As my layout table has its first new coat of paint in 14 years, all the prints I’ve had stored there are piled up in my office. OK, I couldn’t resist taking a look before I put them back in storage. Some of them entertain me-I can see exactly what was influencing me at the time. The roll of drawings for the Bluewater project was just that-drawings. These unpolished sketches of landscape elements for a commercial project were highly conceptual-and certainly predate any computer programs that are now readily available to designers.
Land forms have always been of great interest to me. A big chunk of my library deals with mazes and labyrinths, land sculpture and earthworks. Robert Smithson’s 1970 sculpture ”Spiral Jetty”, constructed in 6 days on a leased piece of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, is now completely landlocked as the lake is so low. The sculpture spent 20 years or better completely submerged. The sculpture has presented in many forms over the past 40 years. I have always admired it; no doubt this conceptual drawing of a maze half in and half out of some water was directly inspired by Smithson’s work.
Another favorite-the land form drawings of Hans Dieter Schaal in his book “Landscape as Inspiration”. Inspired indeed. His sprawling and energetic drawings of natural forms exposed me to an entirely different way of thinking about dirt and nature. I had never seen landscape spaces rendered in this way before. I was equally taken with the beauty of the drawings. They are by no means scaled prints, they are gestural and interpretive marks on a page. This work inspired me to take up a marker and put it to a page, and see what happens. I refer to his book regularly.
Any reference to natural forms intrigues me. A log twig bridge over Bluewater’s man-made lake seemed like just the right combination of architecture and natural materials. Buck shakes his finger at me when I design with no regard for construction, but I still think a little free spirited doodle drawing has its place. A sketch that seems to be going no where is easily discarded-provided you have not spent so much time with it that you have become attached. It is difficult to be objective about one’s own work-so I try to work fast at the conceptual stage. Anything I have invested a lot of time and work in can be hard to trash-even when trash it I should.
None of these drawings would convince a client to commit their time and money. But they might convince a client that there was a reservoir of ideas from which something of interest might emerge. If you don’t believe your designer is a person of interest, then a collaboration on your project is unlikely. If you are designing for yourself, drawings can bring ideas to the surface you didn’t know you had. Keeping a waste basket handy can be a comfort!
I am happy to have these drawings, not for their design, but for their energy. Being the fan of science that I am, I wholly subscribe to the notion that everything in motion tends to stay in motion-and what’s at rest tends to stay still. This applies as much to a design sensibility as it does to the physical world. Inertia being gravity that has gotten the upper hand, I make the effort to feed whatever energy I have regularly.
This drawing suggests at least 6 different ideas. They have similar elements, but are disconnected from each other. At the end of a series of drawings comes the integration phase. How visual and sculptural elements relate to each might be more important than any given piece. That relationship provides for good flow and rhythm. I see lots of landscapes that have good bits, but no flow. In the print, I plan for the transition between one space and another to have its own space.
Once I was able to see that technically expert drawings did not necessarily imply expert concepts, I felt much more free to draw. The marks I make with the greatest confidence? My signature. Much of that confidence comes from having made those particular marks countless times. No one critiques a signature either-it is what it is. A series of drawings about your yard might need a little time to sit, before you review. It’s February-you have time.