2.6 Architectural illustration

The purpose of this exercise was to ‘create an architectural illustration that shows the contrast between a building or structure of your choice and its surroundings’.

Key words from the brief:

  • Think about how you deal with this contrast creatively, through your choice of materials, approach to image- and mark-making and use of colour and composition
  • Pick your best ‘live’ drawing or use your notes, photographs and sketches to create something more finished
  • Find out when your building or structure was built and do some research into the architectural style of the building you have chosen


The images were created over the period of about a month and include a number of different subjects:

  • Three drawings of St Nicholas Church, Thames Ditton
  • Drawings and paintings made in and around Hampstead Heath and Highgate on an Urban Sketchers workshop

The common theme for them all is that they they have a central architectural feature with surroundings.

St Nicholas Church

These images were made on different evenings and were sustained drawings, taking from between 1½ and 2-hours each.

St Nicholas Church dates back to the 12th Century and some of the original Norman structure is still standing. The church was enlarged several times throughout the centuries with the final building completing in 1864.

The first drawing shows the church tower and graveyard. The contrast between the architecture (both the church and the headstones) and the trees and vegetation is mostly achieved through mark making.

St Nicholas Church and graveyard – pen and ink, A3 sized

The second image is a view of the east end of the church. In this image as well as being more creative about mark making I experimented with colour pencil to create a different type of contrast.

A view of the east end of St Nicholas Church – pen & ink and colour pencil – A3 sized

The final image is from the extended graveyard. It consists of a rather ramshackle arrangement of headstones all in different states of repair, but the space is very tranquil.

St Nicholas Church graveyard – pen and coloured ink, A3 sized

The contrast between the architectural features and the vegetation is again achieved through the use of different marks created using different sized pen nibs.

I quite like the lettering on the headstones because it introduces more narrative into the image – I’d extend this if I was to make the drawing again.

Hampstead Heath

These experimental experimental images were produced during a weekend Urban Sketching workshop called Park Life that was run by Celia Burgos and Isabel Carmona over the weekend of 10th and 11th August 2019.

My main objective in attending the workshop was in response to tutor feedback. The advice I was given was to ‘avoid heavy outlines where you can’ and ‘use of colour – try not to leave this to the end’, and this workshop was going to address both these areas head on.

The other thing that attracted me to the workshop was that it was designed to explore the relationship between nature and architecture and use different painting and drawing techniques to depict their different qualities.

The first sketches explored drawing a panorama view of London, with nature in the foreground blending into the city in the midground and the high rise skyscrapers of the City of London and Canary Wharf in the background. The day was very windy with racing clouds and trees bending in the heavy gusts.

A view of the City of London from the bottom of Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath. Watercolour and coloured pencils across 2-pages of an A4 sketchbook
A view of the City of London from the top of Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath. A more sustained drawing using watercolour and coloured pencils across 2-pages of an A4 sketchbook

The second pair of drawings were made under the Pergola in Hill Gardens which overlooks Hampstead Heath. It’s an amazing place to sketch with interesting architecture entwined with exotic plants and creepers of many shapes and varieties.

The Pergola was commissioned by Lord Leverhulme and designed by Thomas Mawson, who was a well known architect at the turn of the 20th Century. The work was started in 1905 and finished a year later. Several extensions were added, the final one being in 1925.

The Hill Garden and Pergola01
A view along the Pergola – watercolour pencil across 2-pages of an A4 sketchbook
The Hill Garden and Pergola
Another view along the Pergola, this time a more sustained drawing made using watercolour and coloured pencils across 2-pages of an A4 sketchbook


What went well

  • I think both visual styles are successful in depicting architecture and what surrounds it.
  • The Urban Sketching weekend using opened my eyes to new watercolour techniques and I’m excited to find out in which direction it leads.
  • The Derwent Inktense pencils I used are great for my drawing style. I’ll probably buy a wider set of colours.
  • For the ink pen drawings I started to use A3 paper clipped to a drawing board which is a more comfortable way of working although it’s slightly bulky to carry.

What I would do differently/better

  • I need a couple of things for working with watercolour on location:
    • An A3 sketchbook of mixed media heavy duty paper. What I was using was too thin and wasn’t great to work with.
    • A nice watercolour brush. Something that can hold a good wash of paint.
    • A better way to work with water.



Historic UK https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/Hampstead-Pergola-Hill-Gardens/ (Accessed 11.08.19)

St Nicholas’ Church https://www.stnicholaschurch.org.uk/ (Accessed 11.08.19)


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