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Drawings and text by Douglas Lawrence
This post is part of our summer 2018 blOAAg series, Summer Sketches: Capturing the Essence of Architectural Ideas.
Most of my work here is separate from my architectural projects, yet there is no question that the two are still very much related even if not always in obvious ways. I spend so much of my time on the computer that I find it necessary to break away and get back to the artistic basics of just a pen and a sketchbook. When traveling, there is such a multitude of new visual experiences that I always try to find some part of the day to sit and focus on just one particular view. So many things come into play when you first study a scene; the composition, lighting, perspective, detail and most importantly how to capture the character of the space. Once underway though, there is such an amazing focus and intensity to the act of sketching that you can be sitting for hours and feel that almost no time has passed at all. The chance to really study a view, to get to understand and know it is a wonderful thing and it becomes embedded in my mind in such a way that I can often almost recreate a sketch just from memory long after it is completed.
I also do a lot of sketching on the rocky shores of Ontario lakes, often from my canoe, an act that truly makes me feel a part of the landscapes I am documenting. The rules learnt from urban sketching are often the same that are important when drawing the natural environment. The rocks, trees and water have their own architectural elements and character that closely entwine the two settings. I have done a lot of painting in the past, but I really enjoy the spontaneity of being able to grab a sketchbook and take advantage of a couple of hours to work en plein air, mostly working with pen and ink as well as the occasional brush pen. I enjoy the challenge of translating all of the complexities of a scene without the aid of colour or shading to portray the different massing, depth and shadows. It also allows me to switch from quick expressive sketches to more detailed and illustrative drawings.
I am also very hesitant to take drawings out of my sketchbooks. Left intact, they document my life in a way that is so much richer than photographs, chronologically illustrating my travels, my interests and even the evolution and changing of my style over time. Not necessarily improving, but changing none the less. There is no right way to draw. Sketching is such a personal and expressionistic window into the person behind the work.