A Perspective on Sketching

A review of Sketching: For Architecture & Interior Design, by Stephanie Travis

Written by Jenna Collignon, Junior Editor, Matrix Group Publishing

The world of architecture is incredibly complex and vast, especially when it comes to designing elements yourself.  Sketching: For Architecture & Interior Design by Stephanie Travis perfectly tackles the introduction into this world.

Starting small with various studies, Travis’ book has readers go through exercise after exercise to gradually build up their arsenal of architectural design sketching skills.  This book does not venture into the precise world of drawing to-scale and exactitude; rather, it is a starting point in obtaining an understanding of the elements that go into the art of sketching. 

Once you have the details of perspective and light (and a bunch of other studies, including layers and abstraction), Travis’ book moves into the realms of interior and exterior spaces, concentrating on viewpoints and abstract shapes. 

Furniture and Lighting

The first section of Travis’ book focuses on the small, the minute, and the beginnings.  Beginning first with exercises to understand both the quality of your instruments of design (i.e., your pens and markers that you will be sketching with), it moves into the beginning of understanding the objects in front of you.  First, she moves through the simplistic abstract shapes of the small pieces of furniture around you; say, your desk chair, or perhaps a table nearby.  Second, she moves throughout the usage of space, both negative and positive, to understand the object and be able to sketch it accurately.

Each exercise builds upon the previous exercise, changing perspective or simply adding a perspective.  Overall, these small exercises aim to give the reader (and sketcher) an intimate knowledge of the object they’re studying and then teach them to sketch these objects / subjects accurately. 

Interiors

Throughout this chapter, Travis takes readers and sketchers through the steps to build sketches of a room or interior of a building.  From the simplest direct viewpoint of a living room to the curved interior of the Guggenheim, Travis works through the intricacies of each, gently building up the complexity and adding in techniques.  The focus of this chapter is to truly understand the angles that different viewpoints allow, as well as understanding the shapes that a room makes, even when not immediately visible. 

She approaches foreground and background, people, repetition, shading, and the tricky transitional spaces of interiors, building up your toolbox with these techniques before venturing into the more daunting task of exteriors. 

Architecture

The third section of this book focuses on the big and complex: the exteriors of buildings.  Here, Travis pays special attention to truly building up the puzzle pieces that go into sketching buildings.  First starting with symmetry and then moving toward the more complex buildings, Travis slowly builds up to the daunting task of completely sketching and shading architecture subjects. 

Travis has a knack of simplifying the most complex buildings into a few basic shapes, breaking down these beautiful pieces of architecture into something manageable for readers and sketchers to get down onto paper themselves. 

Once everything has been covered, Travis moves into the final stages of finishing a sketch: the shading and the little details that bring a sketch to life.  It doesn’t have to be perfect; it is simply just about understanding the intricacies of the shapes and viewpoints that come along with drawing architecture. 

All in all

This book is quite easy to follow.  I gave it a try and found it quite fun to get through!  In the larger context of architectural drawing and sketching, this book is but a small bite to chew.  You are not leaping directly into the large world of trying to draw to-scale, realistic buildings with a million little details.  With Travis’ book, you start with a simple chair or bench, and build up to the more complex.  And even then, it is only the beginning.

Though this book is only the beginning step into this world, this book is the foundation on which to build a vast knowledge, and you cover a lot in the more than 120 pages between the covers.  It builds up an important understanding of shapes, angles, viewpoints, shadow, and everything else in between.

Travis’ drawings are simplistic and clear, broken down into the most straightforward renditions to make the learning process easy.  As you’re moving along through it, there is no room for confusion or complexities.

As it requires you to follow along and apply these exercises on the objects and buildings you see around you, it is an incredibly active book; however, it is also simple, subdued, and calming.  You can take the book at your own pace, practicing over and over until you feel comfortable to turn the page and keep going.  With a palette of white, black, and blue, this book is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, all the while being very useful and user friendly.

It’s an incredibly approachable book for people of every skill set, though I would suggest going into this with some doodling knowledge at the least.  All it takes, really, is the smallest bit of skill – and a bunch of determination – to become a master of looking and sketching.

Stephanie Travis

About the Author

Stephanie Travis received her Master of Architecture with distinction and Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and worked as an architect in New York City for renowned designer Vicente Wolf.  Her love of drawing led to her best-selling book, Sketching for Architecture + Design, which has been published in seven languages and is sold in museums around the world (including her favorite, the MoMA, in NYC).  She has brought students abroad to study modern architecture in cities such as Paris, London, Copenhagen, and Berlin.  A devoted modernist, Stephanie lives in a mid-century modern house with her family, who support her addiction to modern chairs, minimalism, and all things white.