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“Observational Sketches”

April 2, 2024

Ways to Improve Your Observational Sketches

Observational sketching and quick conceptual drawing play crucial roles in the design process. They enable designers to swiftly visualise ideas, concepts, and spatial views, channelling creativity and moving the design journey forward. Despite its importance, formal guidance in observational sketching needs to be addressed, especially within universities where the priority is often obtaining proficiency in CAD software. This oversight confines imaginative potential solely to software skills, diverting attention from essential aspects of the design process.

Typically observational sketching is a skill developed early on in school. The rules are generally the same when it comes to architecture, however, certain practices can improve your observational sketches, and in turn, help you to be a better designer overall. The aim of sketching isn’t just to capture a moment or test out new tools. It’s a form of practice in its own right. When sketching a cathedral, you’re inclined to question details, materiality and even scale. However, if sketching your own home, you might think about the end user and common building practices.

Consistent practice is emphasised as the cornerstone of improvement in observational sketching. As the adage goes, “practice makes progress.” Designers are encouraged to dedicate time each day to honing their sketching skills, aiming for gradual improvement. The two-day rule is introduced as a productivity technique to maintain consistency in practice habits, allowing for occasional breaks.

Warming up before sketching is likened to athletes priming their muscles before exertion. Simple exercises to loosen arm muscles, such as drawing squiggles or parallel lines, are recommended to practice fluidity and freedom in sketches. Designers should try to utilise any available surface for practice, whether spare paper or old cardboard, without focusing on the material but rather on the act of sketching. It’s also a great way of testing materiality and finding a comfort zone.

Starting sketching endeavours with small, manageable objects within strict timeframes is also useful. This emphasises conveying the essence of subjects rather than fixating on intricate details. Then, you can gradually increase the complexity and duration of sketches, with a focus on exploring different perspectives and environments. Experimentation with shading techniques is also recommended to enhance depth and realism in sketches.

But the most important part of improving your observational sketches is to enjoy the process in order to sustain motivation and engagement. You could even try strategies such as rewarding oneself for consistent practice, incorporating challenges or games, and seeking support from friends or communities. Group sketching, particularly with other students or individuals who want to improve their skills can be quite beneficial. It could also be a way of incorporating accountability among one another.

In summary, consistent practice, gradual progression, and enjoyment are identified as key principles for improving observational sketching skills. By adhering to these principles, designers can expect tangible improvements in their abilities over time, empowering them to translate ideas into visually compelling sketches with confidence and proficiency. Improving your observational sketches doesn’t happen overnight but can be achieved.

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