10 things I learnt from Ching

[Drawing] is the silence of thought and and the music of sight.

Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red

Prof. Ching starts one of his online lectures with this quote. He replaces the word ‘writing’ from Pamuk’s writing with ‘drawing’ here. A delightful transfer of meanings. I had the privilege to accompany him on few occasions on his visit to Wadiyar Centre for Architecture, Mysuru (where I teach). So I tried to jot down few things to retain the experience.
  1. Seeing. Thinking. Drawing. Cyclic nature of these words and their meanings seemed to be framework for his thinking. It is also name of his wonderful blog (https://www.frankching.com/wordpress). A great source to access his ideas and great clips of his process videos of sketching.


  2. Draw small. Concentrate on essentials. He said five small drawings are better than one large drawing. By drawing small one has to pick what to focus and what to leave out. Both acts equally important in the drawing. The sketch below is of the Jayalakshmi Vilas at Mysore. The actual size is not more than 2″ tall.EPSON MFP image
  3. Draw slow. Allows one to observe things better.
  4. Fundamentals. Gauge the composition by hand measurement. Make sure to get the horizon line right.  Transfer the proportion to paper. Discern the foreground, middle ground and background. Start filling the details in the same order. Never forget the fundamentals of drawing.ToNotice4
  5. Principle of Contrast. In his own words “I want to expand on the idea of contrast—the discernible distinctions in line weight, tonal values, textures, details, and even relative position on a page—that is essential to avoiding blandness and giving life to a drawing. …how the visual tension between the two contrasting elements or areas contribute to the composition of a drawing.” (To read more from his post: link)
  6. Frugality. He spoke less and drew more. His shoulder bag can act as an analogy here. It had an umbrella (when it rained unexpectedly on that day, only he had an umbrella), half litre water bottle, 2 sketchbooks, an I-pad, a golf cap. a tissue paper ( to wipe off the falling rain drops of the sketchbooks). The size of the bag was just enough not to disturb him sketching, even if the bag is hanging on shoulder.
  7. Restraint. He was consciously aware when to stop drawing and how much to draw (like how much details on the tree). I was surprised to see, for expert in drawing like him, to be uncertain in the drawing process.
  8. Abstraction. All drawings are abstraction, as they are all illusions of converting a three-dimensional view to 2D. And diagrams are scaffolding to hang ideas.
  9. Do it. He quoted the Nike ad ‘Just do it’.  He talked about how the ‘Architecture Graphics’ book happened. The collection of handouts which he gave the students of his class had an opportunity to get published. In 2 weeks, with the aid of .7 mm mechanical pencil and eraser shield, he flushed out a full book. The beginning of his publishing career began on by just ‘doing’.
  10. Act without striving. When asked, was he aware how many copies of ‘Form Space and Order’ was sold. He recalled a Chinese quote, which talked about acting without striving. This phrase as well could summarise his personality.
With Prof. Ching and students of WCFA at a sketching trip.  Photo Credits : Toshi Singh


All the sketches are extracted from his blog. All the credits belong to him

The link to the online lecture he gave at University of Washington from which the first image is clipped  (https://vimeo.com/33296611)