I usually try to have some idea of how the topic I am writing about one week will lead into a topic for the following week.  Last week, I left nowhere else to go but to do the thing I’ve been putting off.  So, in order to maintain some level of continuity and integrity – doing what I say I’m going to do – I finally did it.  I sketched my first building.  Not a skyscraper-scale Gothic cathedral, just a skyscraper: the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building – New York, New York, north elevation (1931), William H. Lamb, architect

It is the first building in the book, Draw 50 Buildings and Other Structures, which I gave myself for Christmas but haven’t opened since January.  Following the steps in the book, my first attempt wasn’t very impressive.  I drew it scared, using too many crutches (ruler + graph paper) and measuring every little line; not sketching at all.

While proportional, my sketch turned out very mechanical:

Empire State Building – sketch #1

Empire State Building from ‘Draw 50 Buildings and Other Structures’

I didn’t even bother to finish it.  It was too stiff and I knew I needed to free myself from the graph paper.  In addition to going off-the-grid, I tried sketching from the ground up, rather than from all directions, as depicted in Draw 50 Buildings.  Using the ruler strictly as a straightedge yielded a more aesthetically pleasing result…

Empire State Building – sketch #2

Empire State Building from ‘Draw 50 Buildings and Other Structures’

… but my proportions were all off – namely, my center setback is too wide (the main vertical section of the building should be divided into equal thirds) and my mast, below the spire, is too tall.

It seems my challenge when it comes to sketching, aside from getting over my perfectionism, is finding a balance between using my tools and using my eyes.  I went from 100% measuring every line in the first sketch to 100% estimating in the second.  (My all-or-nothing thinking haunts me in multiple arenas of my life).  But now that the extremes have been defined, and I have proven that neither works, I can now focus on finding the in-between.  And pay more attention to proportions, as someone who’s spent the better part of a year studying Andrea Palladio should know.

Final sketch

Not silent auction-worthy, but I’m proud of it.  Good thing I have 49 more opportunities to practice.

Fun fact: the Empire State Building has its very own ZIP code – 10118.