VSW: Alamo, a Fast Study

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-01In an effort to begin to discuss how I look at buildings in order to begin to draw them,
I took an image of the Alamo and dissected it.  Most of this I do by simply looking, but what helps is I know what I am looking at.  The exercise of doing this on paper by studying photographed buildings is a good one, and occasionally if I am drawing a building I’ve never seen which is extremely complicated I will also do this because I see best when I am drawing or taking notes.  (For that matter, I hear lectures best when I am drawing….)

I studied the whole image, but am discussing two parts.

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-02w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-03Take the face of the Alamo in this picture.  The building is divided into three parts:
a center area with columns and niches — and what appears to be the entrance —
and a mission style Italianate roofline,
and two flanking areas that appear at
first glance to be symmetrical. Further,
the building appears to be two stories
with a decorative third element on top.

If I were going to draw this information,
it might look like the diagram right.  The notation that looks like a C intersecting an L means center-line, and center-lines can be for the whole building or for a door or window motif.  Here it indicates that it is roughly symmetrical from that center line.

By drawing over the photo you can also get a feel for the perspective.
Notice how much smaller the windows on the left are, and how the edges of
the windows align with the top and bottom overall perspective lines.

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-04From there I can begin to draw in the shapes of windows and doors and details.
Darken actual open window or holes.  Rough in the shapes of the columns
and what appears to be either niches or filled in windows.
A fast study sketch can be a nice looking sketch once you get the hang of it — and yet you see I’ve not drawn the spiraling detail of the columns or the carved decorative tops.

Obviously in the field you can’t do this.
And of course you can take a couple years and learn to create technical drawings.
Or you can take a couple of photos and begin to analyze or dissect the buildings
you see like this, and by doing that begin to get a feel for or a
visual understanding of the building in front of you.

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-05And then watercolor makes it all seem like I know what I am doing!

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-01-dtlSo let’s look at another.
This is a complicated building with a strange roofline — a mansard roof,
but more than that, it connects strangely to the front of the flatiron building.
Is it circular or… nope, it is hexagonal.  The windows, which architects call fenestration, change shape as they move up the main part of the building.  Why did they so this?
The pattern suggests to me that the floors which match and march along are probably fairly common in their similarities (offices?  hotel rooms?),
while the arched windows toward the top suggest formal rooms of some sort —
ballrooms, fancy suites — all this without me knowing anything about this building.
There is a band of decorative molding below those windows (colored pink.)
Finally, there is yet another change in the windows of the mansard roof.  Apartments?  Whether you know the story or not you can begin to read the patterns.

At the top of the hexagonal corner there is a lookout of some sort.

And while you wouldn’t know it, I can bet there is a fire escape at the right
where there are no windows.  Perhaps even an addition, perhaps not.

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-10w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-07-dtlIf you look closely at the sketch
right and  above you can see that
I also looked at the three parts
of the tall building:
the hexagonal left piece,
and the top of the right versus
the bottom, which is repetitive.
I imagine that the tall piece on the left
is full of gathering places and viewing places, public rooms, reception.

Notice how loose the indication of my decorative molding is?
Because my focus is not to spend time on the tall building, I also loosely
blocked in ganged windows in the body of the high-rise.

w16-10-15-vsw-alamo-12Further, when I added watercolor I wanted to draw the eye down to the Alamo, not really up to the building behind… and so, I did not color the building except for the flag.

These are the types of tips and lessons my videos will cover!

Moleskin 8×11 watercolor journal,
Lamy Al-Star with De Atramentis Document Black ink,
Platinum Carbon Pen with Platinum Carbon ink waterproof cartridges,
Sennelier, Holbein, and DS Primatek watercolors, and Daniel Smith Watercolors.

w16-9-22-pentalic-laguna-beach-days-of-yore-05-sq w15-10-haight-sq w16-8-rp-trojan-horse-sq w16-4-1-newberry-library-sq w16-9-22-pentalic-laguna-beach-days-of-yore-04-sq

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in architecture, art journal, class, drawing, pen & ink, process, sketchbook, timed painting, urban sketchers, virtual sketching, watercolor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to VSW: Alamo, a Fast Study

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I enjoy reading about your thought process.


  2. Susan says:

    Such an informative post. I am tentative sketcher at best and this was very informative.


  3. Tracy says:

    Thanks for sharing your process. Love reading about how others think and work.


  4. Tarang Sinha says:

    Wow! This is nice. You make it look easy, but I know it’s not. 🙂


  5. Awesome! Thanks for sharing your thought process and breaking it down. I’m going to employ this technique!


  6. Pingback: Random thoughts about architectural school | D.Katie Powell Art

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