Beginning a Drawing

A question often asked is how to begin a drawing on location. Once we have selected a point of view and mentally composed the picture, one way to begin is to select a vertical plane in the scene, which can be the facade of a building or a wall of an interior space, and drawing this plane before delineating the horizon line—our eye level—relative to that plane.

It is important to properly size and locate this vertical plane relative to the page or sheet of paper to ensure that the entirety of the intended image will fit. If the initial plane is drawn too large, we may have to crop some of the intended image or worse, we might be tempted to alter the proportions of the scene to fit the page. Also, if the vertical plane is placed too far to the left or right, or too high or low on the page, the resulting composition may be distorted.

The initial vertical plane need not be a physical one. It can also be a virtual one, such as the cross section of a church nave or the width of a street.

More to come…

Drawing Composition

Once we have decided on the subject matter for a sketch and established a particular point of view, we turn our attention to framing and composing the view on the page. A useful guide about which I had posted five years ago is the rule of thirds. Many photographers are familiar with this strategy of divided the image field into nine equal parts with two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and placing points of interest at any of the points of intersection or laying out important compositional elements along any of the horizontal or vertical lines.

Overlaying this grid of thirds onto the above drawing shows how the plane of the porta is placed at the upper left intersection and is balanced by the element on the right.

Here are two drawings, both of which use a horizontal line as the basis for the composition. One is along the lower third to emphasize the view upward while the other is on the upper third to show the foreground and convey a greater distance between the viewer and what is viewed.

In this drawing, both a horizontal and a vertical grid line serve to organize the urban scene.

Of course, the rule of thirds is not a precise method for placing compositional elements. Rather, the general idea is to place important points of interest off-center to create greater visual tension and more dynamic compositions.

And sometimes, the scene requires accommodating multiple centers of interest that draw the eye into and around a drawing.

Points of View

Once we have decided on the subject for a sketch—a scene, a building, or a fragment of a building—the next step is an important one in which we search for a vantage point from which to view and capture the subject. In so doing, we are in effect organizing the visual elements and focus of the drawing composition. Moving one way or another alters our viewpoint and thus the way the compositional elements relate to each other on the page.

And so, deciding where to stand or sit should be more than a matter of convenience or comfort. Rather, it should be determined by the composition a particular viewpoint offers. To illustrate, here are three different views of the main reading room of Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus, a beautiful example of Collegiate Gothic architecture.

Trinity Church

Being in Boston for a drawing workshop—sponsored by Suffolk University and hosted by Sandro Carella—gave me the opportunity to take another look at Trinity Church. A National Historic Landmark, the H. H. Richardson design is recognized as a masterpiece of American architecture. Although the parish was founded in 1733, it was more than 150 years before the current church was built on land-filled marshes in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

Richardson replaced his initial idea of a Gothic Revival church with a Greek-cross auditorium plan that expresses the emerging, inclusive nature of American congregational practice, as inspired by the preaching of Phillips Brooks, Trinity’s Rector at the time of the building’s design and construction.

Despite its landmark status, Trinity Church is not a museum but rather it remains a place of worship and service where Christians and visitors gather on a daily basis.

Here is a video clip of the drawing process.

Majestic Bay Theatre

Back home in Seattle. Elltaes (Seattle spelled backward) Theatres LLC purchased the shuttered Bay Cinema property in 1998. While the original intention was simply to remodel the old wooden structure dating from the early 1900s, chairman Kenny Alhadeff wanted a more modern theater and so Weinstein A+U designed this new building, which was completed in 2002. The theater comprises a main auditorium on the ground floor and two smaller theaters on the third floor.

The most striking feature of the Bay is its marquee, below which sits the classic box office. The neon BAY letters from the old marquee were refurbished and is visible in the glass facade behind the marquee.

Here is a video clip of the process.

Mysore

From Bengaluru, we drove to Mysore, where I met with faculty and students at the Wadiyar Centre for Architecture and toured Mysore Palace. The above is a 25-minute sketch of Mysore Palace I managed to do before leaving on the 5-hour drive to Calicut. 

The residence of the Wadiyar Dynasty, the first palace dates from the 14th century and was built within the confines of the puragiri or citadel of Mysore. Over the centuries, the palace was rebuilt several times. The existing Indo-Saracenic structure, designed by the British architect Lord Henry Irwin, was constructed between 1897 and 1912, after the previous structure was extensively damaged during a fire in 1896.

Below is the entrance to the Royal Orchid Metropole where I had spent the night. This was originally built to serve as a residence for British guests of the Maharaja of Mysore.

Greenfire Campus

Adjacent to Ballard Branch Library No. 3 is the Greenfire Campus, a two-building complex comprising apartments, offices, and a restaurant. Johnston Architects designed the campus with two ideas in mind: “sensible sustainability and social sustainability.” The first refers to the goal of balancing cost and performance while employing active and passive methods for heating, cooling, and daylighting; saving and filtering water for reuse; and wrapping interior spaces with an energy-efficient envelope.

The second idea explores the means to enhance the interaction between human activities and the natural environment can, including building in the sharing of amenities and providing for areas devoted to urban agriculture.

Here is a brief video clip of my drawing process.

Ballard Branch Library No. 3

This is Ballard Branch Library No. 3, at the corner of NW 57th Street and 22nd Avenue NW. The library was designed by Bohlen, Cywinski, Jackson to incorporate community meeting rooms as well as a neighborhood center providing services for veterans and employment assistance. Construction on the library began in February 2004 and it was opened to the public in May 2005.

This building replaced the now demolished Ballard Branch Library No. 2, which itself replaced the 1904 Carnegie Free Library in Ballard, which I drew six years ago.

International Left Handers Day

To mark International Left Handers Day, which celebrates the “uniqueness and differences” of left handers in a predominantly right-handed world, here is a sequence of six drawings showing how I constructed the interior view of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral I posted a couple of weeks ago. I first established a corner where two adjoining planes meet, and transformed these planes into a volume with the addition of four columns. Then, over this 3D framework, I developed the details on the columns, pews, windows, ceiling patterns, light fixtures, and sanctuary.