Chapel of St. Ignatius

This past week, I joined Seattle Urban Sketchers Gail Wong and Stephanie Bower, along with Ch’ng Kiah Kiean visiting from Malaysia, to sketch the Chapel of St. Ignatius on the Seattle University campus. The tiny chapel, designed by Steven Holl Architects in association with Olson Sundberg Architects, was completed in 1997 as the spiritual center of the campus.

After I quick exterior view, I moved inside to do a couple of line drawings, which are not quite capable of capturing the way daylighting is reflected off of the various textured and curved interior surfaces. The last drawing I did used hatching to try to capture the tonal values of the space. This chapel interior is an example of where a watercolor sketch might better suit the subject matter.

An Alley View

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.

Notebook Elements

In addition to the imagery of drawings and sketches, the pages of our journals can also include other elements that contribute to the making of memories. We can paste clippings and memorabilia onto the pages; we can draw maps of our journeys through towns and across the countryside; and we can write down notes to supplement the images we draw. And adding these elements to the page is a balancing act in composition.

Notebook Pages

Notebooks, sketchbooks, journals… whatever one chooses to call these bound collections of pages, they all provide a physical sense of permanence and chronology and, in use, they become a repository of images and writings capable of reminding us of where we have been, what we have seen, and what we have experienced. But even as we acknowledge the pleasure of perusing these collections, we should also appreciate the process by which they are made. No single page in a journal is precious; not all pages must be perfect. In the act of making visible our experiences, reflections, and discoveries, we become more sensitive to and connected with our surroundings, expand our visual memories, and stimulate our imagination.

Stimson-Green Mansion Revisited

Back in February of 2012, the Seattle Urban Sketchers group met at the Stimson-Green Mansion for its monthly sketching session. Designed by Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter and completed in 1901 for Seattle industrialist C. D. Stimson and his wife Harriet Stimson, the mansion was subsequently purchased by Joshua Green in 1915—hence the name Stimson-Green. When Green died in 1975, the Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority purchased the property. After working on its restoration, Historic Seattle sold the property in December 1977 to Priscilla Collins, granddaughter of C. D. and Harriet Stimson, with an easement protecting the main house, carriage house, and grounds from demolition, alteration, or remodeling. In 2001 Collins donated the mansion to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which provides continued stewardship.

This past Sunday, the Seattle Urban Sketchers were able to return to the Stimson-Green Mansion, thanks to Julianne of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. After walking through the various rooms on all three floors, I decided to redraw the same view I had done four years ago—looking out from under a Romanesque style arch at the central hall. The space ascends the main stairway to the upper two floors and extends back to a warm, sunny dining room on axis with the front entry foyer.

StimsonGreen2

In comparing the two drawings, one can see how the absorbency of the paper surface matters a lot when drawing with a fountain pen. In the earlier drawing, directly above, the ink lines tended to bleed and so I was discouraged from drawing too finely. In the second drawing, shown first, the paper coating allowed for finer lines and suggestions of details.

Ballard Mini-Pod

BallardMiniPod

I’m continuing to experiment using the Apple Pencil with the Procreate app on my iPad Pro. Here is a view of the Ballard Mini-Pod, a triangular site at 17th Avenue NW and NW 54th Street comprising Garden Sushi, Tripod Coffee, and a rotating series of mobile food trucks. Another realization I came to in doing this sketch is the tiny but perceptible separation I felt between the tip of the stylus and the lines being drawn through the glass. A couple of readers have suggested using a screen protector to better mimic the feel of paper but I’m afraid the extra layer of protection might only increase that sense of separation I feel.

As I mentioned in my last post, I like the ability to export as a movie any drawing or painting created in the Procreate app. Here is a video of the drawing above.

Drawing with the Apple Pencil

When I purchased my first iPad 5 years ago, I was excited to try out various drawing apps designed for the digital tablet. Disappointed with the lag time and feel of the styli available at the time, I resorted to drawing with my finger instead. At first, it was liberating to sketch so loosely but I soon returned to drawing with a fountain pen on real paper. I missed the feel of a metal nib flowing liquid ink onto a paper surface.

Hearing about the new Apple Pencil, I decided to try it out with the Procreate app. Here are a few examples.

I found that while the Apple Pencil had less lag and better “feel” than other styli I have tired, there was no doubt that I was drawing on a glass surface. Also, while the iPad has good palm rejection technology, I still inadvertently touched certain menus and options while drawing in the Procreate app, causing unintentional effects to occur randomly. Even so, realizing that I am not using all of the drawing app’s capabilities, I’m resolved to continue to experiment with the new media.

It’s Been Four Decades…

To mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of my first book, Architectural Graphics, I want to give a brief history of its birth.

In my first teaching job in the School of Architecture at Ohio University, one of my assignments was an architectural graphics course. This was in 1972, a time before personal desktop computers, when the mimeograph machine was being replaced gradually by the photocopier, and letters, memos, and other correspondence were being typed on an IBM Selectric. To prepare for each class, I would hand-letter and hand-draw notes the night before and have the notes photocopied for the students. At the end of the semester, I had compiled over 400 pages of material.

The chair of the department, Forrest Wilson, took the class notes to his publisher in New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, who expressed interest in publishing my class notes. I asked that the price for the book be set at $4.95 and VNR said that would be possible if I were able to edit the material down to 128 pages. After the 1974–75 academic year ended, I was able to produce all 128 camera-ready pages in a three-week period, drawing on plain white bond paper with a Scripto lead pencil, a drafting triangle, and a scale.

I still remember delivering the final, camera-ready pages to VNR’s offices in New York City, and, sitting in a small office with the copyeditor, making corrections to the text on the spot using an eraser and an erasing shield.

Here are a few sample pages from the first edition of Architectural Graphics.

Starting a New Sketchbook

Having filled one sketchbook, I pulled a new one off the shelf to do this drawing. In beginning, I was instantly reminded of how the change from an absorbent surface to one treated with sizing affects the quality of lines from a fountain pen. Where I was used to being more tentative with thicker lines in my last sketchbook, I had to be more insistent with the thinner, lighter lines on the Moleskin paper.

This view is typical of the shipbuilding and related industries fronting the Ship Canal in the area between Fremont and Ballard, which some people are calling Freelard. I decided to begin with the barbed-wire-topped chain link fence and blackberry bushes that separated me on the street from what I was viewing, a ship under construction. The drawing ended up being more of a vignette than I had intended but that is the nature of sketching. Like a conversation, the drawing process can often lead to unexpected results.

Palomino Blackwing

Having been given a Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil recently, I wanted to try it out. First produced in the 1930s by Eberhard Faber, the original Blackwing 602 had a firm feel yet the lead also had a softness similar to that of a 6B pencil. The 602 is said to have been favored by several prize-winning writers, musicians, and artists. The line was discontinued in 1998, but Palomino, a California Cedar Products Company with a long history in the pencil industry, re-introduced the Blackwing 602 in 2011 as well as a slightly softer version, which I used to sketch the Lenin Statue in Fremont.

EPSON MFP image

As we can see, graphite pencils are capable of a variety of lines and tones but lack the incisive quality of ink lines. As a light drizzle began to fall as I drew, I also discovered that graphite pencils are capable of drawing even on slightly damp paper. For comparison, I’m reposting an ink drawing of the same subject, which I had done back in 2011.

LeninSculpture

Pen-and-ink drawings, having only black lines at their disposal, tend to be more abstract and must use hatching, broken lines, and contrast to suggest the gray tones we think we see.