Sunday, 7 July 2019

Urban Design Sketchcrawl Mashup

Last week the Canadian Institute of Planners conference was in Ottawa where I participated as a speaker and also lead a workshop.  The workshop was a mash-up mixing urban design principles and tour using sketching as a focus activity.  I called it "Visual Notation and Analysis" and one of the objectives was to demystify drawing.

I took the group of 20 on a walking route from the Weston Hotel to the Shaw Convention Centre, to the National Arts Centre Elgin Street, Parliament Hill and the Library of Parliament stopping to do 5 minute sketches describing that sequence using the Peace Tower as a point of reference, in the manner of Goron Cullen's classic book "Townscape" below).   It went really well and we managed to meet one of the other objectives, which was to have some fun.

I departed from the sketchcrawl tradition of comparing everyone's work at the end to take any perceived pressure off the participants but can tell you, looking over shoulders while circulating and coaching during the stops, the drawings were quite good.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Canal Houses - Neither Plumb Nor Square

Walking along the canals of old Amsterdam I did notice the odd building that had settled or was crooked relative to its neighbour, then noticed that there was a consistent lean or rake forward.  I assumed it was settlement as the wooden piles were centuries old and must rot at some point.

The Google informed me that this forward lean was intentional, even mandated by the City and that the purpose was to provide clearance when hoisting material up to the attic or lofts of these merchant houses.  I would have thought a longer beam, overhanging gable or corbeled brick would have been the solution,

The next observation, when drawing eh hoist beams was that they were often skewed to the face of the building, which upon looking into the windows was because often the face is not square to the walls.
So neither plumb nor square - demanding carpentry.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Fresh Produce, All The Way From Zwolle

It was a bit of a frustration to see all the fresh produce at the farmers market in Zwolle and have no practical need for produce, let alone bedding plants, 10km cheese wheels or annuals, but I guess with the sketches I have managed to bring some home.

There wasn't much composition. required here, other than not filling the page, once I spotted the wedge shape I was looking for. The other subtly to this compositional technique of leading the eye and dark darks, is selectively changing some colours, such as the umbrella from orange to green to provide some contrast with the food truck.  This is new to me as I've been slavish in trying to be accurate, but I've given myself licence to make those adjustments - even moving or deleting some elements.  I'm just hoping no one accuses me putting forward alternate truth!

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Leading the Eye and Dark Darks

At the risk of adopting a formula, while in Zwolle I started to try to compose my sketches by leading the eye with a wedge shape and anchoring with some dark darks.  It is also a deliberate effort to not fill the page in my on-going effort of deciding when to stop.

This is an illustration technique used for magazines and often text is fit in around it effectively.  I was remembering the work of George Butler, a British reportage artist, who I had the pleasure to meet at Carnet de Voyage in France several years ago, who does dramatic pen and ink illustrations.  Aside from my respect for his work, I am also fascinated with the assignments he has taken in conflict zones for organizations such aMédecins Sans Frontières magazine.

Zarturdag Market

Although we were only in the Netherlands for a few days and people spoke to us in English, I started to notice that while words might look strange in print, I could guess at many when they were spoken. Zaturdag - Saturday, being a good example.

These were some of the market stalls set up on Mel Markt and Grote Markt streets in Zwolle.

As I write this I am remembering many of the other markets I've sketched in and realizing the irony that although I live blocks away from a wonderful farmer's market here in Ottawa, I haven't done a single drawing there.    ...note to self - bring a sketchbook next time.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Market Street in Zwolle

Mel Markt and Grote Markt streets in Zwolle are a pair of pedestrian streets lined by beautiful shops and restaurants with mature canopy trees in what once may have been a boulevard.

On a daily basis, the street is used effectively as cafe patios but undergoes a major conversion on Saturdays for a market.  What was interesting was to see the market stalls get dismantled and packed away in about an hour followed by street sweepers and rapid setting out and occupation of the patio tables.  The sketch was done mid-afternoon on a weekday, but by 5, it would have been difficult to find a seat at one of the several hundred tables.

Zwolle Barges

Barges are hardly unique to Amsterdam, as the Netherlands is crisscrossed with canals.  While barge transport is still very active the commercial ships are generally larger leaving older vessels affordable to individuals for recreational use or even homes.

I sketched these in Zwolle, which is about 80 km. from Amsterdam and a charming destination in its own right.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Amsterdam Barges

On the heels of my post about opening my sketching valves and letting the ink flow on the trip to Amsterdam, these individual boats were the next step.  I have never met a boat I didn't want to draw, but do recognize that they are much easier to draw as side-on elevations than in perspective.

I started into a few looking down from bridges and was not happy, so moved myself to a position just looking across the canals to the boats on the other side.  At this point, I wasn't even tempted to add the houses behind the canal and had fun knocking of a page of boats at a time, then painting the batch.

Warming Up my Sketch Hand

I hadn't drawn much more than a glass of water since my last trip more than a year ago and had to go through the painful warm-up phase for the first few days in Amsterdam before the valves open and the ink flowed.

I knew it would be frustrating but still didn't take a few minutes before leaving home to do some coffee shop or out the window throw-aways.  However, once on the ground, I had the sense to fall back on some less challenging formats to ease the re-entry.  When getting back into the groove, usually block out the sketch with pencil before inking - the progression to "looseness" involves less pencil and finally jumping straight to ink - often standing, not sitting.

Architectural elevations (face on, without perspective) are sort of second nature to me.  Start with the outline of the building, then break it into its proportional elements, deciding how much detail to add.  A couple of those, followed by a few frustrating perspectives, just to challenge my resolve, then a far less ambitious zoom in of an element - in this case a pollarded olive tree near our table in the outdoor cafe. Adding some paint would have been a good idea, but essentially after all my years of drafting, I'm, at heart, a line guy.