Dan Hogman (DH) believes that a good eye and good hand are essential skills of a good architectural designer; but as an avid architectural and urban sketcher, a sharp eye for material and form and a passion for documentary and space, is what makes his work exceptional. With a focus on ‘capturing the essence’ of the subject, Hogman draws perspectives as Mrinalini Ghadiok (MG) observes his perspective of drawing.
DH: I think that creating architecture is a goal in itself. Art and photography are just ways to dissect, represent, illustrate architecture. They are representational of the greater goal that is architecture.
DH: Ideally, they would. Architecture is a form of art, or at least this is how it looks from the outside; but from the inside, we know that architects are becoming more and more building technicians, really… Art is in a way meant to compensate for the lack of art in the architecture that we do. The ultimate goal remains to combine the two. This might be a lifelong search though…
DH: I remember what Le Corbusier said - “I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster and leaves less room for lies.” This is partially true. Drawing offers a way to selectively illustrate what fits and the way it fits what we want to show. In other words, sketching is an interpretation. Photography, on the other hand, is not. It’s really a true representation of the reality, except some relatively minor input from the photographer.
While a photo is a direct representation of a subject, a sketch looks deeper into the author’s feeling and state of mind, at that time and place. The process of freehand sketching today is more relevant than ever. It’s not just a way to ‘interpret’ a subject. It’s a way of seeing, observing, understanding the space. - Dan Hogman
DH: Good drawing comes with training. It’s 90 per cent effort, 10 per cent skill (maybe…). I train myself on a daily basis. I look at the drawings that I did a few years ago and I see the progress I’ve made. I am still only a fraction of my way in…
DH: My subjects have to be visually interesting to me. This is one thing that my photography and illustration have in common – they start from a common, dynamic subject, that I might find inspiring. Sometimes I both photograph and sketch the subject, as a way to better understand what I am looking at. I really don’t have a theory on how to frame the subject – I just need to see some inspiring vanishing lines as a starting point. The rest just follows…
DH: One thing that every single good sketch has in common – it has to ‘sit’ correctly. Basically, the correct vanishing lines are key as a start. This is why I pencil out the main lines before inking them. Pencilling the main lines is under 5 per cent of the effort, but a critical step that I never skip. Once this is done correctly, everything falls into place. The rest is just personal style.
DH: We all develop a personal style, routine, process when developing these sketches. The important thing is keeping the process flexible and adjustable to what the subject dictates. That is the only way to learn and evolve.
DH: I think sketchbooks are confining. You are forced to keep sketches in one bind, simply because you did them within the same period. Sometimes you fail, but it’s part of a sketchbook, so you keep it, unless you rip it apart. Loose sheets offer the freedom I need, whether in the studio or in the field.
DH: I never erase ink. I never try to do the perfect sketch. I make the mistake look as part of the sketch. My sketches are loose, so every line looks like a mistake. It’s part of the process..
DH: I believe there is a level of purity that I can only achieve in black ink. I feel very strongly about this. And when I say ‘ink’ I really mean liquid ink, applied with a steel or gold nib. Fluid ink is inspiring. Cartridge(d) ink is weak, confined. Much like bottled water versus free-flowing water in a stream.
DH: I would not say that the sketch is more appealing than the subject. It’s just a personal interpretation of the subject in front of me. This is like saying that a sketch is more appealing than a photo. It might be, to some. To others, it’s just another way of looking at the same subject. I do think that the sketch brings a personal flavour to the representation that a photo or the real subject is sometimes lacking.
DH:It does offer a better interaction on social media. My followers might recognise the subject and might be intrigued in commenting on it; but from what I do, it’s just another subject that made the cut in my selection.
DH: Yes, definitely. I believe that my style is changing for the better. Better in being more and more particular, less and less accurate. To me, this is gain. The style is evolving; tools are changing. I still need to have a larger body of work to really observe this, but I learn as I go…
DH: I keep most of my drawings to under one hour. Yes, the light does change, even within one hour. It might not be noticeable unless you are particularly following the light/sun angle. This is why I keep the light as the last thing I want to represent, for consistent angles.
DH: Absolutely. I prefer deep shadows and strong bright surfaces. This adds depth to any subject. I do add strong darks in areas that fit me, mostly for the purpose of stronger contrast or deeper depth. It’s a personal choice that might/might not always reflect the true shadow values in the field. As always, what I look at is a mere ‘interpretation’ of the subject.
DH: Darkness has many feelings. I use it as the basic shadow. Many times, if reflects depth. Some other times, it represents cold, distant, foreign. I believe that my work is improved by limitations. Using black, exclusively, forces me to re-use the darkness of ink for various purposes.
DH: I used to. That was before the social media took off. Nothing of that is public. I still need to re-perfect that field before talking about it….
DH: It does and it does not… The daily architectural work has little connection with my architectural sketching. I work on large-scale projects, in teams of dozens of professionals. It tends to be quite technical. Besides sketching a quick detail on occasions, I have little use for it. However, my conceptual work and architectural sketch go together perfectly. This is a long-term project. I will go public with it once I am more comfortable with it.
DH: If we are talking about the physical size of the drawing and the scale that goes with it, I rely on many items – the scale of the subject and amount of detail I want to represent, tools I want to use and the amount of time I have. Fat ink-nibs fill the page quickly but would not work on a small-scale paper. This is a decision I make on a case by case.
DH: I rely very little on digital media. I think that the more we get into digital media, the more we appreciate hand-made pieces. I don’t think I spend more than five minutes per sketch, for a quick touch-up, before publishing it.
DH: I think computer-produced visualisations are cold and more and more distant from human touch. We do accept them and take them for granted, as the way to illustrate our designs. It offers a level of accuracy that we can’t deal without.
DH: Yes, I do. I think drawing and sketching have a double purpose. It’s not just about being able to represent a subject. It’s really about ‘seeing’… You don’t just develop the hand, but really, the eye, through the act of sketching. So yes, this is just as relevant as ever.
DH: I think the bottom line is, you need to enjoy what you do. Once you reach that stage, nothing is a challenge, really… Not to say sketching is easy, but you start seeing challenges as a provocation, as an incentive to try harder and do more. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you do well; it’s a part of the process.
DH: I occasionally receive commissions to decorate larger space and use the wall as the medium. The only downside – you can’t fail. Everything is immediately public. There is a certain amount of pressure that comes with it, but I see it as an incentive to do well.
DH: I think that electronic format is only suitable when paper is not accessible, such as social media. When there is a choice, paper always wins. This is true for my portfolio, job interviews or any presentation I need to make. I think print offers a more personal dialogue with the audience. It is true to the original medium of the work as well.
It’s a mattter of preference
DH: Architect always comes first. But not in the way defined by the California Architects Board, for instance. The way I see it, art and architecture are one and the same.
DH: Historic - probably because they were drawn and designed with the same medium that I use.
DH: Fountain pens with free-flowing ink (not cartridges).
DH: Midday when indoors – light temperature is more consistent with video capture. When outside, then later in the day, ideally one hour before sunset for lower light angles.