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Drawing the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) in Munich, Bavaria

Majestic, intricate, dominating, mysterious, complicated. . . These are the words that I look for when I’m at the foot of a building. Each one is a feast of hidden proportions that I need to solve, like a code passed from architect to architect.

To add to that, I want to view my subjects as if there is no other building around them; as if I’m am viewing their full splendor from afar when perspective takes no hold.

The building in today’s drawing? Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) in Munich.

Neues rathaus photo

Designed in Gothic revival, Georg von Hauberrisser created its facade to be a feast for the eyes. Endless coves, arches, cornices, statues and stone details all sit in their own place. Get one of these the wrong and I know it will throw the whole picture out.

Now for the tools: I have tea, cigarettes and a pen. That’s all. But they are three vital ingredients to a successful drawing.

I’m armed with a Rotring 0.2mm Isograph and mild stimulant. I’ll head to the city centre each day to sketch and take photos from every angle. The Neues Rathaus is so wide, high and complicated that I have become absolutely determined to draw it correctly. I take the time to view my buildings from inside various shops, at every possible level.

The challenge is to figure out its proportions so I turn to Gothic architecture’s tool of the "golden mean" to discover its height and breadth.

Studies of Neues Rathus München Bayern copy

My drawing is on A3 sized paper and over time, piece by piece, the drawing comes together. The spires, glockenspiel and ever-ascending tower (85 m of it) stamp their mark in this building, giving Neues Rathaus its prominence in Marienplatz.

When every outline is drawn, I add monochrome shading to give the stone work its tone and the structure its depth. At last I can now view its true shape—the code has been cracked.

Neues Rathaus München Bayern

After every drawing, I have a sense of accomplishment. But more than that, I feel like I have unlocked a mystery that a passer-by might only glance at.

For more from Paul Wallis, please visit his website.

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I’ve been using colored pencils for fine art for many years, and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever tried to draw/paint with colored pencils are natural looking landscapes.

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of things to make painting a landscape easier, and have narrowed my favorite techniques down to three: direct painting, a classical layering technique with an umber. . . read more

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