This week’s guest tutorial is by Jackson Root, a talented illustrator in Southern California. Enjoy!
Architectural and Technical Sketching with Copic
One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is to go out exploring in the neighborhood, to find something interesting to sketch, to challenge my hand and my mind and find the tried and true rules that govern technical drawing! The truth is, whether you notice it or not, your eyes pick up on a number of mechanics that happen naturally with forms in space, shortcuts our eyes make in order to understand the visual information before it is sent to our brains. It’s these mechanics that allow us to understand our environments, and it’s when these mechanics don’t exist that we suffer from symptoms of vertigo and motion-sickness.
Understanding these mechanics and knowing when and how to employ them in our drawings gives them the illusion that they depict real objects occupying real space. Failure to use these mechanics can often result in drawings of objects that seem to be floating in air, or just out-right wacky! If you take a moment to Google “German expressionism” and take a look at what those artists were doing in the 1920s, you can get a feel for how you can manipulate perspective to add drama and anxiety to your artwork simply by tweaking these mechanics.
In the sections that follow, I will briefly touch on some mechanics that are important to keep in mind while sketching anything from a house to a tape dispenser, those mechanics being Verticals and Vanishing Lines. For more information on perspective and conveying forms in space, I recommend Walter Foster’s book, Perspective, and also Creative Perspective for Artists and Illustrators, by Ernest T. Watson.
The first aspect of these mechanics that is important to discuss is understanding verticals. Typically, the walls of all buildings should stand vertical, and by definition, these verticals should always be parallel to one another.
Before I begin a sketch, I look for the verticals as a way of plotting out my drawing. Using these lines, I can establish a standard of measurement for the drawing which I can use for the placement of other elements in the drawing.
If you’ve had a chance to read my Sketching From Life Blog entry from a few months back, I talk about how I begin a sketch by using a very light color, such as an E11, or R02, to rough in the shapes and the placement of the objects in the drawing paying careful attention to how they relate to one another.
For example, near the center of the drawing is a small balcony with a banister that forms a small rectangle with two verticals on either side. Now I can look at this small rectangle and make a mental note of how large it is in relation to the rest of the elements in the drawing. Using this standard of measurement, I can say to myself, “…now the right-most edge of this garage-building on the left is just about one-and-a-half ‘balconyfences’ to the left of that building, etc”. I then draw a short vertical line that once I really begin to add tone later on, will nearly vanish away in contrast (If you look to the right of the telephone pole on the left, you’ll see a faint version of it, which was the original sketch prior to revising it with a darker tone later on).
“Vanishing Lines” or “Parallel Lines”
In any one object, or in this case, building, there exists any number of lines that if they are parallel in construction, i.e. window panes, rooflines, door hinges, etc. If the sides of two buildings are parallel to one another, these lines will relate to one another in the sense that they will all converge at one point in the distance, the Vanishing Point. If you were to trace the lines in red, they should all converge at one point, the same with the lines in purple, which relate to a different building which in this drawing has its own set of vanishing points and rules that govern it.
When I began this drawing, I took a moment to consider these lines and decide which lines would relate to one another, and I began this drawing by using a very light tone to rough them in before adding darker tones to really ‘cement’ them as part of the drawing!
I encourage you to employ these tactics, or at least keep them in the back of your mind when drawing anything you see- literally everything you see with your eyes obeys these rules! The next time you’re feeling adventurous, grab a couple of markers- you’ll need a very light one, like an E11, BG02, or R02; a middle tone such as E33, BG13 or R20; and a dark tone, E77, BG18 or R29; your favorite sketchbook, a pair of sunglasses and an inquisitive mind, and find these rules, they hardly ever lie! Better yet, get your hands on the Copic Sepia Ink Pro Kit; it has everything you need to make wonderful tonal drawings!