Research – Architectural Illustration

“Different architectural illustrators approach the task of documenting visual space and the built environment in different ways. Some are driven by the ideas that drawing and illustration offers, others by the ideas inherent in the architectural styles they’re representing.

Look at a range of different architectural illustrators and identify how their choice of drawing approach, perspective and materials relates to the architecture itself. These choices might support the underlying ideas behind the buildings, for example glossy images used by a developer to suggest the idea of luxury. Or you might find examples where you think illustrators have used approaches that seem at odds with the spaces they’re representing.

Pick a range of examples and write a short critical statement (50–200 words) on each of them outlining your observations.”

  1. Here’s a typical modern impression of new build.

Everybody sing: Little Boxes on a hillside, little boxes made of tricky tacky….

You can see the downside of generic looking digital mock ups. Even the sky has no variation. As neat as this is, there is little to draw us to these buildings, and the design seems to be reinforcing a sense of mass produced anonymity. (Though to be fair that does look to be a very large window, it must be very light in there!)

2. This image is now rather charming in its approach,  it depicts a traditional church: what to us is an ‘old’ building. The plan is accompanied by a front view and an artistic impression within the landscape setting. Clearly the artist was using the accepted materials of the day, and intended for the building to look solid, pleasing and fit for purpose. There is no attempt to show us a sense of scale by including people.

Lethaby;William Richard;
A Mountain Chapel [Architectural drawing]…
Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection

3. We were asked to look at the work of Michael Blower – there is a large body of his work available. Its beautifully rendered in ink and sometimes watercolour. Here large areas are confidently inked in, giving a sense of solidity and throwing contrast between light and dark areas. Figures are lightly sketched in to give a sense of scale and place.

I really like this delicate watercolour, its clearly executed by someone with great skill and attention to detail. The edges of the greenery fade from view, allowing the buildings themselves to take centre stage. They’re detailed and precisely described but the  colour palette is warm and inviting.


4. The link we were given at The Design Museum for Archigram (the ‘avant-garde neo-futurist architecture group of the 1960s’) has expired, but there was plenty of information elsewhere. The term began as a radical architectural design magazine, and expanded into general experimentation.

Some of the ideas are pretty crazy (and really fun) like this fantastic walking city. The surreal nature of this design reminds me of the Beatles artwork/animation for Yellow Submarine.

And a real world project presented in collage. I think at the time this style of illustration probably screamed “Yes! You are modern and hip. Sign off on this proposal and you will be REALLY COOL, MAN”…

But it still grabs attention now doesn’t it?

5. The S.A.I (Society for Architectural Illustration) is a great resource which helpfully demonstrates different media.

I found this side-by-side comparison really helpful. Obviously line, watercolour/pencil/pastel are likely to convey a softer, more traditional feel which might well reassure a client. Marker pen/opaque/ offers possibilities that can look more ‘modern’, and bolder. I really enjoy how energetic and loose marker pen can be.

Digital/3D can be very precise. Though sometimes this may look too clinical as previously described. Though it would depend on the artist. I assume an architectural firm would choose an illustrator with these considerations in mind. In fact, a couple of years ago I did have the chance to chat to a lovely lady (Christine Wilson) who used to work for the OCA. One of her specialist areas was architectural Illustration. If I am able to get in contact with her again I will post some of her work if possible.






Everyday fashion

‘Draw a range of people in different clothes. In some of the drawings try and describe their whole outfit; in others, focus on specific elements, such as different types of hat. You can take a reportage approach and draw people out on the street, or use yourself, friends or family as models. Focus on describing the clothes through your drawing, but don’t forget the people themselves. Try and capture something of the wearer’s physical shape, posture and character as well as the clothes they’re wearing.

Work some of your drawings into illustrations which perhaps exaggerate what you’ve observed. You might want to bring in more colour, simplify your lines or create images that are much more stylised to do this.’

I had a great library book on the subject of fashion illustration a few years ago, which frustratingly I can’t actually name at the moment. What stuck in my mind was the discussion of rendering clothes in various media. It was interesting to consider how fabric texture varies – matt/shiny, stiff/floaty, structured/loose and so on may all effect the way we might depict the item concerned.

I did watch a really good series of videos recently on Skillshare by an actual fashion design team (Bellavance) and  how they draw for the purpose of design. I was really interested to see that they actually handled fabric as they drew and designed their range. Naturally they are thinking about how differently fabric moves.

As is fairly standard with fashion, the figures are ten heads tall and very angular. My figures may not be as tall (I’m barely 5ft so tall people annoy me : ) but I really enjoyed seeing their work!

I went all out for fun with this. I could pretty much spend the next year just on this subject as Im prone to enjoying ‘girly’ stuff. Sigh.

Warning: There aren’t really any rough sketches to show you because my ‘roughs’ turned into final drawings… Its pen on fairly thin paper. If I’d planned better I could have used smooth water colour paper. But who likes to plan??(!) I looked at a various reference photos of people as a starting point and then just sort of made things up; changing colours/clothing styles/hair etc. Nothing is really recognisable from a source. I didn’t want to look at actual fashion illustration while doing this – I’d worry about copying someone else’s style.

I messed up the arms on the first chap, so used a light box to re-draw him later.

Again, this first figure needed tidying on her leg and scaling down to match the others in height. I experimented with exaggeration, in various styles such as how much detail to put in features, and varying body size a bit.

Next I gave everything a good dose of colour with my trusty markers and scanned it all in. I did minimal tidying digitally, as sometimes slightly messy lines let you know it was hand drawn?


I think I got a little caught in staying (broadly) within the range of people that Fashion tends to depict, despite intending to branch out! Apologies to all humans (including myself) for the lack of overall variation. For example, I never depict myself (present time – upright with the aid of a folding seat, past – with a wheelchair). Anyway. You get the point. I forgot the ‘everyday’ part.

My Finished Work (click to enlarge)



Extra stupid hat related scenarios

Clothes – Men

Clothes – Women

And finally….Handbags

My friend Vicki gave me a gorgeous desk top calendar on the theme of handbags, which I’ve kept as reference material. I’ve picked a few images to lovingly reproduce in coloured pencil here(!)…NB I would not be seen dead with half of these.


I could probably spend several hundred (thousand??) hours depicting the entire set of 365 handbags! Sigh.

I did notice the challenge of trying to depict different textures, the least successful being the turquoise diamonte bling. It was very fiddly and difficult to depict.

In contrast to my earlier quick fire approach, the bags were carefully drawn on good quality paper and took A. Long. Time

Can I just draw clothes and accessories for the rest of the course? Can I? Can I?

Figures, figures, figures!

I’ve decided to devote an entire post to figure drawing. This is because during the course of the exercises I have became rather gripped (obsessed?) with the human form lately.

I want to raise my skill level when it comes to figure drawing – I can’t think of a more useful foundation, as illustration so often depicts people. As I’ve mentioned, I really enjoy both fine art and cartooning styles, so I wanted to tackle this subject in a variety of ways: studying human anatomy, life drawing and realistic observation, but also I’m beginning to push myself to draw figures from imagination.

This has led me to draw from life, magazines and photos, speed drawing, longer studies and constructing figures from memory.It would be great not to have to hunt around for reference pictures for any and every possible situation (though of course reference can be inspiring)

The results can be very variable but Im most concerned with getting as much confidence and practice as possible. Here’s some examples of what Ive been up to…

These anatomy references have been very helpful – the first is a book by medical illustrator

Im quite interested in anatomy and physiology in general, so I make lots swotty notes, this is a sample!

Ive been finding  it helpful to begin to think about muscle attachments and how they move.

Quick sketch from life – on my mobile phone of a person waiting to board a train.

Quick biro sketches from imagination – as ever, using pen gives me confidence (weirdly) as you can’t dither: What will be, will be. Not great to look at, but useful to experiment and train my visual memory a bit.

More detailed sketches from imagination

My visual memory is developing…slowly!

Folded arms are from life (top right), the rest is imagination

The reclining figure is from a mannikin, the rest, again is from imagination.

All constructed from imagination (Click to enlarge)

Speed sketch in biro/ink pen with image reference

You can see I feel I was warmed up and hitting my stride more for these ones.

Pencil pictures from reference (click to enlarge)

This next one is significant to me as this right hand seated figure was drawn while I was lying down. Due to health issues (I have orthostatic intolerance) my ability to sit and stand is limited.  Being able to accurately translate angles and draw lying down is particularly hard… I’ll continue to try it, as it would expand the amount of time I can spend drawing considerably.

NB Confession: I do feel a bit smug! I was reading an OCA blog post about a chap sketching paintings in an art gallery. He was convinced he needed to stand, as the the angle is of observation is obviously effected by sitting. Maybe he should try translating a more extreme picture plane??



Research point – Fashion through the years

“Historically, imagery that promoted the fashions of the day, most notably from the early 20th century to the 1950s, was dominated by illustration. However, the discipline lost ground to photography and it was not until the 1990s that illustrators have returned to this domain.” – Alan Male 2007

Is there a difference between the imagery created by the fashion illustrators from the early twentieth century to the 1950s and those since the 1990s? Research historic and contemporary examples of fashion illustration by looking in magazines, accessing internet resources or visiting galleries. Has fashion illustration changed over this period or is it the fashion of illustration that’s changed? What about the missing decades of the 1960s, 70s and 80s? Was there no fashion illustration taking place during this period?’

My favourite historical fashion illustrator is Helen Dryden, known for her beautiful Vogue magazine covers.  Most noticeable with Dryden is the beautiful curves and strong sense of movement throughout her work. Its SO vibrant, the wind is blowing, the grass rustling, the dog seems to have noticed something she might want to chase…

I think its reasonable to say that fashion illustration has changed over the years, or more specifically, the fashion of illustration has changed. Its often possible to date the artistic style to a particular decade. The clothes themselves often help us to date an image too.

1920s Eduardo Garcia Benito

1920s Georges Lepape

By 1920s fashion designer Hilda Stewart. Aren’t these works of art in their own right? They’re beautifully rendered.

1930s  Illustration

I think this era saw a trend towards a more painterly aesthetic which is less stylised (though certainly idealised!)

Though the influence of art deco remained during this time too.

1936 Eduardo Garcia Benito

Fashion photography is beginning already at this time. Edward Steichen produced work for Conde Naste (Vogue and Vanity fair)

Victor Stiebel – These designs are quirky and charming

From the early 1940s onwards, I could find less illustrated fashion covers, with a few exceptions

Cosmo cover

Jon Whitcomb

1947 royal wedding cover


I had to then search specially for fashion illustration examples after this time, as magazine covers become almost exclusively photographic. Though I did find these 1950s examples

There were still some careers for fashion illustrators during this era, as discussed by the daughter of fashion illustrator Hilda Glasgow. For example, Esther Larson.

Esther Larson

Jean Demarchy

Illustration is of course used by designers themselves


Karl Lagerfeld

Although not signed by Lagerfeld, these two sketches of 1960s Tiziani designs are almost certainly his work. Both were stored at the Tiziani salon in a box marked ‘Karl,’ and the dress shown at right is identified as being for ‘Elizabeth Taylor Burton,’ who favored Lagerfeld’s designs. From the Jan. 11, 2014 Tiziani: Lagerfeld + Liz Auction. Palm Beach Modern Auctions image. (PRNewsFoto/

Mary Quant


Bill Gibb

Zandra Rhodes

John Bates – gorgeous bold lines and mix of angular and flowing shapes


Oleg Cassini

Dressmaking pattern covers were illustrated throughout this time and during the ‘lost years of the 1960s, 70s and 80s’

My Mum has always been an excellent dressmaker, and she still has quite a collection of patterns from various eras

You can see a mix of photography and illustration in the last example.

We sometimes associate fashion illustration with sharp angular lines, but I think it depends on the artist, as I noticed a great deal of softness in some of the contemporary images I viewed.

Modern fashion illustration in a variety of media – digital, watercolour, felt tip and ink.

I like the concentrated areas of colour intensity and contrast with the monochrome/bleached out areas.


The hair is so sensitively depicted with this girls bun, I like the very subtle colour pallette.

A full figure with an angular pose, and an example of just enough detail – no shoes/leg needed, its all about the dress.

The green dresses are truly mixed media – the buttons and sequins are real.

You can’t beat a nice pair of shades.

Obviously the length of  leg is exaggerated, particularly on the right. These figures work so well; you can also imagine them as dynamic silhouettes.

A less girly, more discordant approach – I like this too! She reminds me of an insect?


Katie Rodgers

David Mckinney

Jacqueline Bisset

emzdrawings (instagram)

Oh dear, Ive had some of these images stored on my computer for a long time, consequently Im not able to credit all the artists. Some are also viewable on Pinterest…

I think its reasonable to say that fashion illustration as a whole does encompass various styles, but there is often an emphasis on beautiful linework, the use of monochrome, or areas of colour, emphasis, movement and drama.

My Pinterest board, stuffed full of even more images.

Israeli artist Saint Hoax produces refreshingly political work here. Obviously this is a complex subject, but the fashion industry still appears to have taken very little responsibility for their part in how women view their bodies.





Drawing on location

‘Use your sketchbooks to produce a series of drawings and notes that documents an event of your choice. Try and produce a body of work that depicts the event over a period of time.

An event can be defined as something happening within a limited time slot, but you can also choose to interpret the term ‘event’ more loosely. It can be a private celebration or your local football match, a Saturday market or the arrival of workmen to dig the road. Choose something that offers you the opportunity to explore your particular style of drawing, so think about the dynamic of the event and how this relates to how you draw.

This exercise builds on the ‘Drawing on the familiar’ exercise, extending it to encourage you to draw and document something new. Before you begin, reflect on your experience of that exercise. Did your choice of sketchbook, materials and approach to your drawings work to capture your chosen location? How might you amend your approach for this exercise? You may want to undertake this exercise with other people. If you’re working on your own, remember to think about the issues raised in the ‘Working on location’ section.’

Before deciding specifically on a subject, I’m assuming my work will involve either some form of urban (or rural!) sketching, and figures. With this in mind I looked at some examples of modern urban sketching.

Artist Will Kemp’s series on was an interesting watch. As suggested in our course notes, he picked out key details such as the simple position of hands and heads. For some crowd scenes, he had to work extremely quickly or simply more on to another drawing if people were moving.

Will Kemp

Despite having watched a series of videos with Will enthusiastically sketching away, I remain really daunted by this! I know its great to challenge yourself with something new, but doesn’t it take maximum confidence and skill to tackle this without a cold sweat????  I would be much happier to attempt this if I didn’t have to upload anything to my blog or actually share any of it. Not to mention attempting to sketch where anyone might see me.

On reflection, I think Will Kemp’s work is a little dense with dark ink for my taste. It’s beautifully loose, but I need a bit more colour to feel ‘happy’ and engaged… So here’s what happens when I get inspired by colour. I was doodling in pen while watching telly, hence the random selection of items mostly from imagination. And some cows. (I was watching ‘Countryfile’ at the time)

Anyway. The event I’ve chosen is the book club I belong to. It means I can ask people beforehand, make sketches and take photos without too much embarrassment on all sides. I’m aware there may not be as much movement as in some ‘events’, but hopefully I can make it work and it will be good drawing practice.

We were asked to reflect on working methods and materials. I used whatever I felt like in the previous exercise, as I didn’t need to carry equipment elsewhere, so it was possible to use ink and paint brushes. Obviously in contrast, for this task I was in someone else’s home, and I was anxious not to dominate or alter the normal flow of everyones enjoyment. Consequently I took minimal drawing equipment with me – a small (A6) landscape format sketchbook with hard cover, a pencil, some watercolour pencils and a brush with a water barrel. This was really compact, light and easy. I also took references on my mobile phone, so it all fitted into my handbag.

So. There was some mucking about… It was Cat’s idea to use the cake as a hat, not mine.

As you can see I worked very quick and loose in pencil, scribbled in some colour and a sweep of water. I quite quickly realised you can’t keep using water in a sketch book and turn the pages. Obvious really. So I also grabbed some loose A4 printer paper and worked on that for some poses.

The movement of mugs and forks was quite tricky.

Just to be clear, I can tell cats and dogs apart!! I was just reminding myself I could add or swap animals to make the scene livelier afterwards.

Folk were sitting on different chairs at different times as they moved around to chat, pop to the loo or grab more cake…I found it really useful to observe how not only were people sitting at different heights, but also with very different postures. (I suppose this is also down to personality too – some people are happy to slump or curl up more than others!)

I observed how scrunched up some people appear, its very different from life drawing with an elegant silhouette and clear anatomy. We also tend to cross legs a lot – I found this easier to capture once I’d drawn several poses.

I picked up a coloured pencil by mistake for this sketch on the right hand side – it might have been interesting to abandon (graphite) pencil altogether throughout. I will try and remember this for another time.

As we all know, a bit of ink works wonders, so back at home I added some definition with pen to firm up my pencil marks. And I went over them with coloured pens, as it was too pale to scan well.

I also did a few more detailed sketches from images I’d taken and internet references.

I choose not the work these up, as they’re more detailed in style from the original roughs, but I enjoyed exploring the gestures more carefully.

Finished Work 

Finally I played with the arrangement of images within photoshop. As an experiment, I placed them as though they were back in my sketchbook, to create a very loose narrative. Obviously, Ive stuck with my cartoon-y style for consistency.

Individual Pictures

I made a bit more work for myself by colouring in the initial sketches. The rough pencil marks and scribbled watercolored pencils made for really ugly images. Another time I would prefer to use ink (maybe with a small box of proper watercolours), or only pencil, then apply any colour at home.




Courtroom dramas

‘Sketchbook in hand, seated indoors, and with the action happening in front of you in a slow and orderly fashion, the courtroom must be an almost perfect place for a reportage illustrator to work. However trials can run on for days and weeks, the tension and drama is embedded in what is said and there’s not much movement, so it’s also very hard to capture the event visually.

The work of American reportage illustrator Franklin McMahon (1921–2012) is an excellent example of how drawing can be used to document courtroom dramas. The following drawings are taken from his 1955 visual documentation of the trial of two men accused of murdering a black Chicago teenager Emmett Till who was visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi.

Look at the drawings and reflect on how McMahon has approached the task of documenting a courtroom drama.   Write a short statement summarising your reflections.’

How does his approach to drawing tie in with the notion of journalism and truth?  I think he was genuinely committed to a sense of a ‘truth’. He sought to convey an accurate impression or summary of the events within his drawings. McMahon commented that drawing scenes enabled him to “see around corners.”  Interestingly, “he would combine moments, often hours apart, into a single picture and thereby convey, he believed, a larger truth.” This approach gave an overall impression, rather than one frozen moment where he sort to encapsulate an overall feeling.


What do you think he’s managed to capture in these drawings and how has he done it? He does draw us into the scene very effectively, capturing body language and facial expressions. We do feel that we could be there.

Note the detail of all the hats hanging in a row. It’s curiously effective – I like it that he has bothered to record this small quiet detail. How strange and almost domestic all this quiet order and formality seems, when a 14 year old boy has been murdered.

Here’s a more detailed and carefully rendered image , depicting the dramatic moment of identification of the accused. But there was no justice – an all white male jury acquitted the defendants.

McMahon’s legacy is really inspiring. He certainly injected a great deal of atmosphere and humanity into his work.



Zoe’s artwork

My 13 year old niece Zoe has produced some fantastic work at her weekly art club. I wish there had been something similar when I was young, it looks great. They have worked with ink, acrylic, linocut, coloured pens and watercolour on representative and abstract pieces. We also share a love of You Tube manga artist Mark Crilley.

And this is her Dad (my brother John)