Thursday, May 20, 2010

Matthew and Simonetta, architects in sketchbooks -2

Matthew and I had a sort of conversation on our approach to urban sketches, instead of a simple interview. This is the second part of it.

Largo Baracche
Simo Capecchi's students drawing in the center of Naples.

Matthew: When you are trying to teach sketching (or how to use a sketchbook), what are the most common difficulties you encounter with your students, and how do you overcome these challenges?

Simonetta: With architecture students to whom I lectured in November this year, I had great difficulties in convincing them that drawing freehand is going to be useful even if they will design with the computer. They are intimidated by the artistic aspects of drawing and seldom use colors (their sketchbooks here). I can understand this, since I have drawn with ink pen and rulers for 15 years as well. I have been a student in the ’80s before CAD, and even in that period the value of freehand sketches was not so appreciated in Italian Architecture faculties. It’s a common idea that the only way to draw is to have a "natural" talent for it, so the main difficulty is to convince students not to give up and dedicate time to drawing: they often feel exhausted after only 30 minutes! Usually I show my own process, bringing them my old notebooks as a student with all my bad pages to demonstrate that anyone can improve their skills with practice.

Largo Pignasecca

Simo Capecchi, view from the faculty windows, drawing with students, nov. 2009.
Ink pen on Moleskine large.

Matthew: Interesting – I have almost the exact same experience! I believe that both digital graphics and hand drawing are essential skills for designers, but it does take a greater commitment and more patience to really develop hand drawing skills. I have found that if students do learn to draw freehand, they value the skill so much more than being able to draw with digital tools. They have a greater sense of achievement, and I think this carries over into many other areas. But the biggest problem I have is that students tend to resist drawing frequently, and they don’t always see the value of studying other people’s drawings. But nevertheless it is so rewarding working with students and seeing their successes.

Matthew Brehm, nov 2009, sketchcrawl in Moscow ID. Ink pen on Moleskine pocket.

Matthew: How do you keep up with all of the wonderful online sources for sketching examples – blogs, flickr, etc.?

Simonetta: I started a blog in 2006 being unaware of the revolution it had begun, in terms of time I would devote to it and also of possibilities to comunicate with people all over the world. I'm still suffering the consequences of it, Urban Sketchers being the most “dangerous” and involving one. Now I mostly use a blog and flickr (plus closed projects + + + + +), and it’s already a big effort for me to keep them updated. Years ago I was among the first ones to use Issuu, after I saw Lapin use it. It has such a good resolution but it takes time to prepare, so till now I uploaded just a few sketchbooks on Issuu.
I'm also preparing a video channel to document a group of 50 Moleskine of various authors I collected in my exhibitions on travel sketchbooks in Naples. They are already on flickr and edited in a book, but a video is the best way to get the feeling of the intere sketchbook, now that the quality is much better than before. I don't like facebook and twitter, those are really too much for me. I’m already spending almost the same time on the Internet than drawing while I'd like to dedicate more time to real life.

Matthew Brehm, drawing with students in Portland, 24th Sketchcrawl sept 2009.
Moleskine watercolor Large.

Matthew: I’m always in awe of artists who are able to be so prolific in their sketching and especially when they manage to share so much of their work online. You’re right that Urban Sketchers is “involving” – but I never feel as if I have wasted my time when I see all the wonderful drawings and stories. I do feel overwhelmed sometimes, and, as you mention, occasionally I fear that I’m spending too much time looking at other sketches instead of sketching myself. But still, the communication that the internet has allowed is absolutely amazing – the connections that have been made and that will continue at events like the Portland Symposium, this is unprecedented. Sketching on location has had a social aspect to it for a very long time, but the number of new connections being made around the world is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s exciting to be part of this, even if it requires a time commitment to keep up with the new work that appears every day. (Matt's blog and Flickr)

Matthew Brehm's students in Rome, summer 2009.

Simonetta: From the Internet and our community of sketchers I get new ideas every day, but I also fear the possibility of being confused and loose my personal voice. I hope in the long run we are not going to draw in the same way, from Naples to Moscow, from Singapore to Sidney! I can’t wait to meet you and all the Portland participants and I’ll be very happy to find, besides all we have in common, deep differences among us...


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  2. Great conversation--looking forward to hearing more from both of you in Portland!

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