Creative people make it a habit to notice things. The best way to process what we notice around us is to write about it, sketch it, doodle it, or make a collage with it. The hope is that by recording the way things are, we might also discover some new connections between things, that is to say…stumble upon a sense of wonder or even a new idea.
Keeping your observations in a sketchbook is different than taking a photograph or a video. The act of sketching or writing slows you down and taps into your intuition; whatever you are drawing enters a mutual relationship with you. While drawing your heartbeat slows down.
Of course the keeping of a sketchbook in and of itself is an enormous and sometimes spiritual undertaking. It requires a suspension of judgment and a confident embrace off the unknown.
I fully intended for my next project to be a new home in Calistoga with an unlimited budget or some cool artist lofts in Oakland….anything to keep me busy and upwardly mobile on my architectural path.
But instead I find myself yet again, working on something entirely non-billable that stirs great passion in me. This sounds more like the work of a fine artist and indeed this may help me explain to my accountant the unpredictable profit and loss reports for Laraarchitecture.
So today, rather than yet another blog on countertops and wood species, I’d like to share with you something I am working on that is really important.
The Crosses of Lafayette are rotting, have you noticed?
Let’s start with a quick quiz to see where you fall!
What do with all those large prints after they’ve been bleeding red ink? Most architects will tell you there is not much energy left after a submittal of any kind whether it be a building department submittal, a city council hearing or a client presentation. Before applications are filled out, power points are presented or checks are written, we architects must be our own best critics and redline our drawings. This is always the most humbling of experiences, because I am always quite sure that I was being more careful.
The most challenging part about my work is that you have to strive to both perfect in a “nat’s ass” kind of way and also a larger than life kind of visionary. Someone who can see things before they are there and imagine a space, a feeling, a detail even before anyone knows how to build it.
Like a movie director, I imagine something and how it will play it out. What that shaft of light will do at different times of day, the changes to the life on the sidewalk around this new door, how the employees will actually use that new window sill.
Still as good as these imaginings may be, they are only as good as the set drawings describing in detail how to get there.
There is something beautiful about a set of drawings. In fact each page is a work of art in itself if it is done well. The line weights differentiate an otherwise flat image, the larger page is divided into graphically pleasing smaller ones and text is introduced into neat columns. When you squint the page is in harmony and when you take out the eyeglasses every line is perfect.
Well, if only this were always true. Thank goodness we have second chance to make it so after comments are returned to us. In the meantime, checking in with the larger visionary within, here is what I did with recent redline set of mine.
What artists know that most architects haven’t yet fully embraced is the practice of drawing the dark shapes. It’s not natural when drafting on a computer to visualize exactly how the dark is going to move across the room especially when our entire focus tends to be on washing the space in the light.
I have recently revisited this lesson while gesture painting from a live model. All architects should practice figure drawing regularly if for no other reason; it will remind them to draw shadows as a solid shape. When all you have is 3 minutes to capture a form as with the drawing above, the dark and light shapes are just about all you get. What you learn is that there is no light until you have the dark defined and therefore no form. This is also true of architectural space.
Here is a silly and honest follow up to my Women in Architecture article. Fresh from the sketchbook, my daughter and I colored this together which was fun. Can you relate?
Moms and Dads, let’s repeat together…Lean in but don’t fall over!
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