As the spring equinox approaches and the weather gets warmer, time to wander outside and do some urban sketches. The recent completion of the Highway 99 tunnel underneath downtown Seattle has initiated the work of deconstructing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I wanted to get a view of the elevated structure being munched on by the jaws of concrete eating machines but I was disappointed that the biggest machine had only punched through a little of the upper deck at Columbia Street. Hope to return in a couple of days to see more action. In the meantime, the above view is of the south end where a section has been cut through.
Following up on my previous post, here is another pairing of a sketch and video, this time of the iconic view of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. A key difference between drawing with a fountain pen on real paper and sketching with the Apple Pencil on an iPad is the loss of “feel” experienced when drawing on a glass surface. Even though the Apple Pencil is the best stylus that I have used, there is a tiny but still perceptible distance between the tip of the stylus and the screen that results in a loss of tactility.
On this relatively warm, sunny spring day, I bused to the Seattle waterfront to sketch this view with the Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro. But instead of Procreate, my customary drawing app, I used the freehand drawing tool in the Keynote presentation app. I wanted to see how well the animated playback of the drawing would work and how easily I could control the pace of the playback. I discovered the process to be not so simple.
Here is a short video of the result. I haven’t yet discovered how to control the pace of the playback and when first watching the playback, I realized that the sequence did not match how I proceeded in marking out my initial judgments and then filling in the details.
Just south of where NW 36th Street bends and turns into Leary Way NW there is a large construction site. It is difficult to see what is going on there because most of the activity is occurring underground but we do know that two new 500-foot long microtunnels have recently been installed to replace the existing siphon that runs under the Ship Canal between the Fremont and Queen Anne neighborhoods.
The existing siphon is almost 100 years old and at the end of its service life. It’s amazing to realize that the two large cast iron pipes that make up the siphon can carry up to 220 million gallons of sewage and stormwater per day from a 100-square-mile service area covering a large portion of north Seattle and even parts of north King and Snohomish counties. From the Queen Anne side of the siphon, a single large pipe delivers the charge to the West Point Treatment Plant in Discovery Park.
The remaining work now consists of connecting the existing sewer line to the new siphons via a 9-foot diameter pipe and the construction of an odor-control facility.
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.
The process of handlettering and drawing camera-ready pages for my books continued throughout the 1980s. But in the early 1990s, armed with an Apple Macintosh SE, a laser printer, and digital typography, I made my first foray into using digital technology as I prepared A Visual Dictionary of Architecture.
After assembling and organizing the terms and definitions into sets, I laid the material out on oversized sheets in Aldus Pagemaker. It was fortuitous that Adobe had just recently scanned my handlettering and created the digital font, Tekton, which I used for the dictionary terms and definitions. After printing the pages out, I laid tracing paper over each page and roughed out the size and position of each illustration to fit. I would then work back and forth, adjusting the placement of text in Pagemaker as necessary to accommodate the illustrations before doing the final drawings by hand on Clearprint vellum. After having the drawings scanned, I placed the .tiff files into the Pagemaker files.
In 2000, I began working with Steve Winkel on the first edition of Building Codes Illustrated. Knowing that the International Building Code, on which the text was based, was going to be updated every three years, I decided to do all of the drawings in Adobe Illustrator, learning the program on the fly.
I use Illustrator basically as a drafting tool to create the visual ideas I have in mind. The many benefits of vector graphics include: using the Save As capability to try out different options; having precise control over line weights and tonal values; being able to resize drawings easily to fit a page layout; and reusing elements that I had already drawn. Most importantly, when working on a revision, instead of having to completely redo a hand drawing, I can open an existing drawing file and make the necessary changes to create the updated version.
Because I am using digital tools more and more in my bookmaking, I cherish even more the opportunities to draw by hand when out on location. Even as I experiment with drawing on my iPad, the connection between eye, mind, and hand when I draw with a fountain pen in a sketchbook remains a pleasure.
Seeing and drawing this humble hobby shop in Edmonds reminded me of how much I loved building models of all kinds—planes, trains, ships, and for a very brief time, even classical guitars. As you can see in this photo, I still have a few around.
Despite the allure of digital models and fabrication techniques, we can still learn a lot by working with real materials with one’s own hands, feeling attributes such as weight, texture, and grain. Unlike digital models, real materials tell us if we try to make them do things that they are not capable of. And in assembling physical models, we learn that sequence is crucial to success. We can turn a physical model over, not in our heads as we sometimes do with drawings or on the computer monitor as we do with digital models, but in real space and in real time. One can examine materials and joinery closely one moment, and then look at the whole from a more objective distance the next.
I still have a few model kits, just in case I ever find myself with some free time and nothing better to do.