Tag Archives: Einhorn Yaffee Prescott

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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Quick Sketch for E/Y/P

Waiting on a bunch of information on three separate jobs, all of which have had their schedule back up.  Was supposed to spread these over a few weeks, but it looks like they’ll be crammed into next week all by itself.  This is the calm before the storm I guess.  Six images, for three separate jobs, one week or so… yikes.  Not much to do at the moment other than bide time.  So here’s an image from February.  It’s a quick study for a project which may or may not happen.  The architect was just testing the idea…  It was for Paul King of EYP in Boston.

01 EYP_HFLW_study

Conceptual Study of a Proposed Entry Ramp and Stair and Facade Renovation

Some Details…

02 EYP HFLW Detail

Detail of the Right Side of the Building, with Chimney

03 EYP HFLW Detail

Detail at Far Left .....showing the Flemish Bond Brick and One of the New Lamp Posts.

Underneath the overhang at left in this image (above) is a little bounced orange light from the landscape. In my thinking it helps to keep the value low enough to establish that it’s in shade, but the hue itself is what we generally consider a “bright” one, which preserves an overall luminosity.

04 EYP HFLW Detail

Detail at the Center of the Image ...with Proposed Entry Stairs and Ramp, and New Lighting

The primary intent was to test the idea of a new masonry ramps and stairs, and new post lights.  But we also wanted to show the building as it might look after some additional renovation work.  There was an existing continuous fire-escape balcony across the front facade, over the entry door, which would be taken down.  Additionally, the landscaping would be redesigned, and the clunky additions, metal railings, roof equipment, and other ungainly aspects of the original building would be removed as a part of the work.

06 EYP HFLW Exist Photos

Photographs of the Existing Building

Although I had plenty of information, including plans and sketches from the architect, there was no single ideal  photograph taken from the angle that we wanted to show the building from.  Sometimes, especially with a quick sketch from an existing building, you can simply work over a photograph taken from the desired angle, cleaning it up and tweaking it.

I decided to make a digital model, and to use the partial photographs as textures. I clipped the existing photographs apart, flipped, copied elements, rotated, and distorted them (from being in perspective to orthogonal/squared), and used them to texture the model.  Since the sides of the building are in perspective (distorted) in the photographs, I had to play around with them and square them up before I could put them onto my model.

07 EYP HFLW Textures

Squared-up and semi-cleaned extures made from reworked existing photos, to be placed on the Digital Model.

You can see in these iamgees above that there are foreground fences, air conditioners, signs, branches, and plants blocking parts of the facade.  No real big deal, as I’d be overpainting these and fixing whatever didn’t need to be there as I painted the final image in Photoshop.

04a EYP HFLW C4D Screenshot

A Shot of the Digital Model, textured with the existing Photographs. The Proposed Ramp, Stairs, and Post Lights have been built and slid into their proper places

You’ll notice that from this high angle of the digital model angle that the textures don’t really work from this vantage point. The perspective of the windows (especially on the center of the building) is all wrong.  But since some of the photos were taken somewhat close to the point from which the perspective would be drawn, the windows would read more or less correctly when the view is taken through the properly placed camera.

04 EYP HFLW C4D Screenshot

A Screenshot of the Set-Up in Cinema 4D. The Final View is at Upper Left, Plan of the Model at Upper Right, "Front" View Low Left, and the "Side" View at Low Right

As you can see in the Upper Left Camera View, the windows suddenly snap back into proper perspective, and they even appear to return into (or sink back into) the openings properly.  Because the individual facades are symmetrical, you could actually move the camera to the far right for a reverse angle shot showing the building from the right, as long as you flipped the textures on each facade before rendering it.

08 EYP HFLW Raw Render

Here's the Raw Image I got when I hit "Render"... Nothing Special

I don’t spend all day trying to work up the world’s most perfect photoreal image, as you can clearly see.  Cornice don’t exactly align, textures repeat (see the repeating brick on the new masonry ramp and stairs). All that stuff can be drawn in quicker than it can be modeled. What I do have is quick color, shadow, and ambient lighting. I didn’t bother with sophisticated shadows either.  These are “hard” shadows (which calculate quickly), and I don’t think this image took more than 3 seconds for the software to render.  You can even see that the tree shadow is way out of scale. I just wanted something on the ground, and because it’s a sketch, we aren’t getting too fussy.

I did have the software save the shadows on an additional separate layer, so could use that layer later on in Photoshop to punch or manipulate the shadows all by themselves.

08 EYP HFLW Multipass

The Raw Base Rendering with the Shadows treated as a Separate Layer.

If you want to, you can even save out the shadows from separate light sources, which is especially helpful for interior images because they often have many light sources. In this case, the sun was my only real source for shadows.  I could have saved the shadows for each object (say the tree by itself) on its own layer.  But this thing was just a quick image. Say 6 hours from start to finish.  No real need for the extra fuss.

01 EYP_HFLW_study

The Final Image, at 11x17

After about two hours of modeling and testing, it’s about four hours of  paint work in Photoshop.  I use a combination of techniques, all with an eye to creating a softer, human-hand approach.  I use straight 2d digital paint (for lack of a better word) in Photoshop, some pattern/texture layers to break down what would be overly perfect photographic images, and a few (very few) filters.  When I use filters, though, it is never anything like simply running the ‘watercolor’ filter. I’ll use a few passes of the sponge, paint daubs, and maybe palette knife filters.  These will kill detail, and that allows me to go back in and paint the detail where I want it, right back on top of the dumbed-down original image.

Most of the time I essentially paint over the image, though sometimes allowing it to show through to establish color or some texture. When I’m working with something where I have some decent photographic information, I will often also use a pattern stamp brush to break that image down, and bring it back into the rendering with the obvious evidence of a human hand, reflecting actual strokes and brushwork.

09 EYP HFLW compare

Raw Digital Rendering at Right, with the Final Painted Version at Left

I work on a Wacom (pronounced “Wah-kom”) monitor, a 21 inch pressure sensitive monitor with a hand-held pen cursor. I can lay the monitor flat and rotate it, just like I might work on paper.  If I had to do this with a mouse I think I would pull my hair out.  I used to use a smaller Wacom tablet off to the side.  It’s not difficult, but the arm position is awkward. I prefer to draw right on the screen.   The Wacom monitor has doubled my productivity, with no exaggeration.


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Framingham State College “Gate View”, for EYP Einhorn Yaffee Prescott and P|R|A Pfeufer Richardson Architects

Framingham State College, The Gateway Image

Framingham State College, The Gateway Image

Did a third image a couple weeks ago to go with two images done a couple months back. This latest one is 12×12, in pencil. It was done to clarify some final design decisions regarding the commons room, the glass cube on the front corner and the center of interest for this piece.

I’m blocking out camera tests right now for what will likely be the fourth and final image in the series, a color piece intended to stand alone rather than supplement the prior three.

Below are some details from this last pencil image.

The Common Room

The Common Room

A little atmospheric depth was introduced to shift the focus away from the background and toward the glazed cube, while still allowing us to see the other glazed entrance (“The Portal”) beyond.

Detail of the Portal beyond, at the top of the Hill

Detail of the Portal beyond, at the top of the Hill


Detail at Bay Windows

What I particularly enjoy about pencil is that a few flicks here and there are enough to establish detail, while leaving the image loose and fresh.  There’s potential for a certain amount of realism without requiring the illustrator to bog down chasing realism in every corner.

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Framingham State College, for EYP/ Einhorn Yaffee Prescott and P|R|A Pfeufer Richardson Architects

Did a pair of fairly detailed pencil architectural illustrations this past weekend for a dormitory currently in the schematic design phase. We had initially thought there might be four, but decided to do two more-finished pieces instead of four more sketchy ones.


Building Entrance, from the North, Evening View

View from the South, overlooking the Lawn

View from the South, overlooking the Lawn

You should see 33 divisions in the grayscale bar above. If you are seeing solid black, or all white at either end, you should adjust your screen's  brightness/contrast setting, or the pencil images on this website will not display as they were intended.

You should see 33 divisions in the grayscale bar above. If you are seeing solid black, or all white at either end, you should adjust your screen's brightness/contrast setting, or the pencil images on this website will not display as they were intended.

Working with Preston Richardson of Pfeufer Richardson Architects and Paul King of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, I spent a day or so putting together some camera tests and lighting a model provided by David Foxe and Desmond Macauley of EYP.  Desmond is the Senior Designer on the project, and was developing some details at the same time I was beginning my work.  There were some elevation iterations being played with, which didn’t really settle out until I was halfway through the pencil work, so the model served mainly as a wireframe and as a source for some lighting and shadow information, used later to add a little more depth to the straight-pencil work.

Screenshot of the Model in Cinema4d

Screenshot of the Model in Cinema4d

The daytime shot (screenshot above) was simple enough.  I basically referenced the shadows from the computer model, and used a render test as an underlay to develop the pencil work.

But Preston and Paul both thought that the view of the building’s entry area, with an opening at the ground level looking through open space into the distance, really wanted to be taken at night.  The interior common spaces and connecting link above the ground level entrance are all glass, and there was a desire on their part to illustrate how the space could be a lantern of sorts, and that it might illustrate the nature of that space as a place for students to congregate, pass through, interact, etc.  A literal and figural beacon of sorts.  I threw some very basic lights into the model.  Generally, I don’t bother much with lighting in the C4D model, as I use it as a glorified wire frame.  But in this case I wanted some more complexity to the lighting. In a daytime shot, there’s basically the sun, and fill light (bounced from the ground plane or filling in from the sky).  At night though, there are as many sources as there are, well, lights.  I thought a simple balance was in order.  Something simplified and diagrammatic.  I didn’t want to chase down every desk lamp in every room.  That’s not what this image was about.


Eventually it was time for the pencil to hit the paper.  Can only push it off so long.  Where many of the sketchier pieces can be executed two a day, these were more like one per day, plus modeling time.

Some details….






You might notice a little color in these.  Very little.  I’ve done a few of these tinted pencil pieces in the past month or so. My goal in pencil work isn’t so much to try to replicate reality.  It’s more about creating an atmosphere, and communicating a sensibility.  If adding a little color can further that, then I am all for it. No attempt at realism is intended, however, it’s really just an ethereal color-quality laid in to firm the composition and to unify the two views when presented side by side. The softness of the post-production color (added in Photoshop) is a nod to tinted black-and-white photographs, and acknowledges the futility of the notion that one can “color” a black and white image. You really can’t. You need to plan for color in advance and allow it to establish value, not simply hue.  But that’s not to say you cannot add some visual interest to a black and white sketch by floating a little color wash over it.

What I like about being able to show these images (much of my other work the past couple months has been confidential) is that many folks, architects included, seem to think that pencil work is necessarily “period” in style.  As if it only works with an architecture of an historic sensibility (witness the Yale images and the Otto Eggers pieces elsewhere in this blog).  I think these two shots will serve to debunk the thinking that pencil cannot be used to illustrate a more modern architecture, too. It’s my humble (and invested) opinion that a pencil itself doesn’t really know what it is drawing, and that anything beautiful can be rendered beautifully in any medium.   I would think you could make something beautiful given a stick and some wet beach sand to scrawl it into, assuming you had a beautiful subject.  …and that you knew how to work with a stick and some sand.


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