Building a house on paper

Hello all!

I didn`t finish an illustration a day for the rest of Inktober, but I did work in ink a lot this week. (so I kind of made up for it?) Since my main focus now is finishing some comic pages in time for the CTNx expo in LA I am in the middle of designing locations, props and side characters.

This week I had to design a place fit for regents to work and live in. I always dread drawing architecture since perspective is certainly not my strongest suit and I don`t even know where to start. My first efforts always involved drawing a block, a roof, then slapping some windows, balconies and doors on it. Turns out, I never really looked at how houses are constructed and what people do to make them look nice. That was my main problem. Surprisingly, that was all I had to do to solve my problem this time.

Here are some first quick ideas and sketches. I`m very far along in the final design now and I`ll show you when I finish the page.

2014 10 Regent housesSometimes the problems you have to solve when drawing are hard to find and it takes you a while to overcome them. Sometimes, a breakthrough can happen in a day.

I was so intimidated by this whole idea of designing a building that I put it off, then, when I finally mustered up the courage, I stared at a blank page for a while and then stopped again. Funnily enough I was on my way to work and then came across a building that gave me a push in the right direction. I was looking at it, finding it really pretty. And then it dawned on me: why is this building so pretty to me? And I started looking at it with different eyes. Sure, it didn`t have the right look and time period for what I was searching for, but why did this building have so much appeal? And how can I use that to make something appealing instead of a block with windows in it?

Here`s what I did:

1 I analysed the appeal of the building.

I found pictures of it online and started studying them. It was a heavily decorated building, but somehow really elegant. It had a lot of vertical shapes with a lot of round arches around them. I looked at how the windows were placed, where they used structures to keep everything in place, and especially how they decorated it without making a mess. From here I searched for other places I knew that have appeal and have the feeling I was going for.

2 I drew, drew and drew.

I sketched a lot of details from those buildings: windows, decorating, roofs, stones…everything my mind couldn`t  think of whenever I looked at the blank page or the random house-block-thing. Here`s a page of sketches that I did:

2014 10 reference drawingI many pages with elements from different places I knew had what I was looking for. I tried to look for the basic structure underneath all the decorating, study the shapes and the material.

I could never make these discoveries by looking at the buildings alone. The act of drawing it out makes it set in your mind more than just looking at it. I can remember I only looked at certain pictures of buildings and couldn`t possibly draw it now from my memory. But the buildings I drew I can now still reproduce the basics of from my memory.

3 I then started drawing buildings of my own.

Those are the sketches you see at the top. Using the knowledge and the newly sparked ideas for what I could do with the place I started sketching. I was working in ink since it forces you to be bold and you can`t erase things. I was really amazed by the reservoir of options I now had, to build up the forms. The many ways I now knew how to divide up the spaces on the walls in an interesting way and how much more free I felt in my imagination because I had been “feeding” it with so much different input. Which brings me to the point: don`t stop in your reference drawing at a few buildings, only one time period or a certain type of building. I looked at Victorian houses, cute little houses and cottages, the houses that line the canals in Utrecht and fairytale buildings. Look at characteristics, nice new ideas you never thought of, shapes, basic floor plans etc.

Most of all: have fun exploring! I never could have thought I would like drawing buildings this much. Granted, when my design is finished I have to draw it in my comic frames in perspective and everything and I will always face challenges, but this experience sure encouraged me to try and not shy away from the blank page. Going forward!

Is there something you struggle with in your art? How can you give yourself the tools you need to learn to get better at it?

4 comments

  1. Gea says:

    Yes, those buildings look really great! Well done and good luck with exploring more and having a go with the prespective later on.

    I am curious what building it was that has given you inspiration. 😉

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