A Lesson Learned

Last Wednesday, I departed Seattle for Chennai, India, for a presentation and two days of drawing workshops. Upon arriving in Chennai, to my chagrin, I was denied entry due to an expired visa. Clearly a mistake had been made by the processing agency that had handled my visa application, but just as clearly, I had made a critical error in not checking the visa upon receipt. The immigration authority officially declared me to be a deportee and booked me on a flight back to Seattle.

By the numbers:

  • 20 hours travel time from Seattle to Dubai to Chennai.
  • 5 hours of frustration, anger, and embarrassment waiting in the Chennai airport, hoping that I might be able to enter the country.
  • 12 hours detained in a locked room in the Chennai airport.
  • 2 hours waiting for departure from Chennai.
  • 28 hours travel time from Chennai to Dubai to Seattle.
  • 67 hours total from the moment my flight left Seattle on Wednesday to the return flight landed on Saturday. During this time, I was either on a plane or in the Dubai and Chennai airports.

I must apologize to all those who were inconvenienced by my failure to check the dates on my visa before departing Seattle—my host, the AARDE foundation; the architects who were planning to attend my talk; and especially the students who had made the effort to travel to Chennai to attend my workshops.

During all of this, I was not in a mood to sketch. However, I did document the events as they occurred and managed a quick sketch of the Chennai departure terminal where I awaited deportation from India. One doesn’t appreciate the freedom of movement we enjoy until it is taken away, even if only for 12 hours being detained in a locked room in the Chennai airport.

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I am not giving up. I plan to return to Chennai soon to fulfill my obligations. This is assuming, of course, that the immigration authority there allows me to enter India after my last failed attempt.

Main Street Dallas

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During a brief visit to Dallas recently, I woke up early one morning and sketched this view of the city’s Main Street. To capture the feeling of a city in transition, this panorama takes in the high-rises of a typical downtown, including the Bank One Center by Philip Johnson and John Burgee (now the Comerica Bank Tower) on the right; one of the many older structures being torn down to make way for new projects in the middle; and the Laumeier Sculpture Park featuring the Eye, a 38-foot diameter sculpture by Tony Tasset. What surprised me was how roughly the sketch developed until I realized that the ink in my pen was not flowing as freely as it normally does because of the 43° weather.

Casa das Canoas

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While in Rio de Janeiro a month ago, we had the opportunity to visit Casa das Canoas, the first residence designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1952. It is a true gem, nestled in a beautiful hillside setting and displaying the characteristic flowing lines of Niemeyer’s architecture. Thanks to Caique Niemeyer, Oscar’s grandson, for allowing us the privilege of touring this fine example of modern architecture.

After doing a few sketches of the exterior and interior of the deceptively simple structure, I attempted to draw a plan to try to understand the two-dimensional origin of what I saw in three dimensions.

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To verify my plan, I perused several books on the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer but none contained a plan of this house. Upon returning to Seattle, I did an internet search and found this plan drawn by Jeff Hottinger, which is included next to the plan I drew.

In this age of digital 3D modeling where much design thinking and decision-making is made from a perspective viewpoint, it is still a useful mental exercise to try to imagine the orthographic relationships that plans and sections reveal and which perspective views do not. As designers, we should be able to think two-dimensionally as well as three-dimensionally.

DCA Conference 2014

Here are a few sketches I did when attending another stimulating Design Communication Association conference held at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia. The first are views from Marietta town square; the second is of SPSU’s architecture building; and the third was done during a tour of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, showing Richard Meier’s building but not Renzo Piano’s addition that creates a piazza beyond.

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Drawing Quickly

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Often when traveling with a small group, we don’t have an hour or more to do a drawing. So if we want to capture a scene, we have to be able to draw quickly. My strategy is to first establish the structure of the overall composition and then, depending on the amount of time available, add whatever details I can to try to capture the spirit of a place. While drawing these very quick 10- to 20-minute sketches in Rio de Janeiro, I was accompanied by my friend and fellow urban sketcher Norberto Dorantes of Buenos Aires, who is a master of flowing lines.

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Many thanks to Glaucia Augusto Fonseca for being such a gracious and generous host during our short visit to Rio de Janeiro. The setting for the city is truly stunning.

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Baia de Paraty

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The morning before the symposium in Paraty started, a group of urban sketchers took a boat tour of the Baia de Paraty. Many thanks to Marilia Inke, who graciously arranged the pleasant outing on short notice. Even though it was a slightly overcast day, it was enjoyable to see the beautiful coast line around Paraty from another perspective. Perhaps what was most striking to me were the way the mountains formed a backdrop for the numerous islands seeming to float in the bay.

Igreja de N. Sra. do Rosário e São Benedito

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Arriving in Paraty a day before the 5th Urban Sketching Symposium started gave me a chance to walk around the town and do some drawing. This church attracted me because of its situation at the end of a street, where it commanded the intersection. To the left is the tourist information office and to the right is a self-serve gelato shop. Between the tourist information office and the church, you get a peek at the entrance to the Pousada do Sandi, where we were staying.

Urban Sketching Symposium Paraty

imageA view of Capela de N. Sra. das Dores in Paraty, Brazil, during the 2014 Urban Sketching Symposium. This will be one of the many sketches that will be sold tomorrow evening in a silent auction to benefit the Urban Aketchers organization. I’ve completed two workshops and have a third scheduled tomorrow morning. Great participants, enthusiastic and appreciative in a beautiful colonial village on the Bay of Paraty.

World Trade Center

I flew to NYC for a presentation Monday evening by Ian Shapiro, co-author of Green Building Illustrated, which was recently published by Wiley. Sponsored by the Urban Green Council, the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the author talk was held in the beautiful Trespa Design Centre in SOHO.

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Driving across the Manhattan Bridge from JFK with Ian that Monday morning, I confronted this distant view of the new WTC. Fortunately, I had some time to go back and capture that urban scene at the corner of Bowery and Canal Street.

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After meetings at Wiley the following day, I had some free time to walk around the WTC site, where I found this view of the WTC from the grounds of St. Paul’s Chapel.

St. Augustine

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Here are two sketches done during our recent trip south to St. Augustine, Florida. The first is of Flagler College, formerly the Hotel Ponce de Leon, which was designed by John Carrere and Thomas Hastings and built by Henry Flagler in the late 1880s. The original hotel was the first in Florida to be supplied with electricity and contains beautiful Tiffany windows. The view was drawn from the front arcaded walkway that helps define the entrance courtyard.

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This is the Plaza de Constitucion in St. Augustine, Florida, which was established by Spanish Royal Ordinances in 1573. After I began with the contours of the tree in the foreground, the drawing seemed to take on a life of its own, moving left toward the gazebo, and then to the right and ending with the 18th-century Cathedral Basilica in the background. It ended up as a two-dimensional graphic that relies more on overlap than linear perspective for depth.