The above image and following quote is from Drawing: A Creative Process.
“Merely looking at an apparently amorphous pattern can sometimes bring to a…searching mind a more specific image. In its search for meaning, the mind’s eye imagines and appears to project familiar images onto seemingly shapeless patterns until it finds a match that makes sense.” This recalls the familiar search for something recognizable when looking up at cloud formations.
The new year’s image I posted recently used as a backdrop this pattern that developed as I mixed and tested watercolors on a piece of paper. While squinting at that same colorful pattern, I can begin to “see” certain images. The following are two of several possibilities. What else can you see in these patterns?
Another pandemic-induced hybrid sketch, this time of the Five Rathas site at Mahabalipuram, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Tamil Nadu state, India. The complex, built in the 7th century during the reign of King Narasimhavarman I, comprises fine examples of Indian rock-cut architecture. Each ratha (chariot) is carved from a single granite monolith. The above view shows the Bhima Ratha on the right, the Nakula Sahadeva Ratha back and toward the left, with a full-size elephant sculpture in between.
This is another view drawn on site during my visit to Chennai in 2015. The Five Rathas was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
This view shows State Highway 20 approaching from the southwest and turning southeast through the middle of Winthrop, a small town at the confluence of the Methow and Chewuch rivers in the Methow Valley. While the town’s first postmaster, Guy Waring, is considered to be its founding father, the town is actually named after Theodore Winthrop, a 19th-century author who explored the Northwest in the 1850s.
What is striking about Winthrop’s main street is the Old West theme of the storefronts, the result of a westernization program that began in 1972 as Highway 20 through the North Cascades was nearing completion. Designed by architect Robert Jorgenson to promote tourism, the restoration was funded by local merchants along with a generous grant from lumber mill owners Kathryn and Otto Wagner.
In 2008, Yapı-Endüstri Merkezi (YEM) gave me the opportunity to offer a drawing workshop for Turkish students in Istanbul. After the two-day event, Dr. Meral Erdoǧan and Dr. Fulya Ozsel Akipek of Yildiz Technical University invited me to tour the Florya Atatürk Marine Mansion, summer residence of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founding father of the Republic of Turkey. Located along the shore of the Sea of Marmara, the Bauhaus style structure was designed by architect Seyfi Arkan and built in 1935. These quick sketches reflect a study of the design’s zoning and orientation to both shore and sea.
Continuing my series of drawings of Seattle Public Branch Libraries, this is the Magnolia Branch, designed by Paul Hayden Kirk of Kirk, Wallace, McKinley and Associates. Opening in 1964, it is located just outside the Magnolia Village business district. The American Library Association granted its Award of Excellence to the open timber structure, which incorporated an old madrona tree that grew on the site.
The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board declared the Magnolia Branch a landmark building in 2001, after which the library and community developed plans to upgrade the existing structure while preserving its original design. SHKS Architects and the structural engineering firm of Swenson Say Fagét designed the 1400-square-foot addition, which housed a new meeting room and incorporated a new roof, upgraded mechanical systems, improved computer technology, and energy-efficient windows. The branch reopened on July 12, 2008.
In 2009, the library project’s team was given the Stewardship of Public Buildings award for “creating a model preservation project that incorporated both the restoration of a mid-century resource and the construction of a sensitive new addition that will allow the building to function as a library for years to come. In 2011, the expansion and renovation received further recognition with an honor award from the Washington Council of the AIA.
This view of El Camino, a Fremont neighborhood eatery, illustrates how Seattle, like many other cities, is allowing restaurants to temporarily expand their outdoor seating into public sidewalks and street parking spaces. This move to help restaurants survive during the COVID-19 pandemic is often augmented by streamlining the permitting process and waiving fees. There is some sentiment to try to preserve these new neighborhood streetscapes even after the pandemic is over.
Above, the Lenin statue in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is seen from behind to reveal its placement on the edge of a triangular open space. Below it, a close-up view focuses on the statue itself, devoid of context. These sketches illustrate how, once a subject has been chosen, selecting a vantage point from which to view the subject influences the final outcome.
At times, it may be convenient, and more comfortable, to pick out a shady place to sit or stand. Other times, certain aspects of the subject might determine the desired angle of view.
One may prefer a close-up, or to include more context, moving further back for a broader view. To focus on the symmetry of a space, we might position ourselves for a straight-on view, or to emphasize the three-dimensionality of the subject, we might select an oblique view
It usually time well spent to walk around a subject to select the best vantage point before touching pen or pencil to paper.
I remember a time when radios had an analog dial for tuning. To tune to a certain station, we had to turn a knob to align a moving hand with the desired frequency on a linear or circular dial. We had to rotate the knob back and forth and listen as the signal would get louder the closer we got to the desired station’s frequency, then get softer as we went past that point, and then back again to when the signal was loudest. The goal was to hone in gradually on that sweet spot where the signal was clearest and strongest.
Today, of course, with digital tuners, we simply have to scan and look at digital readouts. If a station has a frequency of 98.1, you merely dial that number in. Boom. Done.
I think of this comparison of analog dials and digital tuners as a way of contrasting the precision of digital vector graphics with the suggestive power of a hand drawing, which requires a tactile feel along with a lot of judgment about how what we draw matches up with what we actually see. if you look closely at the drawing of the Seattle Central Library above, you will see the multiple attempts I made to get the proportions of the Rem Koolhaas/OMA-designed building right. Each attempt was a turn of the virtual tuning knob until I reached the desired frequency.
I accidentally deleted an email sent to me, I believe, from Augsburg. The sender was inquiring about a spherical perspective similar to the one shown above that I drew of Athens, Ohio, in 1976. The daughter, an art student, might be following this blog, and if so, I hope she will ask the sender to resend the email l so that I can respond properly. Thank you!
Traveled recently to Duluth, Minnesota, for the 32nd Lake Superior Design Retreat, sponsored by AIA Minnesota. Enjoyed hearing from a great slate of speakers who were not architects but rather designers in other realms, such as a restaurateur, blacksmith, game designer, and digital fabricator. During a break on the first day there, I wandered outside the Fitger’s Inn, where the retreat was being held, to sketch this view. It was really cold! While the air temperature was 25°, the “real feel” was 11°, but I managed to last about 20 minutes before heading back inside to the warmth of the Barrel Room, seen below.