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July 16, 2009 at 6:07 pm

drafting desk setup

At the moment, I am transferring my ideas from a sketchy house plan to a dimensioned, scaled drawing. The original drawing was on graph paper, for two reasons (since Meg asked):

  1. to make it easier to keep lines roughly at right angles to each other, without having to use a straight-edge and a triangle all the time
  2. and

  3. to hold myself to a uniform notion of the square footage and measurements across the drawing, without having to use a scale all the time.

Staying away from rulers simplifies and streamlines the drawing process, and keeps ideas flowing, not weighed down by details. Also, drawing freehand (even on graph paper) allows me to retain the sense of the building as a not-yet-completed design: once lines start getting sharp and precise, they start to feel like they are fixed and permanent, a construction document as opposed to an idea. With a ruler-drawn line, you tend to start thinking, “Okay, that’s where the 2x4s go!” as opposed to, “This is roughly where the structural wall is going to be.”

(This, to my mind, is the main problem with computer drafting — which Sketchup now seems to be offering a remedy for — it makes sloppy, badly-thought-out drawings look finished — even to the people who drew them, who should know better than anybody else how unfinished they are!)

As I sketched into and modified the drawing, I would tape on sheets of tracing paper, so I could change things without totally destroying what had come before, and try out new ideas on a clean slate while still keeping the underlying dimensions the same. As I added layers of tracing paper, the exact measurement laid down by the graph paper’s grid would get a little fuzzy and vague. So, now that I have a pretty good idea of what the layout is going to be, I’m drawing the plan again, with rulers, a scale, and specific dimensions.

I’ll write more about this house plan in a future update, but here is a hallways of varying widths, with a built in couch of some kind and lots of shelves.

hallway drawing

One thing that putting a specific dimension to things lets me do is see where things do *not* work: in the detail below, the shelves in the hallway, where you walk in from the living room area (center left of the photo) make it too narrow to pass through. … Erase! Erase!

brroken hallway

My big drafting desk is up in the 3rd floor studio; here’s the kit of essentials:

3rd floor work setup

from top to bottom:

  • graph paper / tracing paper drawing (attached to drawing board)
  • adjustable triangle (for drawing angles)
  • circle template (door swings)
  • scale (the fancy one, that I can use now that I have soft floor pads under my drafting desk & am not worried about it breaking, since I drop it all the time!)
  • wallpaper-wrapped brick (to keep the propped-up drawing board in place)
  • toilet paper (to wipe lead dust off after sharpening)
  • lead holder (aka pencil)
  • non-smudging eraser-pencil (this is a great thing that I recently got, it totally solves the smudgy problems that beset me on previous vellum drawings)
  • random ballpoint pen (I’m not using this, not sure why it is on the table)
  • lead pointer (aka pencil sharpener)
  • paper scale (made out of folded graph paper, I’m using it to take approximate measurements off the sketchy drawing)
  • water cup
  • compass
  • two more lead holders (they all have different hardnesses of lead in them, though for this drawing at the moment I’m only using 2H)
  • small piece of chocolate!

[This drawing is actually done now, and I’ve started a new one based on it, dealing with walls & doorways — this was mostly written, and the pictures were taken, a couple of days ago.]

Reading & reference:

  • short comics from Will Krause, a new friend who is about to leave town… :(
  • Complexity & Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi (again)
  • Understanding Structures by Fuller Moore, a basic architecture school textbook (again)
  • Tomorrow’s House by George Nelson & Henry Wright, 1945: book for the layperson proselytizing modern architecture in home design. Sample quote, emphasis theirs:

    There is no possible way to turn the clock back. In designing houses today we have to be ourselves — twentieth-century people with our own problems and our own technical facilities. There is no other way to get a good house. No other way at all.


  • Ninja by Brian Chippendale: this is a huge graphic epic that I had read parts of in mini-comic form; it was published in a giant (12″x18″) edition a couple of years ago. I finally read the whole thing, in a concentrated manner, over the course of three or four nights, a week or so ago. I’m re-reading it now again, going slowly, trying to sort it all out and make all the connections… In some ways it’s a narrative of Providence, of a time that I also lived through, and it brings back to me very strongly the anger, emotion, and outrage of that time. Disjointed, hilarious, disturbing, and inspiring…

Okay, speaking of pencil-lead hardness, I’ve also been doing some just plain old observed drawings, which are really grounding and exciting, in a calm way. (That might make sense, or not.) Using a 4B (super soft) pencil is really fun, because it calls for a lightness of hand as you lay things out, but allows for real darkness if that is what is needed. The only problem is that if you are keeping the pencil sharp, it gets shorter real fast!

soft pencil drawing

It is a view from the 3rd floor of our house, looking out over the Woonasquatucket valley… and will be in a drawing show at Stairwell Gallery that opens on Sunday.

The neighbors who live behind us have been playing the same romantic dance song over and over again, for a number of hours each afternoon, for the past couple weeks. Possibly they are rehearsing for a dance of some kind, or else they just really like this song. My housemates are slowly being driven crazy, I think, but for me, it’s not that bad: sometimes I barely recognize the song, then other times it brings the slow acknowledgment of half-recalled memories, of a distant past that might or might not be my own. The song, combined with the faintly heard ice-cream tunes that cross and re-cross the neighborhood at intervals, gives the audible atmosphere of our house a nostalgic familiarity. . . . . I’ll be sad when the rehearsals are over.

Summer is awesome by the way.

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