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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music for the Eyes

This series retraces my steps in sketching Paris's magnificent opera house, the Palais Garnier.  It's an irresistible subject, at once visually overwhelming yet with a design structure that conveys a harmonious whole.
As with many of my urban sketches, I begin by trying to make sure everything I want to draw will fit onto my page.  In this instance, I used people on the street to set an eye-level (horizon) line, then blocked out the height and width of the three main levels of the facade.  Drawing a few people at different sizes has already created an illusion of depth.

I draw in the rest of the basic geometry of the facade.  At this point the overall composition is fixed on the page, and I can have fun observing and sketching the ornate design structure and details.

I've had to carefully observe and understand the design structure (counting openings and columns and finding alignments of key elements, for example) while simplifying the ornate sculptures and other details.  My goal is to capture the almost musical rhythm of the facade's design, and how the people in the scene almost become a living part of that design structure.

I've carefully chosen where to place darks to reinforce the rhythms of the facade and to add visual punch to the sketch.  Adding darks to some of the people ties them in to the overall composition.

I've added very light colored pencil washes to complement but not overwhelm the linework.  The sky is purposefully drawn in a heightened, energetic style to tie it to the loose feel of the rest of the sketch.  Some bright colors on the crowd help convey the palpable urban energy of this place.  Note how the color fades at the edges of the sketch.  I have a feeling this building will call me back to draw it many time...next time in watercolor?