Yesterday an artist friend and I celebrated Labor Day by sketching at the Arboretum. Our subject was the bridge that crosses Lake Washington Boulevard ; I worked in my small Moleskine watercolor notebook, using facing pages to encompass as much as the span as I could see. I began with a pencil sketch and once I was fairly satisfied with that I re-drew with a water soluble black pen: the PIlot Hi-Tec G4. After drawing, I then dissolved some of the pen lines with a waterbrush.
When I got home I added color to the sketch--it seemed important to record the bright greens of the deciduous trees in the waning days of summer. In the Sunday New York Times there was a very fine article by the architect and designer Michael Graves: Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing. In addition to the article there is a wonderful slide show of many of his drawings. He writes about the three types of architectural drawing: first, the referential sketch, second, the preparatory drawing, and third, the definitive drawing. I was interested in his remarks about the referential sketch, which he says "serves as a visual diary, a record of an architect's discovery. It can be as simple as a shorthand notation of a design concept or can describe details of a larger composition. It might not even be a drawing that relates to a building or any time in history. It's not likely to represent 'reality', but rather to capture an idea. These sketches are thus inherently fragmentary and selective. When I draw something, I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that causes me to record it in the first place. That visceral connection, that thought process, cannot be replicated by a computer." I had the experience of discovery while drawing the beautiful bridge--it was a subject I had been drawn to before but I found after finishing my drawing that I had never really seen it before in its complexity, with details I had completely overlooked before. So, in that sense alone, my drawing led to my discovery of the bridge. And at the same time, I understood that what was important to me about it was its stolid strength amid the lighter, more fleeting color and shapes around it, trees that would soon be losing their leaves, and certainly revealing another side of themselves and the bridge. So it was a moment in time that I wanted to seize for just a little longer than a mere walk across the bridge or a photograph would have allowed.