Workshop 23: Soaring Spaces

Instructor: Stephanie Bower


Look up! So often the most amazing things to sketch are above your head! Towers, domes, and England’s famous vaulted ceilings all draw your eyes UP to their beautiful shapes and architectural detail. I love to sit inside an amazing church or in front of an inspiring building and capture a true sense of the vast space. But how do you capture something so tall and wide in a small sketchbook?

This workshop will take you to one of the UK’s most important buildings, located in the heart of the city — Manchester’s glorious Town Hall. Gothic Revival in style, from its façade and clock tower on Albert Square to its soaring vaulted interior spaces like the Great Hall, you’ll learn how to look up and capture this amazing architecture in wide-angle, 3-pt perspective. It’s really not hard once you know what to look for!

Learning Goals:

  • Soaring Spaces encourages you to push your sketching boundaries and not fear perspective!
  • By the end of the workshop, participants will learn how to:
  • Capture vast spaces and effectively shrink them into a sketchbook using 3-point perspective in wide-angle formats, both vertical and horizontal.
  • Use quick thumbnails to study composition and perspective, and start sketches by blocking out the simple shapes.
  • Find the true eye level and vanishing points, and how to effectively use these when sketching any perspective on location.
  • Draw a true arch, as arches are not shaped like horseshoes!  And once you understand how arches work, you can sketch arcades, vaulted ceilings and even domes. 

Workshop Schedule:

First Hour:  Understanding 3-point Perspective

After brief introductions, we’ll look at examples of tall/ wide sketches and how 3-pt perspective is used to capture the sense of vast space. A handout will provide information on how to draw the foundational lines of a 3-pt perspective looking up, and I’ll share lots of tips throughout the workshop to demystify the use of perspective when sketching on-site.

We’ll quickly sketch the façade/tower from below, a great way to understand this type of perspective, then move inside to see how these concepts also apply to soaring interior spaces.

Second Hour:  Understanding Arches in Perspective 

Surrounded by elegant arches inside the building, we’ll decipher the anatomy of a true arch—the architectural basis for arcades, vaulted ceilings, and domes—and how the vanishing points, spring line, and ellipses are all used to easily draw arches in perspective.

Third Hour:  Putting Concepts Together to Draw Soaring Spaces

We’ll combine what we learned about 3-point perspective and arches to capture Soaring Spaces!  I’ll do a quick demo to show how I simplify the view and transfer it to my sketchbook to create the accurate foundational lines, adding a bit of tone with watercolor.

The group will then make a quick thumbnail sketch to figure out the composition and perspective, and in the final 45-60 minutes, create a sketch that expresses the amazing architecture both in front of you and above your head. Your sketches will soar, fearlessly!

In the final 15 minutes of the workshop, we’ll review everyone’s sketches and take a group photo.

Supply List

  • wide/tall format sketchbook or paper (like a Moleskine or Pentalic, etc.)
  • pencil (I use .5 mechanical pencils with B or 2B lead)
  • kneaded eraser
  • 6”- 8” straight edge or architect’s triangle
  • folding stool
  • And your favorite sketching tools — pen, pencil, charcoal, watercolor


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