These notes are intended as a brief summary of personal experience and practice in architectural drawing during recent years, with suggestions for treatment of mainly old buildings in pen and ink work. This is in the hope that others may be encouraged to persevere in this activity, and achieve the measure of interest and pleasure which success will bring.
Historically, pen and ink work has been used for illustration for many years: periodicals around the start of the twentieth century would frequently contain examples of this type of work, often by both British and American artists such as DA Gregg, H Thomson, FLB Griggs, Bertram Goodhue, Herbert Railton and Joseph Pennell.
However, for the last fifty years or more, perhaps due to improvements in a variety of things such as colour reproduction techniques, photographic processes, available materials, computer graphics, and changes in fashion, pen and ink drawings are not seen very frequently - and quite rarely at local arts society exhibitions, for example.
In a rather different class - although often admirably drawn - are the pen and ink cartoons still appearing in some of the daily newspapers.
The technique of pen and ink drawing seems to lend itself to the preparation of drawings of old buildings and their surroundings.
The drawings are easy to reproduce, and sometimes seem to gain in interest when reproduced to a smaller scale.
In addition to buildings and other architectural subjects, however, site and landscape drawings lie within the province of the current considerations, as do details of the different techniques.
Drawing Preparation: Photographs and Tracings
To make progress in pen and ink drawing is difficult without first preparing outline drawings of the subject.
Unless the illustration is small enough for a small pencil sketch to be adequate, over which the ink work can be completed, the first stage is really to acquire or take photographs. Taking the photos yourself will allow you to choose the best viewpoints, and also to take close-ups of any particular areas or details which you will find useful later as your work develops.
The next stage is to photocopy or scan/print a selected photograph, producing a copy which is either enlarged or reduced to the chosen size of the eventual drawing.
Then, place tracing paper over the resized copy and trace the outlines and major features of the subject.
This tracing is probably better without too much detail, which can be added freehand or additionally traced as the work progresses.
The final stage before drawing starts is to photocopy or scan/print the tracing onto the paper which will hold the drawing itself.
The photocopy or print should be produced so that the subject outlines appear only faintly on the paper.
The drawing itself can now be started.
When substantial progress has been made with the ink drawing - unless it is very small and uncomplicated in form - it may be helpful to take a couple of prints of the drawing, reduced to, say, A5 size. Ink, or even soft pencil, can then be used to emphasize the most important areas, in order to get the composition right - far easier to do this to small scale than on an A3 sheet!
Another aspect which may usefully be considered at about this stage of the process is whether or not the drawing contains any interesting features such as an entrance, doors, or windows, which could well form the basis of a further drawing to a larger scale; this drawing could introduce techniques not possible with the original (smaller) drawing.
Basic Area Techniques and Other Fundamentals
The technique of hatching is one of the principle requirements of pen and ink work.
The types of hatching shown in the example illustration should, with possible slight modifications, cover most of the requirements for general drawing, apart from specialist work such as glass in windows or reflections on water.
Familiarity with the hatching shown - and the ability to produce minor variations to it according to particular needs - will be of considerable importance, and will undoubtedly repay time spent in practice.
The working surface should be at an appropriate height, and inclined at a comfortable angle using a 2" (50mm) square wooden block or similar to support the drawing area at the higher side. By using the upper part of the wrist as a support, but allowing it only to barely touch the paper as it moves, it is possible with a little practice to draw closely-spaced horizontal lines without any great difficulty, and also of course to achieve the same result wth vertical lines (if required) by turning the paper through 90 degrees.
Approach and Methods: Shades and Shadows
The difference between a simple fine-lined straightforward drawing of a building, and a drawing of the same building in sunlight is surprising.
Examples of both stages of drawing (of St Leonard, Frankley) illustrate this point: in sunlight, shadows and areas in shade can transform the appearance of a drawing and help to give it a three-dimensional look without a great deal of additional work.
The additional enlarged detail of part of the stone wall and gate at Frankley gives an idea of how the differing values for stonework and mortar joints, together with the highlights and areas of reflected light, can be used to draw attention to an important area close to the focal point: the entrance to the church.
The illustration of reflected light from brickwork is also intended to demonstrate how the shadow cast under these circumstances results in the darkest area of the shadow being furthest from the wall, and a different form of hatching is used for this to try and make the difference noticeable - but not too noticeable!
Although adequate pen and ink drawings can be prepared using only three tones, it is usual to make use of five tones, treating the paper as white.
The drawing of chimney stacks is modified from an original by DA Gregg, drawn in about 1910, and demonstrates the use of the different tones.
Uniformity of Line and Emphasis
In pen and ink drawing, the manner and the quality of lines which are produced are, not unnaturally, among the most important aspects of the process.
The initial attempts of someone trying pen and ink drawing for the first time are not infrequently to be seen as producing a somewhat scratchy effect of short lines of varying thickness, some probably not connecting with other lines where appropriate.
Perhaps the first recommendation should be initially to try and use equal pressure for all lines, and having mastered this aspect of the technique, to incorporate heavier lines when circumstances so dictate. This introduces an element of contrast, which is one of the ways of bringing a drawing to life, and emphasising any important area or focal point.
It is very easy to overwork areas of a drawing - particularly a large one - only to find that emphasis has not been placed on the right areas, and that the balance of the composition has been affected.
If this happens - on not too large a scale - the use of a medium-soft pencil rubber will probably allow an area to be toned down to the appropriate strength (Note - test areas should be attempted on a separate drawing!).
A drawing of Coventry Cathedral ruins (the original is very large for a pen and ink drawing at approx 32 by 20 inches) provides an example of uniformity of line.
By using a slightly finer line than usual, it is possible to give the impression of a greater distance to the object or area being drawn, as opposed to the closer, more immediate areas of a building, which may be illustrated with fuller lines (see Selly Manor).
It is also possible to tone down an area to the appropriate strength by careful use of a rubber (see the distant trees in the centre of the Bolton-le-Sands drawing).
Although not used frequently, quite a "free" effect can be obtained by omitting boundary lines around objects.
For example, in the drawing of an entrance (modified from an original drawn by BA Goodhue in the early 1900's), the steps are depicted by vertical hatching with little or no explicit indication of a junction between steps.
Roofs and Ridges
Roofs are sometimes shown too dark, or over-worked, which can be inappropriate for areas directly lit by the sky. This also applies to ridges, which, unless silhouetted, can usually be shown with finer than usual lines - see the second drawing of Selly Manor.
When incorporated, figures can prove a useful aid to emphasis, particularly at or near a focal point. They can also be used to give scale to a building.
Even a small figure, light in appearance against a darker background, can add a surprising amount of 'life' to a drawing - see Selly Manor (third drawing).
Further information on the height of figures is dealt with in the section on perspective.
Not the easiest of subjects to illustrate successfully in pen and ink: it is suggested that skies should be left until the rest of the drawing is completed, and then treated in sympathy with the finished areas.
Pen and ink drawing seems to be ideal for indicating areas of fairly placid bodies of water - see for example Kings Norton canal.
However, for larger areas of water which may be flowing quite quickly, ripples and local eddies and disturbances can result in surprising changes in the shape and size of reflections. The illustration of Swarkestone Bridge helps to demonstrate these changes. Additional treatments are two watercolours of the same bridge: one a pure watercolour, and the other strengthened by the addition of pen and ink work.
Materials and Equipment
Almost any smooth-surfaced paper will be found suitable for use with modern drawing pens, from good-class photocopying paper to 'hot-pressed' watercolour paper.
There is a wide range of suitable pens available from reputable makers such as Pilot, Staedtler etc.; these vary in thickness from .01mm to .06mm, and in some cases upto .08mm. Any of these pens should give months of dependable service, maintaining virtually a constant thickness of line throughout.
Personal preference is to use .01 thickness most, though not all of, the time, given that a fine line can always be made heavier, but a thick line is there for good!
Try pen-nib and ink if you wish: the variation in thickness of line and effect possible is quite surprisingly different. Some fairly recent examples of work using pen nibs are available in the books by Alfred Wainwright, the author and illustrator of a series of books describing his long-distance walks in Britain and elsewhere. His technique is ideal for illustrating the craggy countryside and the roughly-textured buildings of the areas in which he walked.
If use is to be made of pen nibs and ink, Gillotts 303 and 404 nibs are probably best for this type of work, but may be difficult to obtain. A special mapping pen-holder will be required for the 303 nibs.
The use of drawing pins (thumb tacks) is best avoided; there are plenty of suitable adhesive tapes available.
The use of preliminary practice before starting work is strongly recommended, even if only a few one-inch squares are filled with closely-drawn straight lines!
No mention has been made of the delightfully "clean" effects which can be achieved by combining watercolours with pen and ink work, or by simply letting them contribute to a pen and ink sketch; the proximity of stark, black lines and the transparency of water colours can make a fascinating contrast. The fairly limited use of watercolour can be seen in the illustration showing the entrance to Coventry Cathedral.
Unfortunately, the process of utilising light photocopies or scanned/printed copies (see Drawing Preparation: Photographs and Tracings) to prepare sketches or drawings which are to incorporate watercolours will necessitate the use of heavier paper, which may be unsuitable for photocopying. The alternative would be the time-honoured procedure of preparing a tracing of the work required, reversing it, and then lining in all work with a fairly soft - say HB - pencil. These soft pencil marks can then be transferred to the final work sheet by reversing the tracing again, and using a harder pencil - say 2H - to produce the final light pencil drawing ready to receive your pen and ink work and watercolour. Laborious, but hopefully entirely worthwhile!
To pick out highlights, or occasionally to lighten intricate dark areas, white ink (applied with a fine pen nib) can be most useful.
In the case of very minor mistakes, it can also be used as a corrective (also used with a fine pen nib).
Pen and ink drawing is sometimes criticised for showing only details, and not an overall picture. The drawing of Siena is included to suggest that by choice of subject, this criticism can largely be avoided.
Where a drawing together with highlights is incorporated as an example above, the main drawing is shown at reduced scale to speed up access over the internet. "Full scale" drawings are therefore provided in the "gallery".
Brickwork and Masonry
This can be indicated in a variety of ways, depending on irregularities present in the area being depicted, on distance from the viewer, and last but not least, in the relative importance to the composition being treated.
The last example also shows how it is possible to emphasize the extremities of large areas of brickwork, and lighten the central area - in this case adjacent to the circular window. The reason for this can be seen by comparing the relevant importance of the areas concerned, which is quite an important general principle.
A simple illustration (which is intended mainly to show how light can be reflected from a large area of brickwork which is in shade) uses an overall form of hatching; this is intended to unify the appearance of the wall area, and to lose the brick courses..
Stonework varies from the random boundary-walling around the church at Frankley to precisely worked masonry, possibly with a finely-tooled face, and notable for its joints of minimal thickness. There is an example of internal medieval stonework over an entrance doorway in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, although this stonework also bears the marks of repair work following wartime damage. The exterior elevation of this entrance is also shown as a full size (and hence long download time) picture in the gallery, including a view of the interior of the original nave, seen through the doorway.
Rather unusually, in the case of the drawing of the Summer House at Swarkestone, to avoid undue prominence of the boundaries of individual stones and certain other areas, use has been made of dots and dashes. This, in view of both the small scale of many of the details and the granular nature of the masonry, seemed an appropriate technique to employ.
Watercolour can be used to allow a wider range of easily-controlled tones to be incorporated into a drawing with less difficulty than by using pen and ink hatching, particularly where there is a fairly marked variation of tone within a small area.
To illustrate this, the two drawings of the Prairie-style house in the Gallery should be compared: the first showing standard pen and ink treatment, and the second showing the use of watercolour.
For the second drawing, the outline and details of the building have been carried out with a slightly finer ink line than usual, and the darker areas treated with a wash or washes of watercolour - in this case charcoal grey, which is not too intrusive a colour - and results in a generally quieter, softer feeling than is apparent in the first drawing.
Basics of Perspective
As some people may not have had a very wide experience of drawing in general, they may find a note on perspective drawing to be helpful.
As shown in the example drawing, any rectangular building which is seen at an angle has two vanishing points.
These are the points on the horizon to which lines drawn along all horizontal features on the building converge.
If a person of the same height as the viewer/photographer is to be added to the picture, their eye level is given by a line drawn between the two vanishing points - provided the person, the viewer/photographer, and the building are all situated on the same level ground.
After any figures or other objects have been added to the drawing, a final check should be made to ensure that all door and window openings are correctly related to the vanishing points as in the example.
Notes on Pen and Ink Drawing of Buildings by AEE Jones RIBA
Using a Computer to Colour Pen and Ink Work
After scanning a pen and ink drawing into a computer, a number of well-known image manipulation software packages can be used to add colour in various ways. Areas can of course be filled with a particular colour, but possibly a more useful technique is to add colour to the existing ink lines without affecting the white background. This can be done, for example, in Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, and the free GIMP package by selecting the overall area to be worked on, adding colour to the existing ink lines with the "Colorize" command, and altering "Hue/Saturation" to achieve the desired shade [thanks to xiberpix.com for assistance with this].
Using these methods on the example of Swarkestone Summer House results in a slightly "lighter" feeling to the drawing, reducing the degree of contrast present, and emphasizing the distance to the Summer House by reducing the strength of its image. Noticeable also is the way that joints and markings on the entrance masonry have been reduced slightly in strength and importance; the entire treatment seems to have produced a quieter, more secluded feeling to the drawing.
This treatment is by way of an experiment, and may be incorporated into future drawings where appropriate.
Additional Stonework Details
The drawing of the east end of the ruins of Coventry Cathedral (which shows the altar) is quite detailed, and as far as the hatching is concerned, several slightly different indications of the stonework representation are shown.
For this reason, an additional partly completed drawing is provided to assist anyone who might like to use this as a basis for trying out alternative treatments of the stonework surfaces, in order to decide on the most suitable rendering of the areas involved. The proportions of light and dark areas could also be varied as desired..