Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Right now, it's all about a sketchbook...

I mean, seriously...the last 4 posts have all had drawings from the same sketchbook. What's up with that? I think it's the sketchbook as monograph concept. Anyone want to buy it before I put it on eBay? Just kidding.....part of the problem here is that I'm being a lazy bastard with these scans because, well, they aren't scans but rather the best pictures you can get from an LG smartphone and it's 5.0 megapixel camera. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging and Facebook, right? The upside of this is that it's a good way to preserve the sanctity of a sketchbook by not pulling the pages away from the binding ring or however else your sketchbook is bound. That's very anti-monograph. With a better quality digital camera and the right lighting (i.e.; not fluorescent), a digital photograph of a drawing can surpass a scan in it's visual  quality and atmosphere but does sacrifice absolute scale where that matters. For some reason, or lots of them, photographs aren't quite as "brittle" as scanned images which can be a good thing with certain types of drawings.

As far as the sketch book as monograph thing goes? Hmmm.....well, for me, the absolute Holy Grail of architectural monographs has always been the Wasmuth Portfolios that Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernst Wasmuth published in 1910 / 1911. Note that I mentioned that Wright published the portfolios because he actually did very few of the drawings. Many of the best drawings were done by Marion Mahony Griffin, a draftswoman of extraordinary skill and virtuosity. If you don't know who she is, Google her. I would love to have seen some of her sketchbooks while she was working on the Wasmuth folios. Under Wright's obvious influence and a tutelage probably neither enjoyed or would have admitted to, her drawings "set the narrative tone" for the portfolio itself with the marvelous graphic consistency that all of the drawings share. Part of this is merely the technical means of the on linen, black and white offset printing, and so forth. But an equal part of it is also in the drawing hand, i.e.; "who drew it" washes, entourage, drawing composition, line work and on and on. It was Mahony's ability to manipulate all of factors simultaneously that, even today, give the Wasmuth Portfolio monographs their beautiful and consistent narrative quality.

It's this basic idea of narrative threads in a monograph that brings me back to the whole sketchbook thing.  The last three or four projects I have posted are all from a sketchbook that shares several narrative threads. With this sketchbook, like a single presentation, graphic consistency is one way to give it a monograph quality. It takes a certain degree of discipline to pull this off while at the same time not restricting yourself in how you explore ideas and use your sketchbook as a sketchbook. Not every page has to be a masterpiece. Or even a finished drawing. Or limited to black, white and grey tones. Or, for that matter, a completely legible or logical drawing. The thing I love about sketchbooks is that they are wonderful for exploring entourage and drawing atmosphere. But when I know where I'm going with something and it works for the project, I have one or two sketchbooks on hand that I use for the "monograph" quality or theme I want those sketchbooks to have. It takes a long time to complete them but that, I think, is part of their charm. And with cell phones and Photoshop, you can work small miracles with your presentations.

Oh, and by the way, these are sketchbook design studies of a residence in New Hampshire. They are done in a multi-media watercolor paper sketchbook in ink and rendered in 2H and 3H pencil. And drawn at the very sketchbook friendly scale of 3/16" equals one foot.  

No comments:

Post a Comment