Tag Archives: watercolor

2013 Year End Review

This year I executed just under a hundred images, in levels of detail varying from sketchy to formal.  There were a large number of pencil images, split about evenly with fully digital pieces, and one simple watercolor sketch done as a gift for an architect’s client.  …a pretty busy year, in all.

Following are some details from a little fewer than half the images.  There’s no real text here, as I’ll just let the work speak for itself.  I cannot thank my clients enough, and thank you too for your interest in my work.













































Happy New Year.  See you in 2014…

– Jeff Stikeman



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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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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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Busy? …or vanished?


Haven’t updated the blog very much, but not for lack of trying.  Been busy.  Have four formal interiors due next week, did a couple pencils over the weekend, and am playing hooky right now in the middle of a quick pencil I need to do as a favor.

But I really need to try to keep up the blog.

....lost balloon. A detail from a semi-formal digital piece done recently. About half size

Part of the issue is the confidentiality.  I did take most of December off, but pretty much everything between then and now has been somewhat confidential.  All I can show here are some details which are obscure enough to keep the particulars from being clear.

It’s been pretty varied.  Watercolor sketches (a pair), some pencils, and a little ‘sloppy’ digi-paint.

Some cropped details…

2x4 inch Detail from a watercolor sketch. One from a pair.

Study for a stone carving. About half-size.

Part of a digital study done for the restoration of an historic home

Cropped chunk of sky and trees, from a simple pencil sketch. February 2012

Here's a crop from the same image as the balloon (from the top of this post). The brothers are low-left in the image, with the little girl's lost balloon floating away at the top-right.


From the same digital piece. A sax player appears opposite, in the lower right corner of the rendering.

I hope to be able to share more of these, in their totality.  But for now the little clipped details will have to suffice.

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Charlesview Residences, for The Community Builders

A groundbreaking was held the 16th of May at the site of what will be a new 22-building neighborhood called The Charlesview Residences, comprising 240 mixed-income rental units, 100 home ownership units (affordable and market rate), 14,000 square feet of retail ground floor, community spaces, and parks.

I was commissioned by Jeff Beam, of The Community Builders, to do a small suite of four sketchy renderings in order to provide the press and attendees with an atmospheric impression of the overall project as proposed.

Charlesview at Brighton Mills, Allston-Brighton

An Aerial View of the Project, middle ground. Digital, 11x17 and 300dpi

Aerial Detail of Charlesview

A detail from the Aerial, about twice full-size

Another Detail of the Aerial Sketch, zoomed in to about three times full size

The project had been in development by the non-profit development corporation The Community Builders for the past eight years or so, with CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc., of Boston, as the architect.

A view South Down Antwerp Street

The View South Down Antwerp Street; digital 11x17, 300dpi

Detail, at about Full Size, showing a portion of the Josephine Fiorentino Community Center, on the Eastern Side of Antwerp Street

Detail from Center, with a small hint of the Home Owenership Housing and the Park, Beyond

Sidewalk, West side of Antwerp Street

This substantial development will include the relocation of residents from the original Charlesview residential complex, built over 40 years ago on a five acre parcel just a few blocks away up Western Avenue.  Harvard University is providing the parcel for this project, almost twice the land area of the existing complex, in exchange for the smaller parcel where the original complex is currently located.  Harvard will also be providing a substantial  payment to cover the relocation costs of the residents, who are represented by the neighborhood organization Charlesview Inc.

Park at Antwerp Street, Charlesview at Brighton Mills, Residences

A half-acre Park will be created on Antwerp Street, between the taller Multi-Family Residences along Western Avenue and the smaller-scaled Ownership Housing to the South

A Detail of the Park Sketch, with a portion of a Community Center, beyond

Along the Park, a mix of Black-eyed Susans, flowering trees, and a large specimen Copper Beech

The project is expected to create more than 600 union construction jobs, and is partially financed by the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, along with financing by MassHousing, private debt, and tax credits.

View across Telford Street, at the intersection of Western Avenue, looking west.

Enlarged Detail of same

To visit the Project Page on The Community Builder’s Website, click here: >> The Charlesview Residences


© Jeff Stikeman and jeff stikeman architectural art, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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An Easy Summer Schedule….

Although the past month (June) has seen enough work to keep me busy, I’m finding that none of it can yet be released (in its entirety) for my own self-promotional work, alas.  About all that I can show are innocuous portions of the images, and the buildings themselves will have to wait.

Here’s a detail from a recent daytime pencil sketch which was retro-colored digitally to read as a complementary evening view.  I edited the foreground (cars, mainly) digitally also, so that the entourage from the daytime image to the evening shot would read differently.

3x8 Detail from a 16x18 pencil rendering, originally done as a day-time sketch, edited and reworked in color digitally to read as an evening view.

A detail here from a large suite of pencils which i executed in early May.  This was a color study I did, even though the client need was for gray scale pencil.  The color in this case is from the digital model I used, which was textured and lit in order to give me some subtle colored daylighting, bounced light from the sky and ground, and a base color for the building.  Detail is maybe 4 inches wide …

Detail from one image in a suite of seven exteriors; pencil over a digital model.

An interior sketch was part of the suite also, but severe last-minute design changes made the image essentially moot.  It was a fairly formal illustration, modeled digitally and with highly specific furnishings, but as is only rarely the case, the day it was finished, the architect had completely revised the scheme.

A small portion of an interior sketch done as a part of a suite of pencils. This detail perhaps 5x7

The detail below is of a sculpture court yard, from an exterior color formal rendering, and is about 3 inches wide from an original of 11×17.  An exterior and interior rendering were required, and relied heavily on the model for finding color in the ambient lighting and shadows.

Detail from a digital color rendering done with an eye to softening the image and keeping the evidence of the human hand in the process.

May was a little slow by the standards of last year, but as I was long ago advised by Frank Costantino, a guru of architectural illustration, whenever you have down time, don’t say it’s a lack of work, call it “vacation”.  I spent the two weeks of “vacation” I had doing some much needed work around the house.  I finally got the chance to put up some trimwork and wood guttering around the porch which is the roof of our garage, in anticipation of a new carriage house door which should be here in a few weeks. It’s a heavy five-quarter fascia with a second fascia of 1×8, a continuous fir gutter, and a 3/4 inch cove molding under the gutter.  Nice and beefy, and in keeping with the 20’s era cottage that is our house.  The existing rails will come down and be rebuilt in wood.  …depending on whether August is slow or not, I guess.

What a frustrated architect does when he has time to break out the chop saw and hammer. Still some work to do at the jambs, and some finish painting...

Having practiced architecture for the past two decades, and knowing many architects as colleagues and friends, I can attest to the fact that a good many of us suffer from the professional habit of designing and building (or often trying to build) our own projects.  This one came off pretty good I think, and helped me get over the awkward feeling of not having any work for the two weeks when I was able to do this.  Weather was perfect, and I got to actually enjoy stepping out of the studio.  We’ll see how the rest of the year goes.  …come on, economy,  get moving.

As a one-man shop, I really need to be able to handle a variety of things that have the potential to derail my schedule.  This Monday and Tuesday I spent the better part of each day fixing my computer.  I run a BOXX workstation, and it is the workhorse of my digital images. It wouldn’t boot Monday morning. At all.  Got the fabled “blue screen of death” and then would restart.  Well, after much googling, I solved it.  Only to find that it wouldn’t now actually shut down.  Some more quick googling, and I narrowed it to a bum DVD drive holding memory and not “telling” the CPU all was well and that it was ok to shut down.  With help from BOXX tech support (answering from Texas on the first ring, mind you), a FREE replacement DVD drive was Fed-exed to me the next day.  I swapped the old for new, and the computer was good to go.

As luck would have it, I took this week off, otherwise I’d have had to handle that during a work week.  I’m also on-deck this week for an Adobe Creative Suite 5 update, an OS update (to Windows7 64-bit from XP 64bit), and an upgrade of my Cinema 4D software. Trying to get the house in order for July, which should be busy….

So, not a lot that I can show from the past two months, and no work at all in May other than my own hammer swinging efforts.  Still, it’s the first time in two years I have what passes for a tan…. So there’s that. Have a great Fourth of July.


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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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