Concept Sketches for Proposed Colleges

Once again, a week of confidential images.  Three detailed sketches of a pretty cool series of gates and bridges, almost folly-like, which are inspired by the work in Central Park.  Can’t show them yet, of course.  That’s becoming my theme song here I guess. The week before it was 6 images for two different jobs, also hush-hush. Again, I’m very lucky that the work is still there, with the economy as it is. It’s just interesting that everything is being held so closely.  A year ago the clients would have wanted the work trumpeted far and wide.

Since I can’t show this week’s work, I dug some older sketches out, from May I think.  Did a series (maybe five), of conceptual sketches to help an architect illustrate their proposed scheme for adding three, four, as many as five buildings to a difficult spot on an existing campus.  The college has some iconic, traditionally styled buildings, whose collegiate gothic style casts a long shadow and is much-beloved by the students, staff, and alumni.

View of the Proposed Scheme from a point off-campus

View of the Proposed Scheme from a point off-campus

I’m withholding the name of the institution and architect at this point.  The scheme doesn’t really telegraph exactly which institution we are talking about.The above image has been cropped to remove some existing context, to avoid showing it.  As a result, the composition feels a little static.  In the full image, it’s a balanced composition with the proposed building a little more left of center.

You can see in the sketch above the numerous semi-stylized freehand trees and foreground shrubbery, which has become something I’ve needed to develop.  It used to be that I’d scour photographs and magazines for trees and landscape elements.  You build a reference file.  I frankly have no time any more to go thru the file and build the supporting elements (the “entourage”) of an image, creating the trees in pencil from reference photos.  The schedules are too tight.  I’ve had to develop a freehand language of positive and negative pencil work to roughly indicate trees and shrubs and other landscape elements.  When time permits, and the work is more formal, I will take the time to drop in more resolved elements, but that wasn’t the need here.  These were “what if” drawings.  No one’s looking at the trees just yet.

Detail from the Above Sketch, about two by three inches

Detail from the Above Sketch, about two by three inches

The wireframe (or model shots) came to me with a good bit of detail, and I worked over them fairly quickly.  There can be a diminishing return with sketches.   I remember doing three one time, in an architect’s office.  We were simply “playing around”, and had no deadline that day, just were testing things in advance with an eye to going back to the studio and doing more finished versions based on the quick tests.  Word came, though,  that the principal in charge was going to be in town, un planned (it was a Sunday), and so I did a bit of a hurry-up to crank out some slightly more-finished tests.  The first had taken three hours.  The second, an hour and a half.  When we found out that he was delayed and there might be time for another, I started one more, which I executed in a half an hour.  It was as good as,  or frankly better than, the first two.  Sometimes looseness and speed can really inject a bit more life into an image.

Another Detail from the First Sketch, also about 2x3 inches

Another Detail from the First Sketch, also about 2x3 inches

Not much I can share about these… Here’s a second sketch, with details following.  These two were from a suite of four images in all.

A view of a Courtyard corner off the Proposed Quadrangle

A view of a Courtyard corner off the Proposed Quadrangle

And some details of same…

A Detail

A Detail inner corner of the Courtyad off the Quad inner corner of the Courtyard which Opens off the Quad

The Courtyard Tower

The Courtyard Tower

That tree at left and the shrubbery at the base of the wall are the kinds of things that can be troublesome.  I don’t care what anyone says, drawing buildings is easy.  It’s trees and people that are hard.  What I like about that tree at left is that I basically avoided drawing the trunk, and simply drew the shadow on the trunk and the walkway disappearing and reappearing behind it.  It allows me to get away with establishing the tree, but not having to draw the whole thing.  And because the idea of the image is a vignette, where the edges are soft and fade away, the fact that the tree isn’t actually there to begin with helps the image soften at that side.  The tree is a supporting element.  If anyone lingered on it, and I had drawn so much of it that it began to compete with the building, it wouldn’t be a good thing.  And that’s the difficulty of trees and people.  They need to be there, look believable, make for some visual interest, but they can never dominate or overtake the composition.  When I do a formal image, I will set aside an entire day, 8 to 10 hours, to establish the entourage (trees, cars, people).  All in the hopes that they will simultaneously enliven the image, but not compete.  Ideally, they support things, but aren’t what people remember when they turn away from the image.  The building is what is important.

Last, a detail from the third of four sketches.  Can’t show much more than this, and can’t show the fourth at all without giving away the show.

Come back in a bit if you are interested and I’ll edit this at such time as it is ok to relate the details.

Detail from a View taken from the larger Quadrangle, with the Courtyard Tower Beyond

Detail ...from a View taken from the larger Quadrangle, showing the Courtyard Tower Beyond


Filed under Commissioned Work

8 responses to “Concept Sketches for Proposed Colleges

  1. somehow, I turned off the illustrations…what do i need to do to restore them?

  2. Neill

    Nice work Jeff…

    Continue the good work on your blog. It inspires me to keep up mine.

    Will we be seeing you at the ASAI conference this year?


    • Hey Neill.

      Saw your stuff. Love the Penn Station work and the blurb on Wolcot. That guy… Man. I love Ferriss, and Eggers of course. But some of Walcot’s stuff is just unimaginable today. Utterly sketchy, flashes of paint…. Today it’s all about gradients and wet streets and perfect linework. That guy would paint a masterpiece on a cocktail napkin three inches square, and it would be flicks of watercolor that resolved themselves into a cathedral.

      ASAI in Miami…. doubtful. Not feeling the vibe. I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit of a downer with this economy. But I do enjoy going.

      I’ve got a piece in the show this year. Managed to sneak in. Would be nice to see it in the gallery. …they always seem to jam my piece over near the door to the restrooms. hahahaha

      • Neill

        Jeff – Thanks for the comments and i agree about the ASAI event. I want to attend and participate in ASAI more, but i’ll have to hold off until i finish school. However, I did make it in the awards this year.

        Also, if your interested I have a show-reel of my recent university work.

        My goal is to focus on my thesis research in expressive arch representation. Your Eggers page has helped out a ton….Keep up the good work and feel free to stay in touch.


  3. Hi Dean.

    Thanks for your comments.
    The originals are usually done on 11×17 vellum, with the actual image set off on all sides by a good amount of empty space to permit some vignetting. The top image is cropped, showing only about two-thirds of the actual image (I had to cut out some context in order to post it here), and as a result is only about 10 inches wide. The building in that view is about five inches across.

    I work in warm grey prisma, with white prisma hilites, sometimes HB pencil (if i need tight detail). Paper is often vellum, trace, kraft paper, whatever works or is handy.

    I travel really light. When I go to an architect’s office, I’ll bring a kneaded eraser and mars-plast vinyl eraser, a sharpener, two white and two dark pencils, and some vellum.

    I do a lot of editing in photoshop, because there are often design edits, or additions to an image for an alternate scheme, etc.

    Photoshop also allows me to tweaks levels, kill any green that creeps in (never found a scanner that didn’;t throw everything green), and to draw in any additional pencil after the first original is scanned. I tend not to edit the primary originals.

  4. Dean Yeaton

    I find it quite interesting Jeff, that with minimal line work and positive/negative shapes and shadows, you are able to convey the entire thought. Couple of questions if you don’t mind? What size, generally, is your “View” type drawing? And it appears to be black and white Prismas on (?) or do you alter the overall coloring in Photoshop once the drawing is done?
    Thanks for sharing

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