During drawing workshops, I often find myself pointing at things in scenes that students are drawing. What I’m doing is drawing attention to how things are related to each other—certain relationships of size, scale, proportion, and placement—in what we see before us. Paying close attention—not merely learning techniques—is one of the keys to drawing on location.
In his book Leonardo da Vinci, Walter Isaacson attributes many of Leonardo’s accomplishments to his acute powers of observation, which were not innate but honed with practice. And Isaacson believes that “to notice” is something we can all do if we make the attempt.
And so it is important to really focus on what one is seeing, not merely glance at the subject matter, before drawing. As I have often said during my workshops: “Look more and draw less.”
The Washington State Convention Center spans the Interstate 5 freeway as well as Pike Street in downtown Seattle. From the 4th floor atrium space, one can look westward down Union Street toward Elliott Bay and West Seattle beyond.
On the way home last week after viewing the Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, I noticed that the low-rise portion of Rainier Square had been demolished, exposing the iconic Rainier Tower to view on all sides. I immediately made a mental note to draw that scene. A few days later, a post by Andika Murandi on the Seattle Urban Sketchers blog reminded me to head downtown to draw Rainier Tower amid the demolition work that is making way for a new 58-story mixed-use highrise. It will be interesting to see how the old and new towers coexist on the same block.
Designed by Minoru Yamasaki in association with NBBJ and the structural engineering firm of Magnusson Klemencic, Rainier Tower is unique for its 11-story high pedestal base that tapers downward, like an inverted pyramid with curving sides. When I first saw Rainier Tower after moving to Seattle in 1980, I remember wondering how the structure could resist toppling over during an earthquake.
One sidenote: I drew this scene with a rollerball pen, which made me miss how sensitive the nib of a fountain pen is to the slightest applications of pressure.
Because the Exchange Building fronts on both 1st and 2nd Avenues, which are at different elevations, the elevator lobbies at both entrances are on different levels. Here is the 1st Avenue lobby, which lies directly below the 2nd Avenue lobby drawn previously.
This is the 2nd Avenue elevator lobby of the Exchange Building, which is situated on Marion Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in downtown Seattle. John Graham and Associates designed the Art Deco building to house grain, ore, bond, and stock exchanges but the stock market crash of 1929 forced the conversion of its upper floors to offices. Reflecting the building’s original intentions, this lobby incorporates such motifs as sheafs of wheat and bunches of grapes into the Art Deco interior. The exterior of the Exchange Building and both the 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue lobbies were granted landmark status in 1990 by the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board.
Best Wishes for a More Peaceful, Gracious, and Just New Year.