Drawing By Hand in a Digital World
With the constant and inevitable integration of computers and technology in our lives, we are always looking for ways to streamline and accelerate tasks. Wall calendars and memo pads have been replaced by desktop widgets, apps, add-ons, and plug-ins. The creative and design community has not gone unaffected by this change.
For better or worse, computers and digital media have changed architectural and design firms in countless ways. The advent of computer-aided drafting and products like Autocad and Revit have completely changed the way construction documents are created and shared. Similar to how modern word processing has moved the journalism world away from the days of the printing press, computers have allowed document production in architecture to a new level. For the most part, revising projects electronically is much quicker and safer than having to erase portions of drawings for redrafting by hand.
Although electronic advancement has helped progress the final drawing production process, it is still difficult to suggest that the creative process and flow that is required in a project’s infancy can be properly simulated on a computer. Hand drawing and sketching is essential to fostering creativity and design. Design solutions are discovered in the human brain and the most efficient way to bring them to life is by drawing them out. Having the skill to think through a challenge and set of solutions with just your mind and a pencil or pen allows for the most creative and effective results. Blocks in creativity are often worked through just by redrawing and scribbling. Using trace paper is wonderful because you can just keep layering over drawings to revise and redraw and work through challenges. That may seem time consuming but the fact is, the more times something is drawn, the more solutions reveal and work themselves out. I truly feel that the pure beauty of sketching is that it is limitless. There is nothing standing between your pencil and your design. You are instantly limited by a computer or a program’s constraints and often spend more time thinking about how to execute a command than thinking about the solution. Everyone knows how to draw- even children. It almost always takes months and years to learn how, or even if, a program can produce a result you alone could draw with a #2 pencil.
The most important part of drawing and sketching is to have fun. It does not matter if you don’t think you are a good artists or that your drawings stink. The important thing is to be persistent and stay positive. You will find that, as with anything, the more you do it, the better you become. If you’re just starting off and lack confidence, keep and straightedge nearby to lightly make guidelines to help frame subjects and vanishing points. Pretty soon you will find yourself reaching for the straightedge less and your speed will increase.
If you are serious about taking steps to improve drawing and sketching, especially with an eye towards architecture, here are two great resources:
Drawing: A Creative Process Francis D. K. Ching.
Design Drawing Francis D. K. Ching.
These were mandatory books for my freshmen year at school and I still enjoy looking back through for pointers and reminders. The first book is a terrific introduction to all kinds of freehand drawings while the second has a bit more of a technical view. It is especially handy when learning to draft and properly set up perspective drawings.
In today’s world of instant sharing and feedback, almost everyone is dependent on computers to the point of no return. No matter the medium on which we create, finding synergy between drawing and digital sharing is critical. But with a quality scanner and a local print shop, hand drawing is still an essential element to design and hopefully, always will be.