Wednesday, March 18, 2015


A palimpsest

Ian Fairweather's painting displays a thinking, searching brush/hand making sense out of a palimpsest

These are a few jottings, thoughts stimulated by Drawing on Life - see:  - notes on how I have used the computer with sketches, making technology a part of the drawing process instead of isolating it as an alien tool. After developing a schematic concept with drawings, the draftsman puts the image into CAD with my help interpreting and guiding the process that quickly records the concepts. The drawing is then printed and worked over again by sketching. The CAD document is then upgraded under my direct supervision, (sitting beside the draftsman), and again printed off for more development sketching. The over-the-shoulder work allows for immediate feedback and on-screen development. The process is interesting and useful. Ad hoc images as freehand drawings are constantly being checked against the reality of the underlying facts and figures, and being adjusted and varied to suit. The sooner the process starts, the sooner the 'errors' can be modified and variations made to the scheme. The CAD images allow one to be informed of the true circumstances very quickly. The drawings are never seen as art, merely as working documents, even though someone might think that they look ‘interesting.’

Ian Fairweather

On materials for drawing, I find anything available can be useful. Working on tracing paper, (butter paper is too frail for tough revisions), with pencil, (of all grades of graphite and colours); inks, (fine and bold; liquid and contained by felt); paints, whiteout, (of all colours); chalk, charcoal, glue, (to add on anything);  etc., all have their use, on either side of the page. Tracing paper allows for this reversed depth to be used as well as overlays, and for many re-workings, including hatching, scratching, smudging, painting and general scrawl that eventually becomes clarified with the weight and solidity of marker pens, (of all colours and solubility that do not leech through to stain other work), and whiteout brushed on, (either as line or surface either side). It is a true collage of markings for information, not its own formation. One is reminded of Henry Moore’s little sketches that frequently use five or seven different materials. The ambition is the outcome never the process of the interim scribbles making an object of desire: art. These drawings are discarded once the CAD documentation has been formally resolved.

Ian Fairweather

The other drawing process/system involves the little spiral-bound notepad that fits the top shirt pocket with the pen, a ballpoint. Here ‘Biro’ pens, (thick and fast are the best but they are messy), are used whenever the time might be available – in airports; trains; while watching TV; etc., to explore matters in concepts and in detail, both broad and specific. These markings, (I am reminded for Dag Hammarskjold's beautiful little book titled Markings - Faber), continue whenever, however, never – never seeing the notebook as a formal sketch book to become a subject for the scanning of any camera. These little books are for anything and everything – things to do; telephone numbers; images; ideas; meetings; shopping lists; ad hoc thoughts to be developed later; notes to myself; . . . The books are then brought out when sitting down at the computer beside the draughtsman and used as a reference for how matters might be considered. In the rush and bustle of two or three projects, and in the middle of the distractions of office mayhem, the question often comes: what do you want here.  One cannot recall immediately when the mind is buzzing with other concerns, so the small notepad comes out and is opened: oh, yes. The image might be weeks old: they are usually dated or located in a context. The images are an aid to thinking – designing – never a making of beauty, of arty drawings.  Drawing in architecture is a process of making marks for discovery.

Ian Fairweather

Francis Bacon spoke of how a gesture or a smudge could suggest something else. This serendipitous approach is always open as a possibility that something else might surface, be revealed: as the surprise - even with a 'mistake.'  One should never be brazen or bold enough to force matters.  Gentle coaxing is what drawing does - a drawing out. This was mentioned once in the film that would have mocked its subject less if had been edited heavily to make such statements more cryptic and clear – memorable. Instead only frustration and the hope of an end took over from the potential delight of the subject that is full of life and vital energy.

Ian Fairweather

The benefits of the sketch/CAD/sketch approach is that one is always working with accurate information. The scribble can always be tested. One might, for instance, after an open approach of scribbling anywhere, thinking, start looking more carefully on the specific context and begin by transferring thoughts and ideas to be developed with more informed scribbling, smudging, over the CAD site plan; perhaps, on tighter sites, this might become a working with all of the planning control lines marked in; with contours; site sections, etc. The mix of CAD/sketch may appear 'impure' to those interested in viewing outcomes as art, but it has all of the flexibility and usefulness of working in multimedia on the one drawing - as a rich collage; a palimpsest.

A palimpsest

The added ‘media’ is the CAD information that, when handled in this manner, becomes a useful part of the process rather than any hindrance. It is tamed. It provides critical information for manipulation of the drawing media: it frees everything up. But one does require a good draughtsman who is thorough and careful, committed to resolving and working with all of the rigours of the CAD process. (For the record: I worked at Project Services with Tony Newsham, an ex-carpenter from Eulo, now carpenter again, the best draughtsman ever in any of my teams: after a fruitful co-operative time, I moved on and Tony became frustrated with architects, so he returned to building, both carpentry and computers). The benefits of working with a ‘tradie’ who was skilled in and loved mathematical and computer problems, becomes only too evident over time. One never wants a draughtsman who is prepared to manipulate anything just for appearance or any easy outcome. It is critical that CAD maintains its thoroughness and rigour if the process, the interplay of fact and fictions seen in dreams is to be useful – both as a discovery and a short-circuiting of the determination of the final CAD documentation. One always has a link to its accuracy that is constantly being upgraded and degraded too.

A stray notebook was found in the bottom of a box.
It is reproduced here as an explanatory reference rather than any claim to art or style.
It was never meant to be a public document, or a private indulgence.

Anything to sketch on that might be portable has been used. Frequently the small 3M Post-it blocks have become my drawing book. This has a ‘pull-off-stick’ facility that is useful. Also, when working alone, a quick print off the computer draft either as A3 or 4 is made to allow a fresh start. Photocopies are wonderful as the sketch that might be getting fragile and overworked into illegibility can be reproduced in B&W and used for a new, informed start – a fresh beginning that incorporates all of the past, be this CAD work and sketches, or just sketches themselves. The zoom capability allows one to work at any scale, to test readings and to explore details. In short, technology need not be a bugbear. One has to use anything and everything that can be of assistance in exploring possibilities. Photocopies of photographs from small photographic 6 x 4 gloss prints onto larger A3/4 standard copy paper, enlarged to fit, can be another start for new sketching.

There is no limit to possibilities other than one’s lack of willingness, or wiliness, or other hesitations with participation. Drawing must be dragged away from the quaint, self-conscious artwork that it can become if it is to be truly useful as a method in architecture. It certainly has to better than the ‘Gehry sketch’ system – see:  Rigour and facts have never proved to be a hindrance in any creative process, no matter how the cliché impression of freedom of expression and creative inspiration might be interpreted. One must remember that cameras can be used to capture any image too, and with these records, one can manipulate matters with numerous options and opportunities. The aim is good work at the end, not stage-by-stage good work to be recorded in the precious notebook or blank page to be revealed to cameras in the making of any film. We need to be much more creative with technology, not to reveal its wonders and amazements, but in order to seek out true meaning in our world and our works.

On dating drawings: I always date drawings or place them in a context of time not for any archival reason, but to be able to locate them in their place. The habit started after there was a serious argument in the office on whose sketch for a project had been completed first. Mine had been but I could not prove it, such was the insistence of the protagonist. So every page is dated or kept in a time sequence – by force of habit.

Ian Fairweather painting 

The unselfconscious workings of the eye/hand can easily be understood as 'art' as can be seen in the Ian Fairweather paintings that adopt a similar graphic technique. The essence of drawing in architecture is not this 'art' form but rather the process itself - the interaction of body, feeling and mind in thought where the feedback is concentrating on the subject being searched rather than the appearance of the lines on the paper, no matter how beautiful and intriguing these might appear. It does ask a lot of the individual participating in this work, but this is another subject.

A Post-it pad found in some papers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.