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For some time I’ve toyed
with the idea of putting together something I call the “Apprentice
Sketchbook,” a series of drawing exercises to train the eye and
illuminate important design principles. This is nothing new. Scores of
period design books begin with a charge to study architecture and the
classic orders. Most follow with wonderfully engraved plates giving the
budding artisan a library of models to sketch and explore.

Speaking from experience, my design journey underwent a sea change when I
picked up a pencil and began exploring the classic orders at my kitchen
table. Suddenly all those principles of design I’d been reading about
started to click. Lessons about proportions, hierarchy, structure and
composition ceased being words and became images alive in my thoughts.
I’d find myself at a traffic light and realize the stonework in the old
library across the street was a book in itself.

Here’s the deal. With each new 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine I’ll post a few drawings for you to print out to use as a reference on my blog, which is named Design Matters.
All are based on classical models gleaned from a period design book. If
you take this up you’ll learn how to draw mouldings, volutes, scrolled
brackets (a form that over time morphed into the cabriole leg) and the
classic orders themselves. As you work through these exercises with
pencil and dividers you’ll find your eye for design changing, your
freehand drawing skills improving, and your ability to visualize your
design ideas with more clarity.

One small disclaimer. I take no
responsibility for you becoming a design geek. If this results in
traffic citations because you had your head out the car window ogling a
building, or ruffle the security at an art museum because you wanted to
sketch the carving detail on a picture frame. Well, that’s your problem.

Begin your journey with this exercise here.

— George R. Walker, author of the Design Matters column

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