Architectural sketching is becoming a thing of the past – at least that’s how it seems to me most days. I graduated eons ago back in 1992, back in the days that pre-date computers in the studio. This doesn’t mean that everyone who graduated in my era could sketch – far from it. What it means is that we learned how to think and communicate our ideas slightly different from the product of today’s architecture programs. Now that I’ve been at this “architect” thing for a little while, I can look back at my sketches, all the way back to my time in school, and see how my sketch technique has evolved and how that technique has shaped my architectural solutions.
It’s kinda freaky to be honest. I’m not sure I would have made this observation had I not started writing this blog and posting my sketches for others to view. While I don’t think I am particularly gifted at sketching beautiful drawings, I do think that I have a style that has become recognizable as my own – and that is pretty freaking awesome to discover. Over the last four years, I have published a handful of articles where I share my thoughts and observations on the process and value that I believe sketching offers an architect. Through these posts, I get a considerable amount of feedback from people who are kind enough to let me know that they like the way I sketch. I’ve even mailed off a few sketches to people who have requested them – a mind-boggling idea quite honestly – the people in my office get my sketches all the time and they end up in the recycle bin 100% of the time.
Since I didn’t have anything else to write am such a generous person, I thought I would pull the curtain back today and share with everyone a handful of the techniques I use when sketching. While this might burst the illusion for some of you that I can actually sketch well, I think you’ll see that these tips are easy to incorporate into your own sketches and before you know it, you’ll be fooling people just like me!
Before we get to the actual tips, let’s talk some tools of the trade real quick:
Almost 100% of my sketches are created using two pens. I use the Sharpie Permanent Marker – ‘Ultra Fine Point‘ for my thin lines and the ‘Fine Point‘ for my profile (heavy) lines. I use a Alvin 10″ Parallel Glider but normally only when I am sketching out dimensioned floor plan concepts.
It drives me slightly crazy to have a roll of trace paper constantly rolling away when I am trying to sketch. A tip I learned from my current partner, some 20+ years ago, was to smash the roll slightly so that the tube gets crushed. Instead of the roll being round, it’s now oval-shaped and won’t roll away. It also helps me know which rolls of trace paper in the office are mine. Just some food for thought …
So let’s get to it – here are 5 Tips and Techniques that should improve your architectural sketches
[all the images I’ve used in this post were collected off the Life of an Architect site and Instagram feed from the last 4 years. It shows that I’ve been consistent in using these techniques.]
TIP #01: “The Hit-Go-Hit”
I learned this technique from my friend Jon Kathol 18 years ago. The ‘Hit-Go-Hit’ tip is a way for you to pick up and set your pen back down on the page as you’re drawing in a purposeful manner. Why would you need to do something like that you ask? Well, tip #02 will elaborate a bit more (come to think of it, Tip #02 should really be the first tip in terms of importance but I’m not going to remake the graphic) but whenever you are drawing a straight line, you’ll frequently find that you need to reposition your arm, or the paper, to continue drawing. Make that reset look intentional and add some graphic flair with this technique.
If you use this ‘Hit-Go-Hit’ technique, you’ll find that your straight lines will actually become a lot straighter. It’s kind of amazing to see the difference a sketch with straight lines looks over one that’s all squidgy and wonky. (yes, those are real architectural words in case you’re wondering …)