Sketchbooks. We all have them and use them. And if we don't, we should, right? But we don't and that is unfortunate because they were, and remain, the most immediate, descriptive and romantic means of expression and exploration in any architects' or designers' graphic vocabulary. Unlike the more elemental forms of architectural graphics, both digital and manual, it is rare today to find some means of instruction (beyond basic, generic drawing classes) in the importance and relevance of sketchbook drawing as part of an on-going design process. Architectural schools used to firstly lead the student to believe that architecture was properly to be practiced by those who had a talent for drawing pictures or, perhaps more properly, plans, sections and elevations. Secondly, it lead students to believe that the basis of their education should embrace to some degree an acquired familiarity with classical forms and building technologies and training in "design", and finally an understanding of the principles (unfortunately not always the details,) of construction.
Sketchbook Design Concept Drawing - Pencil and Ink on Canson Sketchbook Paper with Prisma-
color Pencil Washes. Original image size is 11"w. x 14" h. Constructed as free hand drawing in ink
over hardline pencil set-up.
However, mere facility in drawing (or in this case, drafting) without imagination, the ability to conceive forms, and the confidence to carry them out, will not always produce an original or real work of architecture. It used to be a fact that in rare instances original and vibrant works of architecture and design were produced by those who had little or no aptitude for drawing; these might once have been "the exceptions that proved the rule". Even as recently as 20 years ago, many architects were as recognizable by their style of drawing as they were by their actual buildings. But now that representation in architecture is almost entirely digital, what was once the exception is now entirely the rule. Ideas are always the essence of any design project; the ability to explain them in their formative stage by skillful use of pencil, pen and paper, especially in a sketchbook, was and remains a valuable and absolutely necessary accomplishment. The language of the day, it least in terms of sketchbook drawing and exploration was "be yourself". Imitate those you admire to gain technique and understanding. When it comes to the process of creation, honestly all you really have to draw on is yourself and your own abilities. By embracing your own individual view of the world you pursue the best possible route by which you can make a drawing or a building a fresh and original creation. Regardless of whether you embrace precedent.
Sketchbook Design Concept Drawing for Public Library - Pencil and Ink on Canson Sketchbook Paper with
Prismacolor Pencil Washes. Original image size is 14"w. x 11"h. Constructed free hand in ink over hardline pencil setup.
The cultivation and development of the faculty of observation through drawing is, I believe, one of the great essentials of design and should be a formative aspect in both education and practice. If you observe or explore with a pencil in your hand, you really see and understand the reason for specific things into the plan or the most elemental forms of design.
The habit of unrestrained drawing is a habit of immense value, as a means of developing your powers of observation, of refining your own graphic vocabulary and techniques, and of expanding your own horizons in the realm of what is possible. Much of what is normal in one's own beginning work experiences is the expression of someone else's ideas.
First Concept Sketchbook Drawing of Residence in Vermont - Pencil and Ink on Canson Sketchbook Paper with graphite pencil washes. Original image size is 11"w. x 11"h. Drawn in ink over hard line pencil setup.
First Conceptual Sketchbook Drawing for Residence in Memphis, TN. Pencil and Ink on Canson Sketchbook Paper with Prismacolor pencil washes. Original image size is 11"w. x 8-1/2"h. Constructed entirely as a freehand drawing with no hardline layout.
One last point about sketchbooks...if you're like me your sketchbook, or books, themselves become an on-going work of art. Kind of a graphic journal of where you've been and where you are going and how you think, create and develop ideas. And you naturally want to keep them whole. So, you think, here you have a problem. Because sometimes the best (or most immediately acceptable) means of distributing or presenting your image is with a desktop (flat bed) scanner. Which means that you often have to cut your drawing out of your sketchbook so you can close the platen and get the best possible scan. I know, I know. heresy, right? All I can tell you is try to get over it. If the drawing is really worth digital reproduction and presentation sometimes you have to sacrifice the sanctity of your sketchbook for the greater good. There are no hard and fast rules here. Sometimes you don't need a high quality scan. Or an iPhone jpeg is quality enough (see above). When it's possible to keep your sketchbook whole, by all means do so. But be ready to neatly cut or otherwise remove you drawing for digital reproduction. There are always additional refinements you bring to any drawing
First Conceptual Sketchbook Drawing for Residence in Massachusetts. Pencil and Ink on Canson Sketchbook Paper with Prismacolor pencil washes. Original image size is 11"w. x 8-1/2"h. Constructed entirely as a freehand drawing with no hardline layout.
First Conceptual Sketchbook Study for Mixed-use building in New York City. Ink on Canson Sketchbook Paper. Original image sixe is 11"w. x 14"h.