This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
We have considered drawings made on a drawing board with T-square and triangles. There is another way of drawing, that is, by sketching.
The sketch is the most rapid means of progressing in the art of designing. In sketching an object one examines it more closely than one otherwise would. Not only is it necessary to understand a composition, to distinguish its separate parts, but it is necessary to fix the relation of these parts and to study carefully the proportions. The eye alone is the real instrument for measurement and guide for proportion, and the sketch is the means for training the eye. Practice alone will give facility in sketching.
Do not make sketches primarily in order to collect material, but make them in order to learn how to see. Sketch books may be kept as souvenirs, but the profit from them will be more in the instruction gained while making the sketch than in the sketches themselves. Through abundant sketching a freedom in the expression of ideas is also gained.
The point to keep in view in sketching is to show the character of the subject attempted. The exact dimensions one can get only with the tape-line, but the most carefully measured drawings often fail to show much character. A photograph is liable to represent a subject other than as the eye and hand see it. But if the effect of the subject, the impression of the beholder, can be reproduced in the sketch, something has been obtained which the tape and the camera cannot hope to accomplish.
Fig. 22. Cross-Section Paper.
Materials for Sketching. At first it is a good idea to use cross-section paper, paper ruled in squares of 1/4 in. or less, which makes it easier to draw at right angles; but from the moment that the draftsman is able to get along without these lines he should employ only blank paper. A small sketch book should be carried in the pocket. For small pencil sketches a smooth paper (metallic paper) gives crisp effects, but much rubbing cannot be done. A gray paper gives good effects with pencil or color used as a medium, chalk or Chinese white giving the high lights.
The sketches can be made in pencil, charcoal, ink, crayon, or in colors; the medium of expression is of little importance, as, after having learned to see an object rightly, the drawing can be made, as Ruskin says, "with a stick of wood charred at the end." A sketch should be light and clear. Shadows may be cast, but merely to express the projections, and should be only lightly shaded in.
Subjects to Sketch. In almost every city there are small classes in freehand and charcoal drawing which the architectural student should, if possible, attend; and in connection with every art museum there are generally day and evening classes. But great progress may be made by individual work in drawing interesting objects. Do not commence with making a sketch of a whole building. Sketch individual features, like a doorway, some ornament, etc. Sketches of buildings or motives of buildings should be made in direct projection as well as in perspective. The sketches in perspective will help to explain the geometrical sketches and to teach the student to think in three dimensions.
A great deal can be learned by copying photographs of good work, but the greatest benefit is derived by drawing from nature. By the latter the student learns almost unconsciously the laws of perspective, form, and proportion, and above all learns to think "in the solid." It leads to the appreciation of the fact that architectural drawing is the expression of solids, and in order that these solids shall be successfully shown, the one that draws them has to see them in his mind's eye as they actually are going to appear when built.
He should be very careful in the selection of his models to draw from, and choose only such that are beautiful. Too often the student is told to draw no matter what, under the pretext that it is always an exercise. Without doubt it is difficult to draw any model at first exactly, but what does it amount to if he occupies his time with copying those things which do not stimulate and develop his sense of beauty. There is no better practice than to draw a flower, a leaf; and if he has access to museums, etc., he should draw from the antique models, sculpture, and ornamental subjects. By drawing the latter he can learn besides how in olden times natural objects were conventionalized for use in decoration.
Memory sketches are excellent practice. Go to see a model, study it as carefully as possible; then go home and make a sketch of it. The student may be sure that his memory will betray him, and he should go back to the subject and study it again and again - twice or three times if necessary - after which he will finally arrive at a reasonably accurate sketch.