Monday, April 14, 2014

Playing the Artist

Old Sandpoint City Hall - 1910
Ever since that night I was captivated by the old downtown buildings I walked past, I've felt an increasing pull to start sketching architecture. No time like the present, with the weather warming, brand new sketchbooks waiting, and the new permission to allow myself an hour each week for "whatever". As I pondered which sketchbook to take, I settled on the 5-1/2 x 8 Strathmore toned tan art journal and decided too that it would be designated solely for my architectural explorations. Time to play.

I threw in several pencils and pens and an eraser, thinking that I would be doing most of the sketching in this book with pen, but also thinking I may not be ready to tackle this challenge without being able to erase and correct. Boy, was I right. Do you know how difficult it is to draw a symmetrical arch? And to make things even more difficult, I couldn't position myself directly in front of the building, so I was trying to sketch a straight-on view from an angle. It was good practice anyway, focusing mostly on relationships and proportions. Once you start drawing, you definitely see things that don't register with more casual observation.

The building in question was once City Hall, designed by S. W. Foster and completed in 1910. It's a large building, taking up half the block, and as I suspected, not nearly as interesting in daylight as it had been cast in streetlights after dark. So what to draw? When I first settled in on the bench kitty corner from it, I was thinking to draw the whole thing and then on another page perhaps, specific features individually. Maybe it was that thing about getting something on the first page of a new sketchbook being the hardest. Maybe it was how plain the building now struck me. Whatever, tackling the entire building was too overwhelming for this first time out, so I went right to the detail, becoming totally absorbed in my task. And in about an hour, I was done with these two details - the arch over the main entrance and a window at the corner of the building.

I used a 4h pencil for the sketching and found that it erased cleanly from the page without marring the paper, which is 30% post-consumer fiber. Some of that fiber is visible and created some confusion with my lighter marks and cross-hatching, and the toned tan could be a smidgeon lighter for my taste. But in all, I found this journal easy to use for this type of sketching. When I got home, I added the highlights with a white chalk pencil and shaded in the bricks in the lower sketch with a prismacolor crimson pencil. This is supposed to be one of the advantages of the toned paper, this ability to add light and dark value to a mid-value base, and I have to admit I like it.

1 comment:

June said...

Architecture takes a special kind of sketching skill -- and a steady hand. Ya done good! I love old buildings and strange bits of left-over "junk" -- things that are left behind and become integrated into buildings willy-nilly. And sometimes I am moved by the care that was taken with buildings by people who didn't have a lot of money or perhaps even taste, but wanted a bit of decoration or beauty in their lives. Much as people's culture can be read through their artifacts, so can their desires be read through the remains of items, maybe not so good as to be thought of as "artifacts". We sometimes make fun of these "left-overs" or odd bits of decor on otherwise rather ugly boxy buildings, but I also find them poignant.

Have fun on your new journey. I can see you are keeping up, regardless of the obstacles.