Friday, 31 July 2015

Workshop with Frank Ching

23rd July my first workshop of the symposium was with Frank Ching. Known to me for many years as Francis D.K. Ching he is the author of several books on architecture, all hand illustrated. My formative years as a student were largely spent gazing at his exquisite drawings and when I recently found out that he too is an urban sketcher it pretty much became my life's ambition to meet and sketch with him.

This was the workshop he offered and 9.30 am, we walked to the Singapore Art museum. The building is a composite of different geometric forms - cuboids, pyramids, cylinders, hemispheres and was a perfect example for Ching to explain to all of us the finer points of capturing scale proportion and perspective on location.

He started off by asking everyone to pick a spot and do a ten minute sketch. A single pen or pencil was encouraged, the thrust of the workshop being on linework and building details in layers. Here is mine from within the arcade of the cylindrical portion of the museum. On the right above my own signature is Ching's autograph!!

Gathering back, we laid our sketches down on the ground and each sketch was picked up and commented on by Ching. An excellent method for all to learn from each others work. The first exercise was also a way for him to gauge individual levels and styles so that in the second exercise he could come around and help each one of us with our weak points while we sketched. We were sent off again to commence on a half hour sketch. The second sketch is what you see at the top of this post.

Unwittingly I seemed to have made the same mistake twice. My eye level had floated up higher than where I really was. And my humans (always my problem!) were larger than life. After a second gathering and discussion we had time for one last sketch.

As architects we think we know many of these basics of sketching, but as urban sketchers, over the years, when we sit down to draw on location we prioritise differently. Ching's workshop was a great refresher course for me in the basics - putting down the structure of the sketch while concentrating on the first vertical edge, the eye level and proportions. Then working in an area of focus and where possible, shifting the focus off-centre. In the course of my conversations with him while sketching many finer points also emerged - tips to hatch more effectively, using fountain pen nibs in different ways for line weights, using the line quality to suggest material and using the contrasts of light and dark to capture space.

This blog post is as much for me to look back on as it is to share with all of you.
He's a great teacher and it was a fabulous experience.


  1. Cannot agree more with our experience. Sketching in front of Prof. Ching gave me a lot of pressure and suddently don't know how to sketch anymore. It's sure one of the life time must take workshop and see you in Manchester next year!

    1. Yes! Alvin what an experience it was! Unforgettable. Really hope I can make it next year

  2. Wonderful sketches - so much depth and perspective!

  3. Wonderful post, excellent subjects to sketch and congratulations on the quality of the sketching. I think you have done a very good job of it considering the variety of forms and curves involved and the limited time in which you were required to complete them.
    I too had the pleasure of attending an urban sketching workshop ( a two day workshop) by Prof. Ching. It was brilliant, but due to factors beyond my control I could not get the most out of it.