This a line drawing of the Danube, one of the Four River Gods in Bernini’s fountain in Rome’s Piazza Navona. The line is the quintessential element of drawing, able to convey to the mind’s eye three-dimensional forms in space, often not by its presence but rather by its absence—where we decide to stop a contour…and pick it up again.
These cropped enlargements of the original drawing use areas of black to emphasize the negative spaces of the drawing and the white of the sculpture. This brings to mind notan, the Japanese term for “light dark;” some translate it as “light dark harmony.” It is a concept revolving around the placement and interplay of light and dark elements in the composition of a collage, drawing, or painting. It is valued as a way to study possible compositions without the distractions of color, texture, or details.
From a Rome journal, two pages of sketches drawn during a teaching session. The first page contains explanatory sketches accompanied by bits of concise text: “Pay attention to profiles”…“Suggest details within shadows”…“Visualize shape of curves.”
The second page illustrates how to estimate proportional heights above and below an imagined horizon line.
Around ten years ago, I posted a few drawings from a journal I kept during a month’s stay in Japan in 1990. Wiley subsequently published a facsimile in 2000, Sketches from Japan, which is now out-of-print. Here are a few more pages from that journal, all drawn with a Mont Blanc fountain pen and using a contour line approach to the subject matter. The page above contains details that caught my eye as I walked the streets of O-Okayama. Below are a couple more street scenes of O-Okayama, a suburb of Tokyo where the Tokyo Institute of Technology is located.
This is the main entrance to Powell’s City of Books, the venerable bookstore in Portland, Oregon, founded in 1971 by Walter Powell. Billing itself as the world’s largest independent bookstore, it occupies an entire city block and contains over a million volumes of new and used books over 68,000 square feet of floor area.
Looking back at sketches done ten years ago, during visits to Naples, Delft, and Mexico City. Unlike the first two experiential views, the last is conceptual in its attempt to imagine how the architect Luis Barragán fit the program for the Capilla de las Capuchinas into a tight midblock site in the historic area of Tlalpan in Mexico City.
Continuing a look back over the years, these two spreads contain sketches drawn during a trip to Sicily in 2006 with my wife Deb. The first contains views of Palermo the day after our arrival; the second is of Cefalú Cathedral and a map documenting a day-trip drive with our friends Margie and Jim to the hilltowns above Cefalú.
Not quite 20 years ago, but close enough. These two pages contain the first sketches I did soon after arriving in the Eternal City in the fall of 2000 to teach in the UW’s Architecture in Rome program. Truly, a transformative experience. Wandering the area around Campo de Fiori, I sketched three churches—S. Barbara de Librari, the dome of S. Andrea della Valle, and S. Maria della Pace—as well as an ill-proportioned fragment of Bernini’s fountain in the Piazza Navona. I chose to include small plans showing the context of each in the urban fabric.
The practice of keeping a journal gives us the ability to go back in time to revisit places and experiences. Here, from 25 years ago, is a map I drew of Hong Kong and its environs, showing the ferry route I took from Central to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island. From there I walked an hour and a half to Yung Shue Wan, where I sketched the scene below.