This is a simple painting….
While waiting for a custom sweatshirt to be printed at a seaside shop, I was struck by the effect of the fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. To explain the simple approach to painting this scene, I would offer this: Nothing is “penciled in” or laid out, you just start painting. Light gray sky first with some rough tree silhouettes establish the composition and allow you to further refine the perspective. Next, some intermediate ground plane (brownish areas) to define the coastline. Throwing some gray on what’s left over in the foreground completes the scene–and since I’m standing in a parking lot, I’m not going to add detail to this area, because it’s inconsequential. The essential goal of this painting is to capture the fade-out effect of the fog in the atmosphere–the way it obscures more and more the further you look toward the horizon. Just as in reality, the painting shows the distant landscape and ocean horizon barely discernable. As trees, land forms and buildings get closer to you, they begin to gain slightly darker values, with the closest tree having the darkest value in the painting. Two brushes used: a wide flat and a pointed round. Ultramarine, sepia, phthalo green, a little manganese are the only paints. Size is 5″ x 8″. I like paintings such as this because the goals are simple….and the end effect is clear and true to the initial intent and inspiration…no need to accent with cars, colorful buildings, or any other extraneous detail–things that would detract from the essential point being made. Just an ode to the intrinsic beauty of nature in a tender moment. And as an artist, I could not explain the simple joy of painting a scene like this–it’s cathartic and soothing and makes you feel at ease!
There’s nothing like a hand-drawn color illustration to describe your project and get the approvals you need ! Here are some of the renderings I have done recently for residential projects in Atherton, Woodside, and Los Altos Hills, CA…..Designed by Pacific Peninsula Architecture of Menlo Park, CA, each of these projects are in the development or construction phase….I am commissioned by the architect to create this artwork to show the City or Town what materials and colors are to be used in the final design….They can therefore review and comment on the design and the selection of materials if they choose to do so….I can work in several different capacities when producing these renderings….If necessary, I can generate the 3D perspective model which is developed in order to get this view of the proposed building….Once the architect gives me the design drawings–plans and elevations–I input that data into a Sketchup model, from which the perspective angle can be viewed….If the architect already has a 3D model of the home, I can start from that point, and don’t need to generate my own model….Usually these homesites have existing trees which will remain, so one of my tasks is to show these trees accurately with respect to the new structure….Google Earth, an illustrated site plan, or a site visit are the best ways to gather info on the existing trees….Then it’s part of my job to show the trees type, location, and character truthfully and accurately in order to demonstrate that the developer is mindful and responsible with regard to the existing trees and landscape….Aside from the fact that many of these cities and towns on the peninsula south of San Francisco actually require a color rendition of the proposed home design as part of a submittal, there is really no better way to portray the architect’s design….I have created a great many of these illustrations over the years for the communities of Atherton, Woodside, Los Altos, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and Los Altos Hills….
Today I am featuring many of the architectural illustrations I have done with the architectural firm of Van Meter Williams Pollack of San Francisco, California. And in particular, I am featuring the projects they have designed for San Francisco and the immediate environs. I think I started doing renderings for VMWP in 1992 or 1993, so it’s been a longstanding relationship. I work freelance as an illustrator, and this artwork shown here is all commissioned on a freelance basis, when they have need for my services. Most of the projects are multi-family residential in nature, sometimes purely market-driven, many times with an affordable housing component. When VMWP presents one of their current design projects to the public, either for disclosure, or for public input and comment, they usually include my artwork as a tool for describing their ideas. Shown alongside the plans and elevations, the perspective renderings I create tend to bring the design to life for the audience. Because the drawings show people, cars, streetlights, and landscaping, the public viewers are more engaged with these images. In a way, the renderings are easier to understand, and easier to relate to, than the more technical drawings that the architect displays. And although these perspective renderings can be produced digitally–what we now term computer-generated 3D imaging–the effectiveness of purely computer-generated images is often inferior. It depends on the project, but I think most architects would agree with that statement. I think that for presenting many architectural projects to the public, an architect can get by without hand-drawn perspectives, but if you really want to wow the viewers and get them on your side, there is no greater tool for presentation than artwork that is created by hand. It lends a human element to all the hard edges and lines that are the stock and trade of the plans and elevations. So, here are many of the watercolors, or color pencil drawings, I have done for VMWP for their projects either in San Francisco or nearby.
I am currently working on a master planning project for the city of Mountain View, California. My job will be to create an aerial perspective in color that will show the architect’s concept for a large, multi-block area for this community which is located in the Silicon Valley, about 45 miles south of San Francisco on the Peninsula. My client is Raimi + Associates, an architectural firm located in Berkeley, and they, in turn, are working with the City of Mountain View to envision the future development of this downtown area. Plans include a hotel, public square, several office buildings, a fitness center, movie theater, and a large amount of multi-story residential buildings. Over the years, Jeffrey has done many illustrations like this one, showing what future development will look like when it’s ultimately constructed. The illustrations, which are either watercolor or color pencil, are used to inform the public in a manner that is easily understood. The renderings Jeffrey does serve the purpose of engaging the public in a dialogue with the presenters regarding the project. There is often debate and lively discussion at these meetings, but nevertheless their role is a matter of disclosure and transparency regarding the planning ideas that are currently being considered for the city’s future. In the beginning of Jeffrey’s work, he is given a CAD perspective with minimal detail, but correct in scale. This serves as an underlay for a more detailed layout which Jeffrey generates, showing windows, trees, people, cars, buses, streetlights, crosswalks, etc.–all the elements that lend a sense of reality to the project (example included here). Then Jeffrey traces this layout on vellum, with freehand linework, in black and white, and sends to the architect for approval. With their approval, Jeffrey then adds color to the drawing, creating the finished artwork that will be used for presentation. Since this project is in process, I have included a color image of a similar project, since the black and white rendering has not yet been completed in watercolor.
Last month I created two illustrations for a project that addressed the needs of people experiencing homelessness. The works were commissioned by an organization called Salt & Light located in Tulare County which is a beneficent group which aims to aid those in need in the area. The project itself was envisioned for a multi-acre site in Visalia, California, not too far from Highway 99 which runs through the Central Valley of the state. With a secure entrance and access roads circulating within, the living units are manufactured houses which are not mobile–but permanently situated on lots on the property. In order to generate the perspective views of the project from various points within, I built a quick Sketchup model, and identified several viewpoints that I thought were promising candidates to show what the project had to offer. I sketched five loose drawings in black and white to share with Adrianna Hillman at Salt & Light and also with my other main contact, Jose Flores of Self-Help Enterprises. I have included those sketches here. They chose two of the five candidates to actually draw as full color renderings. One of these views featured the large open area, or central park, that sits in the middle of the project, which would be accessible to the residents and their guests. The second view chosen shows the memorial garden which would commemorate the lives of those who were no longer with us. Much of the detail shown in these renderings was left up to me. I always try to visualize or channel the client’s intentions when I have an assignment like this one. The illustrations are done with a technique using color pencil over felt pen line work and are 11 x 17 inches. Within the last two years, I have done quite a few projects in the Central Valley communities of Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sanger, and Visalia.
This residence is being proposed for the community of Woodside, California. The precise location has to be confidential, but it’s going to be a wonderful addition to the area, which is known for its love of horses, ranches, and beautiful properties. Designed by Pacific Peninsula Architecture of Menlo Park, California, the residence has a classic farmhouse vibe–almost historic or preservation-oriented in its attitude. It is of course new construction but the design reaches out to traditional structures built years ago in the area, bridging the gap between the existing and the newly-constructed. Mainly composed of siding and trim, all is painted white, with window trim and doors of a rich dark blue-gray as minimal accent to the white. The detached garage is a departure from that scheme–but again reaching out to traditional building in the area with its weathered, natural wood–as if it is a barn which has been there for years. Landscaping plans are being developed by Thomas Klope, with layered planting, interlocking pavers, and maintaining many large existing trees on the site. The redwoods in front of the house in this view are all existing and will remain. As an architectural illustrator, I have been working with Pacific Peninsula for about 25 years. Their designs are always thoughtful and responsive to the clients wishes, when required, as not all of PPA’s projects involve a specific client. A certain amount of their residential work is speculative, meaning that it is built to be sold in the open market, without a specific client in mind. To an architect, those are two very different mindsets-but PPA is adept at both approaches and that’s one of many reasons they have been so successful over the years. As for me, I am hoping we continue this good relationship, and I look forward to many more projects together in the years to come !
These two architectural renderings are the last two of a series of eight illustrations for this project. It’s a large mixed use project envisioned for the City of San Jose (Cambrian area). Cambrian Park Village designed by Ken Rodrigues + Partners of Mountain View, California and KTGY Architects of California, is located at a major intersection of Camden Avenue and Union Avenue, which is currently the site of an older shopping center. The overall project includes a six-story apartment building, a five-story Hotel, a five-story Assisted Living Facility, two-story condominiums, and some single-family houses. Although I have done many renderings for all of these elements, today I am featuring the single family homes. Mostly two-story with some three-story residences, these homes comprise a residential neighborhood of tree-lined streets. There’s a neighborhood park and a tot lot, walkable sidewalks, and some traffic-calming features within the design. The idea is that you could walk to work within this overall development since there are so many varied types of buildings and functions within the same neighborhood–each located next to one another. For example in one of these views we see the edge of the park as it gives way to the houses. But that same park, if you take a different path or direction would lead to the apartment building, hotel, or assisted living facility. So, possibly there is no need for a commute to work. Or maybe the park is a lunchtime retreat for parents bringing up children and health care workers alike. This is the kind of social interactivity that urban designers have strived to achieve for years with their designs. And these designers rely on renderings such as these to express their ideas and communicate the concepts to the public. An architect can show plans and elevations while presenting in a public forum, but the audience lights up when they see hand-drawn renderings that capture the spirit of the design.
Here is my finished watercolor painting, along with the progress shots along the way, of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water” residence….Since my architectural illustration practice usually involves deadlines and time crunches, it’s nice to paint something that doesn’t need to be done at any particular time….and I enjoy the subject matter immensely….Actually this painting is the second in a series of watercolor paintings I have planned that feature the great works of architecture of the 20th Century….I enjoy exploring a new medium, and playing around with the possibilities….as with anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable it is, and the more comfortable you get with trying new methods–basically having more fun with it….There’s a greater sense of freedom because this is not a commissioned work–I’m just doing it for my own amusement….As an artist, the goals are to use a full range of values, to use complementary colors, and when the work is finished, it should have a focus–a place for the eye to go comfortably and effortlessly. Since this painting features a Frank Lloyd Wright design, I wanted to tie the architecture to the natural setting quite closely, by using the same color palette as much as possible in both architecture and landscape. Wright was a proponent of “organic architecture” as he called it–the idea being that buildings spring into the imagination by the greatest teacher–Nature itself….and you are honoring Nature by paying great attention to it and not copying it, but instead learning its principles, appreciating it, and then expressing your own unique designs which are inspired by it….One way I tried to convey that in this painting was to treat the horizontal elements of the building similarly to the horizontal ledges of the waterfall below the house, as if the house has been formed into the same shape as the stone of the waterfall–by nature….