Week 45/2023 (part 1): Architectural drawing

Architectural drawing

Week of 6 November 2023 (Part 1)

Another comfort zone challenge

In August, I wrote about how I’d planned to do 23 comfort zone challenges for 2023, and how my acting class was one of those challenges.

I had another opportunity to do something way out of my comfort zone this week.

As part of the Open House Hobart program (which is my favourite weekend of the year!), the Australian Institute of Architects (Tasmania) offered an architectural drawing workshop on Friday.

Drawing for architecture  

The workshop was supported by the Prince’s Trust and INTBAU Australia.

Taught by Alexander Dowthwaite, this workshop will introduce students to traditional methods of architectural drawing with a focus on cultivating the “art of seeing”, or understanding the composition of heritage buildings through drawing.

Through a pencil-and-paper approach, students will discover the beauty of Hobart’s architectural heritage and learn to decode the meanings behind the composition of our historic buildings and places.

Get ready to unleash your inner artist as we explore the world of architecture through drawing. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, this Open House Hobart event is perfect for everyone.

Feeling a little (very) nervous, because I have very little drawing experience and am very much on the “beginner” end of the spectrum, I arrived at the Institute of Architects office on Friday morning.

After a brief introduction, Alex explained that drawing satisfies a human urge to depict the world as we see it and to make sense of it. This kind of representational art is older than writing, dating back over 45,000 years.

He said drawing by hand gives us what technology can’t. When we draw, we’re using our “design muscles” to see a building. Stopping, slowing down and putting lines on paper allows us to make sense of it; to really see it and understand its design and its meaning.

Alex explained the basic five steps to making a drawing, which he then invited us to put into practice using a photo on the screen.

A building displayed on a screen showing two-point perspective lines and five steps to drawing a building
Our first drawing assignment

Some people got a lot more done than others. Not naming names here . . .

Drawing a real building

After this exercise, we headed outside to put what we’d learned into practice.

Our first stop was in Mawson Place where we were invited to do a warm-up sketch of a building of our choice. The course promo had implied we’d only be looking at older buildings but my second-favourite building in Hobart is right there and I’d been hoping I’d get a chance to draw it.

A large brown boxy modernist building with dark windows. Approx 10 floors. There are dark clouds in the sky
Marine Board Building (on a different day)

I scuttled away to a secluded corner to try out my new skills. I got some of the lines in the wrong place and I think I missed out an entire floor so I hope the people who work on that floor don’t do anything too important!

A drawing board with a white sheet of paper held in front of a large brown multi-storey building in the background. The sky is blue
Drawing the Marine Board Building

Nonetheless, I think it was a good start and Alex said the beauty of it is people aren’t going to take my drawing back to the building and compare it and point out the flaws. For example, if I hadn’t noted that the wall spaces were too narrow, he said he’d not have noticed. (Or maybe he was being nice.)

He did say it’s important to add in some detail at the bottom of the drawing to ground it. This can include trees and people, as well as the street. Otherwise you end up with something that just kind of stops.

So I added trees. They don’t even have to look like trees!

A black pencil drawing of a boxy multi story building with trees in front
My finished drawing. With trees.

Part of the deal was we had to share our work. A lot of it was very impressive and I suspect some people are way more experienced artists than I am. But hey, no judgement. I was there to do my work, not theirs!

A collection of black pencil drawings of various buildings, on drawing boards, lying on the ground
All the work

The second drawing

The next stop was the main game, Salamanca, where we could again choose a building to draw. The Supreme Court isn’t too far away? I asked. It was not and it was the obvious choice for me. Finding my angle, I saw down under a tree ready to draw when an electrician’s van pulled up out the front.


The van wasn’t going anywhere so I had to choose another angle.

The Gladstone Street corner was probably a bad idea because it was lunch time and there was a constant stream of cars (and fire engines) passing through the roundabout. The joys of urban art making, and one I am only too familiar with in my photography. Despite that, I spent about 45 minutes there attempting to sketch my favourite building.

A drawing board with a partially completed black pencil drawing of the modern sandstone and grey slate building in the background
Drawing the Supreme Court

Two things I noticed.

First, it took a while for me to overcome the voice in my head that told me I can’t draw and this is hopeless and why am I wasting my time on this . . . But I worked through that and, once I got going, I became engrossed in the drawing tasks.

Second, I’d imagined that everyone passing by would look at me and wonder what I was doing and see how shocking my drawing was.

This is one of the reasons I’m reluctant to go out in public with my tripod. People might look at me!

They didn’t. No one gave me a second look. They didn’t notice what I was doing and they didn’t care.

I expect the same would happen if I got out my tripod.

Something to think about . . .

My drawing turned out okay. I struggled with the windows on the lower part of the building, and the back section where the round column sits behind the main structures, but it’s recognisable (at least to me).

A black pencil drawing of a low modern building
I didn’t finish this one but I can tell what it is!

Tuscan columns

After our report back, we returned to Architecture HQ for lunch and some more practice.

The afternoon session was about architectural theory. Specifically, columns.

There are five orders of columns in classical architecture: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite.

They start out relatively simple (Tuscan) and move to the slightly ridiculous (Composite), and our task was to draw a Tuscan column in proportion. I had never realised this but there is a very precise structure to these columns, even the simple ones, and it’s all based on the diameter of the column at the bottom.

I’m sure I made this task more complicated than it needed to be and I now understand how easily Masterchef contestants can miss steps in recipes they’re working through step by step. The less said about my attempt the better but I can see what I did wrong now and I’ll have to have another go at it another time. With a sharper pencil.

A black pencil drawing of the lower part of a Tuscan column
The beginnings of a Tuscan column

And finally

We went outside for a final photo and Nina, the photographer, asked who “straightlinesgirl” was. I’d been furtively posting pics on Instagram as I was working so she knew I was somewhere in the class. And as I’m a prolific photo poster during Open House, the organisers know my work. And now they know who I am. My anonymity is blown!

It was a fun day and I’m glad I overcame my initial fear and lack of confidence in my drawing skills that almost stopped me from going.

I mean, to decide not to go to a class because I can’t do the thing the class will teach me?


It reminds me of a conversation I had with Kramstable a few years ago when I said I hadn’t done a TAFE course because I didn’t know anything about the subject. He was, rightly, confused. “But that’s why you go and do the course,” he said. “To learn how to do it.”


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