Visual Notetaking

A few months ago, I came across an article about notetaking on In research that was originally published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of UCLA studied how notetaking by hand or by typing on a computer might affect learning. A quote from the article:

“When people type their notes they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can. (On the other hand) the students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

One hypothesis that Mueller and Oppenheimer developed is that when a person is taking notes by hand, “the processing that occurs” improved “learning and retention.”

The thought occurs that this might hold true as well when we contrast the benefits of drawing from direct observation with those gained by taking a photo of the same scene. The active seeing that drawing on location encourages can often lead to better understanding and more vivid visual memories.

Green Lake Branch Library

Eight Seattle libraries were part of the 2,509 public libraries that Andrew Carnegie had funded from 1880 to 1929, both in the U.S. and around the world. The Green Lake Branch Library is one of the original eight and also one of the six which are still functioning as libraries today.

Designed by W. Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Coté and opening in 1910, the Green Lake branch shares a common floor plan with the University and West Seattle branches but the three have differently styled exteriors. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a landmark building listed by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.

Below are views of the Ballard and Fremont branches, two of the Seattle Carnegie libraries that I had drawn previously.

Stormy Weather

On a blustery, rainy Friday morning, I rode in a warm, dry Sound Transit Light Rail train from the UW campus to Columbia City, a neighborhood southeast of downtown Seattle. A small but dedicated group of Urban Sketchers had braved the stormy weather to meet there for an ad hoc sketch outing. Because of the constant beating down of wind-blown rain drops, I chose to seat myself in the new PCC market to draw this view of the interior. I find it interesting how grocery stores and supermarkets have increased the area they devote to the serving of prepared foods in their deli sections, relative to the traditional shelf space for fresh produce, dairy products, and canned goods.

Scenes from Querétaro

Here are two scenes I sketched our last day in Querétaro. The first is of the Plaza de Armas, also known as the Plaza de Independencia. Around its periphery are 18th-century mansions and outdoor cafes. To the right is Palacio de la Corregidora, former home of the city’s mayor Don Miguel Dominguez and his wife Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, who is revered as a heroine of the Mexican War of Independence. Today, the palace serves as the seat of the executive branch of the state government.

The second view is where Calle Venustiano Carranza splits off of Calle 5 de Mayo, another bifurcated view similar to the ones I drew in Tacoma a few weeks ago.

Santiago de Querétaro


Just returned from spending a few wonderful days in Santiago de Querétaro, a colonial town founded in 1561 by Franciscan priests in the high desert country north of Mexico City. There I led a group of students from the Tecnológico de Monterrey on a drawing tour of the Centro Historico, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Below the group photo taken in a courtyard of the Convento de la Santa Cruz are a few of the quick sketches I did to demonstrate how to compose the perspective structure of the scenes the students were drawing. Many thanks to Professor Paola Gamez Pouzou for her gracious and generous assistance during the two days of workshops.