In the midst of another New England winter, we still see more light from our computer screens than we do from the sun. Usually around this time of year, our office does something to break that routine, something essential to how we work at ART: we draw. Not the type of hardline drafting (plans, sections, elevations) needed to describe and construct buildings, but the type of drawing that brought many of us to architecture in the first place—sketching and painting. We grab a pad of paper and gather for ART Academy, a firm tradition.

When we started doing this every year, around 2005, it was figure drawing. We’d hire a nude model to come in and hold poses for us to sketch. First, a series at 30 seconds to warm up, then a minute, and finishing with a five-minute pose.

In the last few years, we’ve tried other types of freehand drawing and painting. The goal of these classes is to elevate everyone’s ability to represent 3D space on paper.

There is a natural editing process that happens while sketching that helps with design. What lines are needed to represent an idea or a building in 30 seconds? It’s the same exercise between eye, brain, and hand that decides which lines to show for that dynamic pose. A simple diagram of shapes and line can generate the volumes and spatial relationships for a whole house. And the quickest way to get an idea from brain to paper is the pen (or pencil).

Although we make plenty of 3D renderings in the computer for clients, we often draw over or add to those by hand to convey a feeling or an idea that doesn’t come across in a hard-line drafted perspective. We like to design with as much as for our clients, and we find that hand drawings free the imagination, raising questions and sparking new ideas. The design process works best when there’s room to add or refine.

For this year’s ART Academy, we’re trying something new again—painting with acrylics in a class led by one of our newest employees, Rosa, who apprenticed as a studio painter before going to architecture school. We’ll be reinterpreting classic paintings, breaking them down into simple shapes with a limited color palette. Over the course of six weeks, ART partners and team members alike will learn and sketch and laugh and think.

Tune back in for some of our latest work.

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