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Hello! My name is Candace, and I'm a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I'm glad you're here!

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

― Confucius

Happy Monday, friends! Last week, not only did I return to the U.S. from Uruguay — where I’ll be spending the next two months, happily soaking up the Northern Hemisphere summer — but I also had the honor of teaching a sketching workshop at the AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference, organized by the American Institute of Architecture Students in Washington D.C.

My dear mother Janell drove up from Virginia and met me in D.C. on Friday afternoon. After a delicious al fresco dinner that evening, we spent the rest of the night going over my plans for the workshop the following day. The two-hour workshop would be broken up into two parts — one hour before lunch, spent in a classroom-style meeting room, and then another hour after lunch, when the students and I would actually get outside the conference center and do some sketching together.

The workshop was called, “Connecting with the World through Art,” which you might even recognize as this blog’s tagline and the subtitle for my free eBook, Travel Sketching 101.

It’s a theme very close to my heart, and I couldn’t wait to share it with the students at the conference.

sketching workshop

As my mom and I went through my slides for the first hour, we came upon a photo I’d included of myself and a French sketch artist named Pierro, whom I met in Paris in 2015. I’d been sketching in front of the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop when Pierro walked up to me, pointed to my sketchbook, and said, “I do the same.” It was one of my first serendipitous sketching encounters in France, and I’ve remembered our conversation ever since.

In my talk for the conference, I was planning to share about my encounter with Pierro to illustrate how sketching on-location in a new place can also help us create connections with the other people around us. But as my mom and I came to that slide in the presentation, she noticed something I’d never seen in the photo before: That behind Pierro and me holding up our sketchbooks, the photo also shows a man sitting on a bench outside the bookstore, a camera around his neck and a smartphone in each of his hands.

Most striking of all, his head is lowered and his gaze is completely directed down towards his pair of phones.

“I feel like that’s the main point of what you need to share tomorrow,” my mom said. “Sketching just helps you pay more attention — it helps you look up.”

*   *   *

The next morning, the first classroom-based half of the workshop kicked off, and the hour truly flew by — I loved sharing my passion for connection and sketching process with the students, and then hearing their questions and being able to connect my journey as a sketch artist to their own journeys as architects and designers.

But what was even more exciting was finally leaving the conference center together after lunch to do some sketching. As it just so happened, the historic Carnegie Library was just across the street from our hotel, so all 30 students in the workshop and I had the perfect subject awaiting us outside for our sketching session.

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

While the students sketched, I walked around and made myself available for any questions they might have during the process. It was also a great chance to get to know the students more individually  I loved learning their names, finding out what schools and universities they’re from, and especially hearing more about their plans and ambitions for once they’ve graduated.

sketching workshop

Many of the students shared with me that while they took sketching and drawing courses in the first year of their architecture programs, they’d since switched to using digital drawing software and haven’t drawn by hand since — a few students even said they’d never sketched by hand at all.

This was something I’d already read about while preparing for the conference, in a 2012 article for the New York Times titled “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing.” In the piece, late postmodern architect Michael Graves writes:

“The referential sketch serves as a visual diary, a record of an architect’s discovery…These sketches are thus inherently fragmentary and selective. When I draw something, I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that caused me to record it in the first place. That visceral connection, that thought process, cannot be replicated by a computer.”

All year, I’ve been fascinated by drawing’s ability to help us create stronger memories — so I loved stumbling across Graves’ article, learning about how drawing and memory relate to the field of architecture, and then seeing the students in my workshop reconnect with drawing by hand this weekend.

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

But what struck me most of all during the hour we sketched on Saturday, was simply seeing how the students kept looking up at the library as they captured it in their sketchbooks.

It felt like such a powerful testament to what my mom and I had observed in the photo of Pierro and me in Paris:

That instead of looking down at our devices and missing the world around us, sketching draws our gaze upwards and out into the world, where beauty and discovery await us.

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

sketching workshop

*   *   *

I couldn’t be more grateful for getting to connect with such an inspiring group of students in this weekend’s sketching workshop in D.C. 🙂 Thank you, AIAS, for the chance to join you all!

sketching workshop

*   *   *

  • Thanks for sharing this experience and your reflections, Candace! How wonderful that you were able to remind this young group (and through this post, us) the importance of looking up. Brilliant observation by your mother, too; the picture with Pierro is indeed telling.

    My dad is a steel detailer, and he’s been very frustrated with computers since he had to make the switch at work 5-7 years ago. He can draw out any beams/structures by hand and understands the engineering behind it, but the computer program trips him up. This is more an example of the relationship between his generation and technology, but I fully agree there’s a connection when you draw/write by hand that just isn’t the same as typed/drawn on a screen—even without research, I know it to be true through experience.

    Wishing you a very upwards gaze-filled North American summer! 😉

    • I’m so glad this post resonated with you, Rebecca! And thank you as well for sharing about your dad’s experience having to make the transition from drawing by hand to drawing in a computer program…I totally agree that it isn’t just a generational issue–I do think there’s a very powerful connection that happens when you physically draw out an idea (or place, or in your dad’s experience, even the layout of a structure), so this is all really interesting food for thought, as we continue to rely more and more on technology to make those connections for us. Thank you as always for sparking ideas and helping me to think more deeply about things 🙂 <3

  • Amanda Thompson

    Such true words and stunning images. Thanks as always for being an inspiration Candace. Enjoy your family time and the warm weather!

    • Thank you, Amanda! I’m very glad to hear this post and the photos resonated with you–I was excited to share them here with you all 🙂

  • Treava

    Another great post Candace. The students certainly had a great instructor! That was an excellent photo of you and Pierre to share for this and a great observation by your mom. It is so true about looking up to sketch and seeing the world or looking down to our devices (remember that crazy Pokemon game last year – people were running into things, etc as they were only looking at their device!). When I observe the beautiful architecture of ages past it is beautiful, elegant. Now much of the architecture has a coldness about it, not all of it of course. I hope that architecture has a rebirth with a sketching element.
    Thank you Candace!

    • Thank you so much, Treava, for your kind words and timely insights! I do indeed remember that Pokemon craze that took over so many people last year, and feel like it is the ultimate example of letting our technology get the best of us and rob us from being fully alive and present in the world around us. My time with the students last weekend in Washington D.C. was a much-needed refresher course in remembering to look up, pay attention, and then enjoy the stronger connections we feel with a place (and even with ourselves!) because of that heightened attention. Thank you again! <3

  • I own a beautiful Canon 5D3 and must say that apart from shooting my art work, I have not picked it up for months due to this new found love of sketching! It is true what you say about remembering what you have sketched Candace. I look at Cremorne Point Wharf, February’s sketch, so much differently now if I get the ferry home from the city. I observe the structure and think about how it was designed and made- what was in the designer’s head. I have started thinking a lot of the inception while looking at the city architecture.
    Have a fabulous time with friends and family back in the USA Candace.

    • Thank you so much for reading, Victoria, and for sharing about your own experience–it was so fascinating to hear that since you’ve started sketching regularly, you’ve been taking less photos! Wouldn’t it be interesting to try and document that transition among a larger group of artists and see if it holds true for everyone? I have a big feeling it would 🙂 I also loved hearing that you now have such a real and personal connection with the wharf that you sketched in February…I couldn’t be happier to hear that our Moment Catchers challenges are helping you feel more connected to the world around you–as they are helping me in my own daily life in Montevideo. Thank you again for sharing that, and as always, I wish you continued inspiration and enjoyment in your creative projects and journey! <3