Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hand Drawing, Portfolios and the Mythology of Blueprints...

Every once in a while, in the course of a renovation project or going through archives, you come across a really well preserved set of actual "blue prints" (white lines/blue paper), as opposed to the more common, recent and cheaper blueline prints (blue lines/white paper). Both methods of printing were a very good measure of linework quality on the part of the draftsman but architectural blueprints have an almost mystical quality that isn't just a function of their age. A blueprint is a "living" impression of a drawing, remaining sensitive to light and humidity throughout it's life. It's almost as if the linework was still breathing on the paper.

A blueprint image is so architecturally iconographic that it has it's own aesthetic vocabulary. Because of this it can be used as a "reverse image" presentation  or portfolio technique with certain types of hand drawings by scanning the image and editing a few color and exposure settings in Photoshop or PhotoFiltre. The right type of hand drawing is important because the tonal representation is reversed in the image and emphasis can shift or be lost. More minimally rendered pencil and ink drawings with expressive line work seem to work best but digital manipulation can overcome some rendered elements in reverse imaging so a little experimentation goes a long way. The type of project for using this technique needs to be considered as well, as these first two images show.

Pretty major swing in scope, right? The first image is an 8-1/2" x 11" pencil, pen and ink drawing on white trace for a small, new house on Martha's Vineyard; the second, an 11"x17" ink, pencil and marker drawing for a large-scale mixed used project in Boston. The residential image was reversed imaged into a blueprint as part of the original presentation. The small scale of the project and it's drawings, along with the vernacular design concept, make the "blueprint" imagery very effective here. The images printed beautifully at 11x17 on very high quality, heavy weight presentation paper. The next two images below are from the same project...

A "blueprint" of an 8-1/2"x11" pencil and ink drawing of the rear view...

An alternate study of the street view. The drawings work very well as reverse images because of the emphasis on expression through line work and subtle use of pencil tones for shading and selective transparency. All of these drawings were intially developed as black and white images with very subtle shading, the linework being the most effective means of communication. Try scanning a couple of linework drawings with minimal shading and see if this technique works for you. A sympathetic client or critic with a romantic view of architecture (or architects) is a great audience for this.

1 comment:

  1. I work for an architect who likes drawing by hand because, he says, there is no intermediate between the brain and the hand, which is creating the drawing, so all the attention is on the content of what is being drawn, not what commands are required to draw it.