Tag Archives: art

Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, Wakefield MA

Back almost twenty years ago, I worked as the designer on a renovation of The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, in Wakefield Massachusetts.  At the time, I was working for CBT Architects of Boston.

The Library had a fund raiser the other night, and I donated a sketch of the original entrance, on Main Street, for the silent auction.  thankfully, it sold.  …nothing worse than donating something and seeing a blank clipboard at the end of the evening.  Come on people, the FRAME is worth something, isn’t it?!?!

The sketch is in warm grey pencil, on vellum, with white highlights, about 8×10 in size.

Lucius Beebe Library Sketch

The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, Main Street Entry  -(click for full size)-  © Jeff Stikeman 2014

Been busy here, and per usual, neglecting updates. Had a week off in March, but other than that, it’s been straight through since Christmas and New Year’s.

Typically slows in July and August (which is fine with me!), so I’m looking forward to getting out of the studio and into some sun.






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Recent Work: Summer 2013

Been a while….  The year has been ridiculously busy, thankfully.  Haven’t really had much downtime, and believe it or not, other than a semi-slow July/August (three or four projects each month), I have been working straight through on a variety of projects large and small.

Development work (retail and residential) is coming back in force as the rising tide of the economy continues.  Although there was always some level of private residential work being done through the recession, it seems to really be taking off again. In short, things have been busier than ever.  Still no excuse for nearly a ten month delay in updating the blog.

I’ve been privileged to work on some fantastic projects, including about 18 or so renderings for the U.S. State department, on a couple different jobs.  Sadly, most of it is confidential, as is much of the institutional and development work which has kept me busy over the year.

Best I can offer at this point is some cropped enlarged details from some of the work, uncredited and with some details obscured.  The drawings range from sketchy concept work, to more formal, finished renderings.

Apologies for withholding project information.

These are details (about 2 inches x 6 inches) of some 11×17 sketches I did for a study of a landscaping master plan for a large property.





Some sketches done in a looser style, for a private academy, as part of a masterplan study.  These are loose enough to turn around in just a few days, even a half dozen of them. These types of softer sketchier preliminary images connect with trustees, staff, students, and lay people (and donors!) far more than a screen-shot of a sketch-up model can, and can be pretty cost-effective.





Lifestyle and hospitality work is back in force as well.  I did a small series of very atmospheric, highly considered images for a proposal at an historic property.  Again, I can’t really provide any details, or show most of the work, but here’s a non-architectural detail, one that’s all about the entourage (the people and supporting elements in the image).


Here are some greatly enlarged details from loose studies done as part of a retail project.  They were done on warm buff paper, with pencil and white highlights, digital color added.



Residential work lately has focused on preliminary studies, early concepts… Architects are finding that in a competitive environment, it’s always good to be expressive as early in the process as possible.  Loose flexible sketches can be done the day before (or even day-of) a meeting, and again, clients respond more positively to them than they do to screenshots of an antiseptic sketch-up model…  Sketches like these can help make decisions, move projects forward,  and provide something for the client to become excited about, invested in emotionally. These are cropped details.




Although much of the work has some amount of color, there are times when monochromatic studies can be effective.  The intent here was for atmospheric, painterly, loose-yet-detailed images.  From a series of about eight semi-formals, these are digital, and were done from a roughly built model.




Here’s a small detail from a large aerial I did of a proposed University expansion.  It was 22 inches wide, at about 400 dpi. …fairly large by today’s standards.



March saw about a month’s worth of time given over to executing 12 formal images depicting a modern building proposed for a semi-tropical location.  Much attention was given to the highly developed landscape and exterior lighting plan, and in hewing closely to the existing context and local environment. These details are about an inch or two wide in the originals, which were 12×16, 300dpi.






Thanks for taking a look.  I hope that the wide range of images here, from sketchy to atmospherically formal, will give an indication of the rendering options available at any point in a project’s life.  There’s always a cost-effective solution, and one that almost always works with the schedule.


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Refurbishing a Boston Landmark

Very quick sketch here from a few photographs of an existing building, the old Filene’s Department Store, by Daniel Burnham, 1912.

digital photoshop sketch  of Filene's Boston by Jeff Stikeman Architectural Art

Filene’s Boston, 1912, by Daniel H. Burnham Architect, of Chicago. An Idealized Sketch of the Building Following a Proposed Future Refurbishment (click for a larger version)

Downtown Crossing, Boston, is a hot topic at the moment, and most of the discussion revolves around the proposed development of the Filene’s Site, of which this building is a part.  I worked on the Filene’s project/site about fifteen years ago, on the opposite side of the block backing up to the Burnham building. The mid-50s Brutalist Concrete building (since demolished) by Raymond Loewy,  was being considered for expansion and a ‘facade-ectomy’.  Nothing came of it (the project succumbed to the recession of the early ’90s).  That project however also included some measures for restoring the existing Burnham Building, cleaning and stabilizing its granite field, and deep-green glazed terracotta columns. The full restoration did not take place at that time, but there were measures taken to stabilize the terracotta, and replace some that had been lost or excessively damaged.  Those pieces now read in a different shade of green, having weathered the couple decades not as well as the century old glazed terracotta of the original. As part of the comprehensive development of the site (including a high-rise tower), some amount of work will need to be visited upon the flagship building.  Additionally, the window glazing which has been painted out for many years is shown here as reopened, allowing us to see into the building a bit. In this daytime view, we see only a few hints of the light fixtures at the ceiling level, but there would be a visual connection between inside and out. In the evening, the interior would be illuminated and warm, rather than blank and dark as is has been for decades.

Enlarged Detail of a proposed Corner Retail Entry and Glass Canopy, for the Original Filene’s Building at Downtown Crossing.

This image is only one concept, and will certainly be supplanted by further studies to be sure.  But in this exercise, the charge was to show the building facade refreshed, the ground floor as reopened, with a corner retail entry, new glass canopy, an entrance to the T, and perhaps a hint of an office entry mid-block, just past the T entrance. The view is Idealized, too. It’s not entirely possible to see wthis much of it from the location I’ve sketched it from.  But more about experience than specifics. I wanted you to understand the building, the intersection, the crowd, and the experience of stepping from narrow Winter Street into the light and under that great facade.

The crowd at downtown crossing is an interesting mix of office workers, tourists, young students, and residents. They are what give the area its energy.

A Detail showing a proposed entrance to the T (Subway) on Summer Street beyond. The lunchtime crowd depicted here reflects the energy one can expect to find at Downtown Crossing on a typical day.

As with most concepts, none of this is cast in stone.  That’s the challenge with a sketch like this. We need to represent what actually exists, couple it with what might exist, be specific about it without being too specific (because it isn’t resolved yet), and communicate some idea of the nature of the place.  Downtown Crossing is a vitally energetic part of the city, a literal and figurative crossing (hence its name). And for the last hundred years, a grande dame, the Filene’s building, has been holding court.  She’s a little tired after all that time, but with a bit of attention will again be a beautiful backdrop to the hurrying, shopping, ever-changing never-changing crowds below. That was the idea behind this illustration.

I’d posted this detail out of context a while ago. It’s clear now we’re looking at a touristy dad with kids in tow. His daughter has lost a balloon.

…here it is, diagonally across the frame, heading up, and soon to be lost around the corner of the building at right.

A last detail… There’s always the sound of music somewhere at Downtown Crossing. A sax player, drummers, a guitarist…. often overlapping, always echoing as you walk through the narrow streets on the brick paved streets  among the buildings.

I worked from an existing photograph, which is entirely typical when the subject is extant. No sense reinventing the wheel.  The deadline was also about a day of working time, with some good amount of conversation with my client beforehand, and some minor editing after. The work was performed in February of 2012. Joseph Larkin, of Millennium Partners, was the client.

The photograph which was used as a basis for the above work.

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Park Plaza Boston: Roof Top Bar

I showed a couple small details of these back in June, but can now show them in their entirety.

In June I received a call from Robin Brown, with whom I worked on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, of Boston.  I was the senior designer of that project while at CBT Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc., architects.  In fact, it was perhaps the last building built of those that I designed before I left architecture and started my illustration studio. As with many projects, what I designed, and what was built, had a divergence.  But enough of it is still there of my work that I count it among my projects.  Here’s an very old study I did for the Mandarin, during the public approvals process, ca.2001.

Entry Study for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Boston …one of my first experiments with photoshop. Can you tell that I had discovered the ‘gradient’ tool?

While working on it, I got a comment from someone that computers were really amazing, because otherwise it would have been impossible to figure out the shadow from that arching glass canopy.  …I wasn’t very successful at explaining to them that it was 2d, not a model, and that Photoshop did not ‘calculate’ anything related to shadows, but I did.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Robin had been investigating the idea of developing a roof top deck and bar at the Park Plaza Hotel.  It’s an enviable location, with roof-top views of the Public Garden, the Arlington Street Church, Old and new John Hancock Towers….

Today, the roof is a mix of rooftop equipment and high parapets.

Existing Condition of the Roof Top, with extensive HVAC components, and tall parapets

I walked through the interior space, and outside along the roof top, with Eric Peterson of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates of Cambridge.  They and design architects Arquitectonica are studying the feasibility of the concept. There were, at the time, only rough indications from their model of a furnishing plan for tables, and defining the extent of the roof deck.

A quick model shot provided by the architects, showing approximate extent of the roof deck.

There was not much else available to work from at that point. “Just see what you can come up with.” Robin wanted something that would speak to the energy level of the project, that captured the fantastic location, and which maybe conveyed what it would be like to be under the sky at night in the middle of Boston with such a vantage point.

digital photoshop illustration of a roof deck for the Park Plaza Roof, Boston

Looking West, down St. James Street, from a Proposed Roof top Bar at the Park Plaza Hotel

Sometimes, with an existing space, you can grab a few well-considered shots and simply sketch right over them quickly.  And Robin needed these quickly (day and a half, two days max.).  But this time it looked like a tall order to grab a few photos and just sketch away.  And we wanted the finals sketches to be taken at night, too. I took a few panorama photographs, doctored them a bit, removed the equipment, and painted away.

Looking North, over the Public Garden, Boston. Zakim Bridge at upper left, and the Dome of the State House middle right. Proposed tensile structure and bar at right, beyond.

These suffer from the restrictions of a blog, only 550 pixels wide.  In reality, they are about 12×18 and 300 dpi.  And so, some details.

Looking West, down St. James Street, with the old and new Hancock Towers at left

Instead of four-top tables, I went with groups of upscale seating, sofas, low coffee tables, and plantings of boxwoods and cedars in zinc planters. The deck is shown as Ipe or Teak.

Another Detail, Looking West, with the old New England Mutual Life Insurance Company beyond.

Necessarily, there isn’t a lot of ‘there’ there.  Just messy indications and highlights, more sketchy than specific.  Here’s a shot enlarged to the point where it falls apart.  The idea isn’t to zoom in and see detail, it’s to imply detail when zoomed out.

An enlarged detail, past full size. Really nothing here beyond a few strokes and indications of color and highlights. My favorite is her apple-tini.  Nothing there but a green triangle and three highlights.

Here are a few details from the view looking north.

The idea was to place groups of seating which defined an area for small groups of people, with enough open area beyond for a small function or cocktail reception. Note the State House beyond.

The parapets of the existing condition were chest high. Assuming the deck was built to be elevated about much of the existing piping, it became clear that the parapets could be brought to below eye-level, vastly improving the view. Instead of looking into a brick parapet, you’d be overlooking the Public Garden.  I introduced a continuous boxwood hedge and glass rail, lit from below, with the seating in front of that. This kept us back from the parapet, reducing any potential vertigo (we don’t want anyone looking over to the street below) and gave a better sense of enclosure while still preserving the view.

Numerous seating configurations scale the roof top down to more intimately sized areas, a glass rail preserves the view, and is set back from the parapet by a low boxwood hedge, lit from below. The Zakim bridge is beyond, left.

An existing penthouse of brick is to remain, and will contain the elevator lobby, bar, and service areas.  The industrial nature of the older original equipment will be cleaned and restored, left in place, with perhaps a tensile structure appended in a way that covers the doors out onto the roof terrace.

An existing Penthouse will remain (at right) with a new tensile structure expressing the connection out to the roof terrace.  And no,  That’s not Tom Brady….

What I enjoy about being able to share these in greater depth on a blog, is that I can explain how they are developed, and convey what the REAL effort can often be.  It’s not enough to simply paint a picture of something from information provided.  It’s sometimes more about synthesizing many things: incomplete designs; verbal descriptions; and quirky design complications; and delivering something which expresses the designers’ and the clients’ ultimate intent and which speaks to the big idea.

All work was done in Photoshop CS5, about 12×18, 300dpi.

copyright © jeff stikeman architectural art 2012

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New Work: March-June 2012

Well, I thought February was busy….

Haven’t really had any time to update, which is the very thing that will end up killing a blog.  Literally haven’t had a day off since February began.  That’s both good and bad, obviously.  Nature of the business is that you take work as it comes.  I’m looking for a little break during the typical summer slow-down. And I do have a week of planned vacation coming up.  …can’t believe the year is almost half over. But I could use a break.

Again, most of the work has been confidential.  Most projects coming out of a recession are of course start-up.  Not doing many marketing renderings (for finished/built work), instead, it’s mostly concept work, or schematic design level work.

I did execute a couple more formal images for Powers/Schram of Fort Lauderdale, of a mid-century modernist waterfront home.  I worked with Rick Powers a couple times when he was here in Boston as an architect at Tsoi Kobus, and it was nice to reconnect and work with him again.

Street View of “Sunrise Key”, Fort Lauderdale; digital paint with pencil, 11×17

View from the Water of of “Sunrise Key”, Fort Lauderdale; digital paint with pencil, 11×17

Before executing the two images above, we studied a few black and white camera tests.  These two are my favorites from among those we discarded.

Camera Test, for Sunrise Key, Water Side

Camera test, Street Side

I was partial to the lower camera station of the camera test from the water-side, but the intricate and rich landscaping plan begged for a higher camera angle, and it was decided to raise the camera to a point where the pool and landscape could be more clearly seen.

Some details of the final version of the Water Side view, at near-full resolution:

And details of the Street View:

As has become a recurring refrain here, most of the work I’ve done the past few months is confidential.  Following, though, are some details from work which I’m allowed to share, though many are necessarily cropped to remove any telling information.

11×17 Pencil Rendering

Detail of same

…a portion from a very quick, chalky/gouachy little sketch, about 11×17

A detail from the same sketch

A detail from a 9×14 pencil sketch, flicked with digital hi-lites and paint, on brown kraft-paper.

…another chunk from the same sketch, a private home, in Newport Rhode Island

A tightly cropped detail from a very quick, very loose digital sketch, for a proposed roof deck bar. This detail only about 2×2 from an 11×19 sketch

A detail from the second sketch in this pair of fairly loose, sketchy digital pieces.

In looking back at these, it strikes me that each image is entirely different than the next.  Rather than all pencil, or all digital, there is (I think) a healthy mix of differing approaches to the issue at hand.  Rather than reflecting what works for me, I think it better illustrates that my work is about answering the client’s need.  What do you need, when do you need it, and what do you have for me to work from?  And most important; who is your audience?  These are the questions which, for me anyway, determine what kind of image we end up with, how long it takes, what the final piece feels like…

I’ll try to be a bit better about timely updates.  With the economy the way it has been, there’s a tendency to keep working, never sure when the shoe might drop.  If the work keeps coming in though, that can make for a long run of heads-down work. All work and no-play, and all that.  We shall see what summer holds.  Since it seems to be when my clients, and their clients, take their vacations, that means it’s generally my vacation too.  Have a good summer yourself.

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Sketches for a Proposed College Expansion and Masterplan


copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

11x17 Pencil Sketch for a Proposed Academic Building

Pencil Studies for a Proposed College Expansion

Traditionally an architectural illustrator will come in at the end of the project and produce a formal image or two of the final, fully-designed concept, like the sketch above.   Sometimes though when a project is very large in scope, and will likely stretch over a number of years and be reviewed continually by many constituents and groups (users, the public, review boards, etc.), I am brought in to produce quick draft sketches and loose renderings throughout the process.  Images executed consistently and by one hand can, over a period of time, serve to stabilize for some participants what might otherwise feel like a moving target.  If many of the people involved in a project of large scope are lay people (neighborhood groups, users, etc.), and do not have a lot of experience with architectural projects, then they may not feel very comfortable looking at plans and elevations and converting them to ‘reality’.  A quick pencil study can be executed rapidly, presented the next day as follow-up to the previous day’s discussion perhaps, and remove many issues that are not yet germane (materials, colors, landscaping, details) which a formal image or digital (photoreal) rendering might raise.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

Enlarged Detail of the Previous Image, at Top, about full size

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman

...a further enlarged detail of the formal pencil, about 2x3 inches in the original

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman

Another portion of the 11x17 rendering taken from the right side of the image and enlarged to about full size

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman

...and zooming into that detail even further.

The above sketch and its details are what were produced at the end of one project’s process.  It might be interesting to take a look at some of the earlier conceptual studies, though.  These predate the final rendering above by a couple, perhaps even three years.

When I’m involved very early on in the conceptual phase, and client meetings and presentations are occurring perhaps weekly, things change constantly.  A project may not be far enough along to make a physical model, or it may be changing so quickly that such models (in cardboard or foam) can’t keep up.  So a digital ‘sketch model’ is often used to flesh things out.  Even then, though, they are often sparse,  and contain elements which are nothing more than placeholders or abbreviated mock-ups of what is ultimately intended.  Digital stills (shots taken from these digital models)  are a great tool for architects, but often the people to whom they are presented, clients especially, find them uncomfortable, oddly un-realistic, or unapproachable.

...screen grab of a Sketch-Up model. A great tool for the architect, but disconcerting for anyone not accustomed to the spare look of a sketch model.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architctural art

The same concept as the above digital model, but rendered in a quick pencil sketch.

A pencil sketch done simply and quickly moves the focus away from the odd nature of the computer model’s textures and primitive massing, toward the real matter at hand, in this case a discussion regarding whether there is an entrance to the pedestrian connection between buildings at  the higher street level (above sketch).  …or whether the path from the street continues downward and under the pedestrian connection (below).

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman

The same sketch, modified to show an alternate concept for the pedestrian connection.

We don’t know yet the color or even texture of the stone, or what the details in the stone trim might be.  And we don’t need to spend a half hour coloring the sky for the sky’s sake…  The marching orders are to translate the architect’s very rough digital concept model into something which the architect and client can discuss without distraction.  Softening the edges and implying flexibility (meaning: the design is still in process) is important.  It does no good to spend all day on a formal image, making the architect’s client feel hemmed in, as thought the architect is saying the design is fully resolved and inflexible.  Rather, the idea is to encourage discussion and exploration, and assure the client that the process is fluid, and progressing.

Following are some more early sketches, done in white and warm grey on buff paper.  These represent maybe a third of the sketches (including alterations and revisions) done in the conceptual and schematic design phases.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman

An early view of a Concept for a Proposed Campus Expansion

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

A later development of the previous view

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...a enlargement of the same view

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...and another portion of the sketch, enlarged

I offer these zoomed-in details of the sketches not to show the detail, but precisely for the opposite reason: to show that there isn’t any real detail.  What I enjoy about these types of sketches is that the flick of a pencil can be quickly made to establish a window opening, or that a quick smudge of pencil with some darker indications can be made to read as a mature tree.  The facile nature of the pencil is what makes the images valuable to the process.  Clients can readily understand the overall intent, without bogging down in the minutiae, and the sketches can come as fast and as furious as the design does.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

A very early view of the quad and the academic buildings depicted in the much more formal rendering at the very top of this page.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

Another view of the Quad and proposed buildings

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

One Detail of the same image, enlarged

Note the ‘non-trunk’ of the tree, at left.  In these simple tonal studies, merely drawing a shadow falling across a portion of the tree trunk is enough to establish the entire trunk itself.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...and a detail from the right side of the same sketch

These eventually became more and more formal as the design became resolved, and a suite of renderings, including an Interior, were executed.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

A more formal study of the image at top, this one more angular and (I think) less successful than the slightly more frontal (elevational) view.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...detail of same

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...and another

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

A slightly elevated view of the same quad, from the right

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman


copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...another, about 2x3 inches in the original

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

A Detail from an Entry Study

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...Another enlarged detail, this about 1x2 inches. I can't help it, the pencil just loves the 'zoom'

That’s not a joke.  One of the things often unspoken about a hand drawn sketch like this one is that the human eye is constantly looking INTO things, deeper, seeking detail.  At a certain point, the eye stops caring that the building (which is the subject) has long ago stopped giving up new detail when we peer into it, and begins to revel in the human hand, the strokes on paper.  If this were a shot of a sketch-up model, the eye would be greeted with nothingness.  …maybe a solid color, a hard edge.  But here, when the eye has become satisfied that the arch is stone, and has a substantial profile, or that the bay beyond will have mouldings and guttering, it then makes the leap to pencil and paper and finds joy (eye-candy, to be blunt) in the incidental strokes that combine to express the slope of grass or the handrail, shrubbery, or human smudges.  And that’s the point.  Let the client know that there was joy in this process.  Joy in the process will yield joy in the built experience.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

...a Study for the Pedestrian Connector and Outdoor Reading Room

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

A portion of an Interior Study, whose purpose was lost to last minute design changes.

There is an economy, believe it or not, to doing a number of iterative sketches throughout the design process, in addition to a few formal “beauty shots” at the very end when all is said and done.  Sketches like the looser conceptual kind included here serve to anchor the process, inspire the client, speak to the public and show true intention, and provide focus.  Passionate sketches, even incredibly loose ones, will convey their passion.  Architects are passionate, and their work is presented best when presented with a like amount of passion by the illustrator.  And in a way, despite the extra expense of these conceptual sketches, a savings is realized…  The discussion moves more quickly, decisions are made more quickly and more firmly, and with greater conviction.  In a sense, three years before the last formal image was drawn for this project, an inkling of that view, and the buildings within it, were understood by the client.  Quite literally, an early sketch can provide the client something to pin to the wall, and to pin their hopes on, it becomes a flag planted, toward which the project can move. Passion begets passion.  And a client passionate about the work, inspired by visual delight, and firmly committed to furthering it, is the best possible kind of client one can have.

Anything that helps plant that passion more than pays for itself.  …many times over.

copyright 2010 jeff stikeman architectural art

Passion must be evident even in the incidentals... A detail of the cross-hatched sky and an overhanging tree in the foreground.

The Architect for the project is Tsoi Kobus, of Cambridge.

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United States Embassy Oslo, Norway; for EYP Einhorn Yaffee Prescott

Back in October I worked with Lance Ferson and Paul King of EYP, out of their Albany, New York office, to produce four images for the new US Embassy in Oslo, just outside of the city in Huseby.

View of the Main Entry Pavilion, US Embassy, Oslo, Norway; 11x17 300dpi ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

For me, the personal challenge in these images was to capture the quality of light and the nature of the site and so, before slapping any paint,  I spent some time studying photographs of  the area, just outside Oslo, as well as photographs of the Norwegian landscape and the quality of the light. This gave me understanding enough to begin to establish some sense of place.  Particularly important were the lower angle sun of the northern latitude,  a good bit of atmospheric lighting (bounced light, light from the environment and not just the sun) and including the types of trees, flowers, and indigenous wildflowers that we could expect.  An in-depth landscaping design was prepared by Carol Johnson Associates, which addressed  hardscapes,  the types of new trees to be planted, which of the existing trees would remain, and how grassy meadow areas and an existing wet area (the riparian way) would be handled.The quality of the lighting was my principal concern.  About half of it came from setting up things a certain way in Cinema 4D (a digital modeling application), and the other half was handled in paint (Photoshop, actually).  Trees, wildflowers, and the sky are meant to introduce a character and a sense of place.

US Embassy Oslo

Detail; Skies are always difficult... The sky made for nearly half the image, but needed to remain secondary to the building and grounds of the Embassy while simultaneously having enough visual interest in color and texture to hold its own ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

I wanted to establish depth (the site is settled into a fairly rustic surroundings), and so played up the atmospheric perspective.  Normally farther objects take on a bluish hue as the atmosphere builds up between the viewer and the background, but in this case, and because the image was meant to be taken in late morning, I went with a warmer approach to the background.

I tried to give the image some depth with a bright foreground of wildflowers and meadow grasses, darker middle ground of cooler blues and purples, and then a bright background again of warmer less-saturated warmer hues. ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

I think there was only really one edit to this image in the end.  I had mistakenly understood the “gate” to be literally a swinging gate, and spent a fair chunk of time making the shadow from the open gate fall across the embassy sign in a way that was visually interesting. I also teased the sun around enough to get some tree shadow falling on the gate itself, to keep it from being monolithic.

photshop edit to digital paint illustration

On the left, the image as originally delivered, showing my interpretation of the open, swinging gate. At right, the correct configuration. ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

The edits were effected entirely in Photoshop.  Removing the open swinging gate (in reality, the gate slides behind the embassy sign) is simple enough.  But spot edits often require some additional and pretty esoteric stuff be done in order to be tied into the image fully. For example, notice that the gate and its shadow don’t simply need to be scrubbed out, but the embassy seal is now lit differently, picking up bounced light from the pavement; the linework of the stone panels is also hit with more light; and the overhang and seal of the courtyard beyond are now visible.

In the second image, the Chancery sits on an intimate arrival courtyard, encountered after passing through the Entry Pavilion building.

US Embassy Oslo Entry Court at the Chancery

A view of the Chancery from within the Entry Court; 11x17 300dpi ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

Paper and river birches of varying maturity are sprinkled throughout these views.  I’ve idealized them some, and may have taken some minor liberties with the season.  Ideally, the intent is to show them as they leaf-out in the late spring, some varieties a little further along and deeper green.

Detail of the Chancery View, showing the Seal of the Embassy tucked under the deep, perforated copper porte cochere. ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

The approach here was to use the hardscape (granite slab) of the courtyard to introduce substantial amounts of bounced light back into the shadows.  This allows me to establish darker shadows at their outer edges (which ‘pops’ the geometry of the forms) while taking the edge off what would otherwise be a sea of darkness by lightening the interior of the shadow.  Nothing new here.  It’s an age-old visual trick, but it has a basis in reality.  Shadows often appear much darker at their edges because our eyes are picking up the contrast of the shadow and the bright sunlit surface outside the shadow.  If this is sufficiently bright, the iris constricts, and the perceived contrast goes up.  We see the edge as very dark because the lit wall is very bright.  Looking deeper into the shadow, our iris relaxes and opens to let in more light.  Literally, our brain interprets the deeper part of the shadow as less dark.  Graphically establishing the shadows with both devices at once heightens the effect. The perceived sense of shadow darkness makes the sun feel “brighter”, while simultaneously allowing light back (even additional colors) into the image.  The shadows can actually be kept fairly light, and that keeps the image itself from getting too dark, especially when printed.

Detail of a tree shadow as it falls on the building and across a large window ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

This is a more exaggerated example.  Notice the edges of the tree shadow are handled darker with a cool purple, and the interior is a warmer and much lighter magenta.  The idea (whether it works or not is up to the viewer) is that the dark purple establishes the shadow, and the lighter center eases off a bit, and introduces some warmth to counter the cools.  The purple shadow falls on a warm yellow stone, and since the two (purple and yellow) are complements, the intent is that hopefully they work together to take each other down a notch. The purple seems a little less purple than it otherwise might.

Detail of a copper overhang in the Chancery View ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

Just to beat the idea of bounced light to death… The underside of the copper overhang here is re-lit by some bluish atmospheric light and warm light from the pavers below.  This is an exaggeration as well, but in truth, bounced light is often blue.  The sky itself is a light source independent of the sun.  Of course, the sky gets its light originally from the sun, but ultimately that light becomes blueish in cast after bouncing around and becoming diffused by the atmosphere.  The sky’s light is omnidirectional, too, and will often fill in the underside of broad overhangs, or deeply shadowed areas.

View of the restored riparian way; 11x17 300dpi ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

On the other side of the chancery, in the middle of the site, there is an existing wet area. A small existing stream flows from the rear of the image down towards the viewer and off to the right out of the frame.  A mix of grasses, wildflowers, and wet-loving trees will be maintained and preserved, and further augmented with new indigenous plantings.

Detail of the Riparian Way image ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

Here’s a little more of that bounced lighting I have been yammering on and on about, under the overhang and in the light magentas of the stone wall near the windows (at middle right).  The bright building corner (at right) meets the shade side of the building, establishing the corner. But the darkness of the shade immediately eases off as we retreat into the far corner, keeping this portion of the image from being too dark and colorless.

Detail of the riparian way, with the stream bed at middle ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

You’d never know that this scene started out with four buildings visible to the camera.  To the architects’ credit, there was never a real issue with obscuring the architecture.  For them, and the landscape architect, the riparian way was as much a part of the concept as the buildings, and as important and potentially powerful, visually.  It was with some (though minimal) hesitation, that I started painting in trees enough to almost obliterate the architecture.  We slid one or two around, but for the most part, these trees represent existing or proposed locations in varying levels of maturity. Depth was an important thing to preserve in this image, and was accomplished again with less saturated greens and shadows in the deeper parts of the image, and less detail.

Walkway to the Marine Residence, along the riparian way, detail about 2x2 ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

The last image was from the North, showing a view of the Chancery from a roadway which it shares with a residential neighborhood.

View from the North, along Sørkedalsveien ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

A north view can often be a challenge.  Frankly, though it is among the simpler of the image compositions, this was the image which took the most time to execute.  North-lit facades are in shade, and are lit entirely by the sky.  Sure, I could have decided to base this image on the morning of the summer solstice, when it would be picking up idyllic morning sunlight, but that would be a little too obvious.  I decided to keep the time of day pretty much the same in all the images.  In this case, the sun is at deep left, shining on the eastern façade. another difficult compositional element was the security fence.  The fence is made from very narrow square pickets, closely spaced.  While moving, even walking, the fence becomes nearly invisible.  Taken in a static view, it could be far more impactful than it really would be in experience. In an interesting way, being lit the way it is keeps the fence from graphically becoming overly dominant.  If it were lit from the front, it would go bright, and become significant.  Here, backlit, it falls into the middle ground values of the meadow beyond.

Detail of the image from the right side, at the western end of the north facade ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

Detail of the Chancery Building. The window in this detail offered a way to introduce some lighter values, simply because the glass would be fairly reflective at this angle and could show us the sky behind us, over our right shoulder. ©2009.jeff.stikeman.architectural.art

The model for this project was developed by EYP in Revit, and though we wrestled with it a number of ways, we eventually found a workable solution for bringing it into Cinema 4D, where it was lit and rendered.  All linework and color was performed in Photoshop, on a Wacom 21-inch pressure sensitive monitor.

© Jeff Stikeman and jeff stikeman architectural art, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without the expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jeff Stikeman and jeff stikeman architectural art, and only along with appropriate and specific direction (link) to the original content here.

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