Back to School: One Simple Sketching Course

You might recall that I enrolled in a sketching course last fall. I expected to learn about the technical aspects of drawing in perspective. I hoped to experiment with new drawing media, like pencil, pen, ink and charcoal. I hoped to get some feedback by posting my sketches on Instagram.

An afternoon sketch of my backyard on a sunny winter day

I was completely unprepared for what I actually learned, which turned out to be so much more than the technicalities I expected.

I’ve learned how to better observe my environment and to see the spatial orientation between objects & how they relate to each other. This a really important skill for designing living and working spaces that my clients envision. I’ve always known this, but brushing up on my sketching and drawing skills has been a gentle, but firm reminder: Even the most simple three-dimensional sketch or drawing helps people to visualize and better understand their ideas. I’ve been drawing flat two-dimensional technical drawings forever and I spend a lot of time explaining to clients what goes where and the mechanics of what it would look like in real life. A three-dimensional sketch or drawing eliminates these boring explanations & helps people to see themselves in the space of their imagination.

I was in the middle of my course when I signed up for a sketching seminar led by Paul Backewich at IIDEXCanada. Backewich is an architect at The Line I Draw and his company specializes in architectural design and illustration for projects worldwide. Backewich outlined how he uses sketching as a form of active listening.Technical drawings, while very important, are rather stiff and lifeless. Paul uses a ‘back-and-forth’ sketching and communication process to refine a project for his client. His drawings communicate back to his clients the thoughts and ideas they’ve expressed verbally about a project. I completely agree with Backewich’s belief that sketching can better capture the energy of a building. I want to explore what this active listening through sketching means in my own design practice.

My sketching course opened up another world

I followed a suggestion to start adding colour to my sketches. Now I’m taking water colour lessons with local artist Ralf Wall.

Tom Nagy’s Christmas Experience at The Jazz Room, great way to get into the Christmas spirit

I joined the world of Urban Sketchers. The Urban Sketchers manifesto is to always draw on location, from direct observation and not from photos or memory. There are now over 100 local chapters including one here in Waterloo Region. I went to my first Urban Sketcher’s event in Cambridge Ontario in December. And, I loved it.

I signed out all the books on urban sketching from the Kitchener Public Library.

Kitchener Public Library -afternoon of sketching from the upper floor

I discovered there are a LOT of YouTube channels dedicated to urban sketching. My favourite so far is Sketch with Teoh  and I’m learning something new from every video.

I participated in a Urban Sketchers postcard exchange. I sent a small drawing to someone in Malaysia and can’t wait to see what I receive in the mail in exchange.

Sketched from the window of Melville’s Cafe – for Urban Sketchers Postcard Exchange

I learned people are very particular about the tools they use. The pen choices alone will keep me busy for weeks. This will be a good excuse to make a trip to my favourite pen and paper shop in Cambridge, Phidon Pens.

While sketching in numerous KW coffee shops, I’ve come to understand how much people appreciate the simple art of drawing.

Matter of Taste Cafe -coffee beans ready for grinding

See what I mean?

I had no idea that one simple sketching course would open a pandora’s box. As I practice, share and prepare for my next sketching course in early January, I realize I’m enjoying the journey more than if I had stopped as soon as I conquered those introductory technical skills.

I find that I sketch in my mind even when I don’t have a pen in my hand. I constantly measure the world around me – shapes, angles and the spatial relationships between building. I observe how objects interact with each other and how people move and use places. Sketching teaches me to be a keen observer of the world and hopefully a better designer too.

I’ll continue to post my sketches online and welcome your constructive feedback! Continue to follow my adventure on Instagram @rennosbymenno and @trentbauman