Eye, Mind and Hand:

The ability to sketch not only facilitates your architectural design skills but also helps make our thoughts visible. The visibility of your design thinking via sketching allows you to reveal and speculate your ideas. Freehand drawing demands an active apprehension of mental images. The simple act of drawing requires a collaboration between the eye, hand, and mind and intertwines production and reception of an image. The hand produces while the mind and eyes receive the image and create feedback. With time, a seamless connection of hand, eye, and mind emerges. Just like practicing guitar, practicing sketching strengthens an unconscious collaboration of the mind, eye and hand.

As an active practitioner of freehand drawing, the ability to directly transform ideas and thoughts into visual information is important for me during the process of design and thinking. Sketching by hand allows me to think in feedback loops of ideas and explorations. This ability is lost when using computational tools because important thoughts may be overlooked while transferring ideas. The profound link of these three elements is critical in design thinking. Therefore continuing to strengthen this connection is essential and relevant, particularly in the digital era.

Freehand Drawing:The timeless tool in architecture

The Pantheon, Rome Graphite on Paper

I entered architecture school at the end of 20th century. At that time, computational tools began to appear in the architecture realm in both practice and academia. Autodesk AutoCad was perhaps the most dominate tool at that moment. The fundamental method of drawing in AutoCad does not change much compared to Alberti’s method of architectural drawing in the early Renaissance. The main difference was that drawings were generated and output through the computer instead of human hands.  Since then students in architecture school have spent countless hours to learn and understand the tools.

A decade later, the new paradigm emerged with Building Information Modeling (BIM). It has changed the fundamental process of architectural drawings, and the operational method of architecture since the Renaissance era. Architectural ideas and designs are no longer generated from two-dimensional drawings such as plans, sections, etc. Instead, BIM generates the architecture as collective data in three – dimensional format. Then this computational model can generate data, and two-dimensional drawings to serve communication purposes. The current BIM software that is wildly used is Autodesk Revit. Once again, the academic and professional realms have to drastically adjust to this new paradigm shift.  In academia, schools have been adjusted and taught the new set of computational tools to ensure students are prepared for the on-going modification in the profession. Additionally, students are also expected to be familiar and efficient with graphic applications such Adobe software, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and After Effect. It is undeniable that learning these computational tools and trying to keep up with the on-going changes are important as part of necessary skill sets for students to market themselves to prospective employers. However, the demands and expectations from architectural students also tends to increase anxiety in them. I myself have been keeping up with on-going changes since the beginning of my time in this profession and this will not end. It will continue on. I’m certain that a new tool set will replace BIM eventually. But at some point, I will no longer be able to keep up with these rapid changes.

Only one type of tool can still withstand the test time, a tool that has been used for centuries from the beginning of human civilization to the digital age of 21st century. That tool is freehand drawing. Learning this skill to use for developing design ideas and generating thoughts does not require software updates or license permissions. However, freehand drawing skills are lifelong learning skills that need constant practice in order to be good at it. The simple act of drawing only requires the artist, a pencil and a piece of paper, and perhaps the focus to generate and explore architectural ideas. As an active practitioner of drawing, it is the best tool by far that I have never experienced in my architectural career. A lot of talking, let’s draw instead!

The Necessity of Drawing

Graphite on Paper

“The encounter of artist and drawing energies, their dialogue, does not have the form of question and answer. It is an inarticulate dialogue.” -Granta

To draw is not only to represent and review, but it is also to receive. Drawing is a process of making a dialogue, but it is an internal one between the artist and their thoughts. This awareness occurs during the process of drawing. One can fully engage and merge into the act of drawing. When that occurs, one reaches a peak point of concentration and flow. During that period, you are intensely focused and your senses are fully engaged, yet you remain aware of the surrounding environment. In this way, drawing can be seen as an alternative method of meditation. Drawing is a way to explore thoughts, but not to be enslaved to one’s own thoughts. When you pause and step back to ponder is the moment you begin to receive. Drawing become a means to observing one’s thoughts.

To draw requires the intensity of noticing. When it reaches a certain degree, one becomes more aware of the intense energy that can transform through drawing. Up to this point, the subject fades into the background. The shift from looking to making occurs during the act of drawing. When this internal dialogue reaches a point of intensity, mood and energy begin to transfer back and forth between the artist and the drawing.  The act of drawing is indeed a silent conversation that only the artist understands.

Still Here!


I saw this structure 10 years ago when I lived in Springfield, Illinois with my family. I never gave much a thought about this structure until I recently visited the town again during the holidays. It is closed to where I use to live, and it is a beautiful monolithic structure that offers a rustic quality of the place. It was a nice and sunny day during the winter month. I enjoyed the moment of siting there while trying to capture the change of light through this structure.

New Year

Watercolor 12x9_Sold

During New year, my family and I had a chance to visit our relative in Petersburg, IL. I had a chance to visit the historical village where the president Lincoln started his boyhood there. It was a cold day to do the out door painting, but I finished it.

Oh Light, I adore You

Watercolor_8.5 x11_Available

Painting has much to do with light and dark. Painting provokes my awareness of being. I observe things more carefully since I have begun painting again. The simple act of painting brings me joy and offer beauty around me. I hope you see them through my work.

Two-Point Perspective

The principal of two-point perspective is essentially the same as one-point perspective except there will be two vanishing points on the horizontal line as the name suggested. The vertical line remain vertical and parallel in the drawing. All the horizontal lines will appear to converge to two vanishing points on the horizontal line.

Depending on the location of the object in relation to the vanishing points, the pictorial outcome will be varies.

Two-point perspective is commonly use in a perspective drawing. Due to the its nature, two-point perspective helps reveal three-dimensional quality of an object very well such as depicting a three-dimensional ideas of a building. This type of perspective can be used to display three-dimensional quality of interior spaces or courtyard area in architectural design.

When constructing two-point perspective, and to get a better result, it is better to place one of the vanishing points further away from the object, normally somewhere that is not in the drawing area.

One – Point Perspective

Being able to draw a perspective drawing is one of most important skill for people who engage in drawing as part of everyday life. Particularly for observational sketching, a perspective drawing plays a significant role when one wants to convey the scene to represent depth in drawing. There are several types of perspective: one-point, two-point and three-point perspective, and each type of perspective is also divided into normal eye view, worm’s eye view, and aerial view. Constructing a freehand sketching perspective can be tricky particularly with a limited time window when you are doing outdoor sketching.

A normal eye view perspective is commonly used when doing observational sketch since it represents the actual human eye level that we normally perceive our surrounding environment. The examples below show a process of constructive a one-point perspective for rapid outdoor sketching.

Establish Horizontal line and the vanishing point
Establish the building proportion by using door fame as a starting point
Establish objects’ depth by using foreshortening lines that are drawn into the vanishing point
Giving scale to the building by giving more detail such as window and mullions
Adding scale figure will help giving a building scale in relation to a surrounding environment

If necessary adding trees may help make a perspective becomes more realistic
Finally adding shade and shadow will convey a better depth to the drawing
You can finish this type of drawing in 10-15 minutes.

Next time, I will talk about two-point perspective.