How to Draw Buildings & Architecture

Watch this drawing demo and get concrete tips for how to approach drawing a building. This video shows you how to get started sketching architecture. A complicated subject with many details that can be intimidating.

Techniques for how to capture the scale of buildings as well as how to articulate details are thoroughly explained. Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Cat Huang.

Video Walkthrough

  • Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an Italian architect, archeologist, and artist who created etchings.
  • Piranesi’s series “The Prisons” was a suite of 16 prints that showed subterranean vaults inspired by Rome.
  • Linear perspective is either right or wrong.
  • If you make the buildings and composition chaotic enough, you can get away with not measuring the linear perspective.
  • Keep the biggest shapes in mind when drawing architecture, it’s too easy to get seduced by details early on.
  • Jump around the entire composition and develop all the parts of the architecture at the same rate.
  • When sketching architecture, give yourself “X-Ray vision” where you see through all of the architectural elements.
  • Architecture is just as exciting an innovative as other fields of art, but challenging due to the engineering and building materials.
  • Grouping together fragments with a “glaze” of marker can get an architectural plane to feel more solid.
  • Marker drawing requires paper that is fairly durable, like Bristol board, hot press watercolor paper, or mixed media paper.
  • Regular drawing paper is usually too thin and the alcohol based markers will often bleed through the paper.
  • Alcohol markers blend exceptionally well and can create a painterly, atmospheric quality.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

There are a lot of misconceptions about how one “should” approach drawing architecture. A lot of people feel pressure to make a drawing of architecture very precise and measured with a ruler. Certainly that is one way to go about it, and if that works for you, great!

It’s a good idea to figure out in advance if you’re going to bother with linear perspective, that’s tough to implement in the middle of the drawing.

That said, architecture can also be very loose and atmospheric. You don’t have to draw every single line in a building, sometimes a more suggestive approach to the architecture can be just as effective. A great example is Giovanni Battista Piranesi‘s etchings titled The Prisons.

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