An Architectural Perspectivist Goes Digital
by Darlene Brady, R.A.
Using digital media to simulate traditional watercolor and charcoal rendering techniques puts new creative flexibility in the hands of master illustrator Robert Frank.
Located in San Francisco, Robert Frank has been an architectural illustrator since 1986. He is president emeritus of the American Society of Architectural Perspectivists and teaches digital imaging at the San Francisco Academy of Art College.
Frank's specialty is value (shaded) drawings. Working in traditional manual media, it is difficult to "add" color to a value drawing and get saturated or pure color. The shading of the base drawing limits the potential saturation of the applied color.
Now, working with a combination of manual and digital methods, Frank still creates the time-honored look of traditional watercolor or charcoal. But he also gets an enhanced capability for manipulating the lightness and darkness of color.
In turn, the additional flexibility in the rendering process means that his renderings can now more readily address additional phases of the design process.
While pursuing a degree in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), he worked for Richard Lovelace, an architectural illustrator in Boston. Lovelace's passion for drawing greatly influenced Frank's thinking about the profession of architectural illustration.
Understanding Traditional Processes
After graduation, he worked for several years as a designer for the architectural firm Carrasco & Associates in Palo Alto. This background in practice informs his current work.
Frank notes that "building design evolves from the start of the first concept sketch on a napkin and is not done until the last light bulb is screwed in." Traditional hand-rendered illustrations are generally done either at the conceptual stage or as a final marketing image.