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Essay Notes on Sketching by Joe Self, AIA

Sketching is a quiet, private thing. When shared, a sketch is revealed like a confidence — almost a secret. As with speech, the peculiarities of a person are thoroughly exposed with a sketch, perhaps more than through what a formal expression might disclose. A sketch is often an origin story for an idea or a strategy. Sketching is the act that makes visible to ourselves and to others the image that is dancing around in our mind’s eye. Sketching teaches us to explore options and to test ideas in the quickest way possible. Some sketches are tentative and searching in a way that shows that the thing represented is elusive, while others are bold and sure, as if to show an impatience about something that should be clear. and so must be learned. With a sketch, we can communicate the most basic things, but sketching must be practiced if it is to be useful for more complex thoughts. That said, the main use of a sketch is to remove unnecessary complexities and to render something in its most basic form. Sketching doesn’t come naturally

These sketches were produced by the author on a recent Texas Society of Architects Publication Committee retreat in Tyler, Texas. A summary of the trip written by Charlie Burris, AIA, can be found at www.texasarchitects. org/tyler2013.

20 Texas Architect

5/6 2013

With a sketch, we can communicate the most basic things, but sketching must be practiced if it is to be useful for more complex thoughts. This way we can capture a thought, establish relationship of parts, describe a sequence of events, emulate the quality of shade and shadow, define spaces, and suggest textures. The sketch appeals to our minds and to our senses. I carry a smallish (5” x 7 ¾”) spiral notebook. Its pale green pages with light blue guide lines are protected by a stiff paperboard cover. I use the guide lines when making notes but ignore them when I choose to sketch. The metal spiral binding accommodates a pen so I can always keep the two together. My current pen of choice is a rolling-ball type with black ink. A finished sketchbook is evidence of a private language. Joe Self, AIA, is principal of FIRM817 in Fort Worth.


Texas Architect May/June 2013: Preservation