Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rochester Skyline

The city of Rochester has a beautiful skyline, and as many Rochesterians know, the Ford Street Bridge is one of the best locations from which to enjoy it. Set against the Genesee River in the foreground, the Chase Tower, Bausch & Lomb Building, and Xerox Tower form a distinctive silhouette when joined with smaller buildings such as the HSBC Building, Hyatt Hotel and others.  

Last week, looking for inspiration for forthcoming drawings, I stopped on the way home from work at the Ford St. bridge to take some pictures of the Rochester skyline. I was pleased with the results and knew that the photo would prove a worthy challenge to draw.

Rochester skyline from Ford Street Bridge (image copyright 2012 Paul Bielewicz)

To begin the drawing, I set up a virtual grid on the photo using Photoshop. I translated this grid onto the sketchbook and created key reference points for each building and other features in the photo in order to ensure that the drawing would be to scale. This proved time consuming, but it was worth the effort. As I began "connecting the dots" with pencil, the buildings and river area started to take shape.

Pencil sketch - note visible grid along edges of sketchbook

Due to the precision involved, the grid method somewhat takes away some of the "organic" nature of a drawing... but that was less important to me for this subject matter composition than it might be for others in the future.

When I was satisfied with the pencil sketch it was time to begin inking. The first step was to create a line drawing to capture the fundamental elements of the drawing. I began with the bridge, continued with the buildings, and continued with the trees and foliage along the west (left) bank of the river.

Early inking - bridge, towers and trees along west bank of river

I continued with the buildings on the East (right) bank of the river.

Line drawing with buildings outlined

Once the line drawing was finished, the next step was to add detail to the buildings. The Bausch & Lomb building (the peaked building in the middle) was the most challenging due to the architectural details of the building. The bridge also proved challenging because I couldn't "cheat" with a ruler! 

Detail completed on central buildings

The apartment building on the East river bank (right side of drawing) proved challenging as well due to the colorful and scattered exterior paint scheme. Once the buildings were complete to my satisfaction, I added trees, foliage and detail to the riverbanks.

Buildings, trees and riverbanks complete

The next challenge of the drawing was to translate the intricate cloud pattern into ink and finally, to add detail to the water in the foreground.

Finished drawing

All in all I was very pleased with the finished drawing. This drawing was really fun, and I learned a lot which is the important part after all. Although pen is pretty unforgiving, I don't think there were too many mistakes - whatever I wasn't 100% happy with, it was easy enough to cover it up. I did take some artistic license too - for example, I chose to leave out the cell tower that's in the original photo (on the right side), and I simplified some of the trees, smaller buildings, etc.

I thought the water and the clouds were going to be the hardest parts, but they really weren't. I just had to pick a pattern I liked and stick with it.

I am definitely looking forward to the next challenge! 

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