Workshop 9: Sketching Architecture in Edges, Shapes & Volumes

 Instructor: Liz Steel

Workshop Description

There are a lot of different approaches to sketching architecture and over the last two symposiums I have been sharing some of the standard ways in which I work. This year I want to bring some of those ideas together and demonstrate how I currently sketch buildings in an experimental way. Behind my (sometimes crazy) architecture sketching there is a structured foundation which includes switching between different ways of seeing – ways of thinking visually.

So in this workshop I want to share my three ways of visual thinking and how they apply to sketching complex buildings in a fun and exploratory way. I believe that the ability to mix it up gives you the confidence to combine play with accuracy.

Learning Goals

  • To see and simplify a complex building into edges, to think about lengths, angles and relationships and as a result, gain a better understanding of building depths and thicknesses.
  • To see and simplify a complex building and its surrounding into shapes and how the effect of light merges elements and reveals form.
  • To see and simplify a complex building into volumes with additive or subtractive elements and then to work in a structural way starting with these volumes.
  • To have fun combining these three ways of seeing by experimenting with lines and watercolour washes.


 Workshop Schedule

The workshop will be broken into two parts, the first being three short 20 minute exercises to explain these three ways of visual thinking and then in the second half we will put them together.

1. Feeling Edges

We will start by focusing in on one small part of the building, determining a starting point, positioning that on the page and then exploring one edge after the other in a spontaneous way, spreading out from the start either horizontally or vertically. The goal is to have a tactile experience with the details of the building and to introduce a few important concepts when sketching buildings. These include thinking about thickness, depths, looking for leading edges and drawing every angle as we see it without the need to think about the rules of perspective.

2. Abstracting shapes

We will then zoom back and look at the building as a whole and how it sits in its context. This will require quite a different way of visual thinking – to abstract the shapes of the building and its surroundings, looking at how light and shadow can merge different elements into big shapes.  We will be relying on the skills that we picked up in the first exercise in regard to drawing the angles we see, but we’ll have to make sure that we don’t get caught up in the complexity of the building.

3. Constructing Volumes

The third exercise involves seeing the building as a series of simple volumes (or boxes) and thinking about how those volumes sit in space. We will then consider how elements are either added to or subtracted from these basic volumes and how the first exercise helps us see the thickness of these elements.  We will do a quick sketch working in a structured way from overall volumes – to major components – to details.

In the second half of the workshop I will do a demo showing how I switch between these three ways of visual thinking as I work spontaneously in line and watercolour. It will then be time for all the participants to have a go for the remainder of the workshop – to mix it up and have fun!

This workshop is all about experimentation and learning from other sketchers’ personal interpretations. So we will spend time discussing each other’s work and exploring how everyone responds to different parts of a complex building. Along the way I will share with you lots of tricks and tips for drawing buildings more convincingly but without any mention of perspective or any attempt to draw every brick or detail.

  Supply List

  • Permanent ink pen
  • Pencils – bring a general collection of watercolour pencils or coloured pencils
  • Coloured media: Watercolour is the preferred medium but coloured pencils, watercolour pencils, markers could be used instead. Bring your normal watercolour kit- there are no special requirements for specific colours.
  • Waterbrush or sable brush and water container 
  • Any other materials you have in your bag!
  • Small portable stool (optional)

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