Learning to Draw

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.


An Introduction to Architecture

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.

My First Journal

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.”

The Art of Urban Sketching

Monday evening, Gabi Campanario gave a talk at the University Bookstore about the history of Urban Sketchers and the publication of his new book, The Art of Urban Sketching, which was followed by a book signing. The book is a richly illustrated and inspiring compilation of the work of urban sketchers from over 50 cities around the world. Included are a lot of useful tips for drawing on location. Highly recommended.