-Deco building was designed by Abraham H. Albertson in association with Joseph W. Wilson and Paul D. Richardson. Although not as tall as the Smith Tower, it rose one floor above “the tallest building west of the Mississippi” because it is situated at a higher elevation. A subtle design feature are the 33 shades of brick that progressively lighten as the structure rises from its base on Third Avenue.
The Seattle Tower is now dwarfed by newer, taller skyscrapers but it retains its elegant and distinctive Art-Deco roots. It is City of Seattle Landmark number 137 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
This last view if of the main elevator lobby, looking toward the entrance doors.
The Seattle Urban Sketchers group met at the Lenin stature in the Fremont neighborhood this past Sunday morning. Despite the, for Seattle, hot sun and extremely warm temperature, I managed to find a shady spot from which to draw this view along the alley between North 35th and North 36th Streets.
Alleys are interesting places. In addition to serving as conduits for goods and services, they provide more intimate views of the back sides of buildings and other structures, which we mostly see from their more public fronts.
If you look closely, you will notice the stray lines that indicate my several attempts to get the building forms in proper proportion, relative to the width of the view. It’s important to realize that it is extremely difficult to execute a drawing without any of these stray lines unless one draws first in pencil before inking over and erasing the pencil lines. I prefer using only ink and letting the process of building a drawing show through.
The Médina of Fès is one of the largest car-free urban zones in the world and through its pathways people and goods flow like the blood coursing through our arteries and veins. Because of their narrowness, it seems awkward to call these pathways “streets” although that is how they function. In addition to serving as paths for people and conduits for goods carried by handcart or donkey, these “streets” serve as informal social spaces and as extensions of small commercial establishments.
There are generally three scales, ranging from main streets as seen in the first image above, to side streets, and finally to back streets as narrow as a meter wide as seen in the images below.