I draw to record the mysteries and complexities of the built environment, so that the lessons can be applied in the design process later. Sketching on location uses multiple senses, makes conversation with bystanders, and arguably stimulates a better quality of memory and recollection of a place better than a photograph.

The global movement known as “Urban Sketchers” was founded by journalist Gabriel Campanario in Seattle in 2007 used social media platforms to unite hundreds of folks worldwide who enjoyed documenting the built environment as a shared experience. Thankfully, we at ECAP never stopped teaching the techniques of drawing by observation, unlocking the power of enhanced visual documentation and observation for all of the generations of ECAP students since the college’s founding.

Sketch of the south courtyard of the Art Institute of Chicago by Dan Urban Kiley FASLA. CAPFY field trip, June 2019.

I draw to take my imagination to a different place and/or time as a form of mental travel.

The Covid-19 global pandemic in 2019-2020 meant extended periods of time confined to my Muncie home. To generate and spread comfort and joy, as well as mimic the experience of travel, I painted a series of watercolor postcards of imaginary places inspired by some of my favorite places on earth. I then sent them to friends as a greeting of goodwill and encouragement in a most uncertain time.

Watercolor postcard sketch of a fictional Dutch town, perhaps inspired by Delft, Haarlem, or Amsterdam Netherlands.

I draw to quickly communicate a comment, a critique or an option for an idea. The audience may be a student, a client, or just myself.

This process, typically done in the studio in front of a student (or virtually) enhances the conversation and discussion of ideas, options, and possible directions for the client or student. Sketching is a necessary and stimulating part of the collaborative process.

Digital sketch of a viewing tower for a student’s CAPFY final project, done virtually in the Concept Board (by Siemens Inc.) digital whiteboard platform.

I draw to delineate a complete vision for the decision maker and the viewing public in the interests of moving a proposal forward in the democratic process.

We may never fully know why certain members of the public respond to sketches differently or more positively than other more refined and advanced digital forms of rendering, but I think two factors are in play. One, a sketch doesn’t communicate an idea set in stone. It informs the public that decisions are yet to be made, and that their reactions and opinions are valued. Two, a sketch requires imagination and interpretation, which further communicates a sense of respect to the intelligence of the viewing public.

Sketch of the Eel river dam removal proposal with enhanced recreational opportunities, Logansport Indiana. Client: EcoSystems Connections Institute of Denver, Indiana and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

By Lohren Deeg, ASAI
Department of Urban Planning

For more on why I draw, please see What is Design Communication.

Or go to my YouTube channel.