sketching freehand

2 July 2012

Yes, I’m writing on sketching again, but this time, it’s more like a book review. My other point is to remind us of why we sketch.

Recently I read the book “Freehand Sketching an Introduction” by Paul Laseau, first published in 1999, second edition, 2004. I must say, not only did I enjoy it, but I found it a good source for basic techniques for sketching. This book, a very easy and quick read, provides a clear, easy to follow methodology to learn and develop skills for sketching for both architecture as well as other types of environmental sketching. The author breaks down techniques into a process that anyone can follow.

Not only do I recommend it to architecture students, but anyone who is interested in developing their sketching ability better. The book focuses largely on technique of sketching environments or travel scenes. There is much emphasis on seeing and observation, a skill I was introduced to early in my years. A missing element, which is not necessary a weakness, is analytical or diagrammatic sketching. The author uses real world scenes as sketching subjects so the style is limited to perspective views as opposed to isometric or orthographic views. He simply wants his readers to draw what they see. Perhaps the clear focus of the book makes it a good resource of many rather than trying to be a comprehensive tome on sketching.

What I found most interesting is the author’s writing of how sketching can support the architect. I just wish he would have made a connection between how the architect sees and how they actually design. There were no graphic representations to support his point in the book. Perhaps he is simply teaching technique and my expectations are misguided. Maybe he addresses this in another book. Regardless, I relate well to his comments. These are my favorite quotes from the book.

“Freehand sketching provides an important tool for investigating and understanding existing and potential solutions to problems of our physical environment.”

“Appropriate design solutions also depend upon a productive dialogue among designers and the clients and users of environments. Such dialogues are greatly enhanced by the ability to communicate well both visually and verbally. The immediacy and informality of freehand sketching supports a relaxed and fluid conversation, and contributes to the client’s confidence in a successful outcome for a project.”

“People who sketch extensively are aware that drawing affects the way they see and the way they see is an important factor in the effectiveness and quality of their drawings. Similarly, what you see critically affects the way you think.” [emphasis mine]

“Many an attempt to learn to draw has been thwarted by the assumption that it is a difficult but necessary task. As beneficial as drawing is to the designer, real skill develops from the pleasure that you get from drawing, not the guilt you feel about your shortcomings.”

“Remember to allow yourself the luxury of looking very carefully and don’t worry about the amount of time it takes to complete the drawing. These exercises train your eye to believe what you see as you try to map that in a drawing.”

The last point that the author makes is perhaps most important but rarely discussed. Sketching needs to be fun or enjoyable. We talk so often about sketching as architects and tend to focus on the analytical or investigational purposes. Why don’t we simply say sketching is fun? That’s a big part of why we do it. There’s no need to over-rationalize everything. Thanks Mr. Laseau for reminding us of something so simple. It goes along well with your book.

Paul is professor emeritus in architecture at Ball State University with over 25 years experience teaching freehand sketching and design drawing. He is the author of: Freehand Sketching; Visual Notes (with Norman Crowe); Graphic Thinking for Architects and Designers; Graphic Problem Solving for Architects; and The Handbook of Architectural Representation. He has offered workshops, presentations, and exhibits on freehand sketching, design drawing, and watercolor painting at several universities in the United States and Europe. (from the author’s website).

All sketches are © copyright by the author.

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4 Responses to “sketching freehand”


  1. Lee thanks for the heads up. I’ve added “Freehand Sketching: An Introduction” to my Amazon wish-list.

  2. Keith Says:

    One-up on Enoch, I went ahead and bought the book. :-)


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