Q&A with MA-ID Instructor Michael Abrams


Michael C. Abrams, NCARB Architect

CCAD’s MAID Construction and Detailing instructor Michael C. Abrams, NCARB Architect; has just published an exciting book: The Art of City Sketching: A Field Manual. Students and professionals interested in the art and science of seeing, viewing and visual documentation will find this informative book helpful. Using the concepts of proportion, perspective on the one hand and materials (pen, pencil, paper) on the other, Michael teaches in the indomitable style his students have become accustomed to.

A licensed Architect, Michael’s areas of expertise are in Design, Drawing, Field Sketching and Graphics. He has spent several years working here in the USA as well as in Italy and Spain. Recently, we caught up with Michael for his insights and thoughts.

Michael’s Story: In his own words…..


CCAD – Who is the intended audience of the book?  

M. Abrams – The Art of City Sketching: A Field Manual would be of interest to college professors and students in the field of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering, graphic design, urban planning and art given that it focuses on pictorial, diagrammatic, and perceptual drawings. In addition, professors teaching architecture and drawing courses would benefit from the book because each chapter incorporates examples, short exercises with drawing tips, step-by-step demonstrations, and composition sketching techniques (do’s and don’ts).


CCAD – What led you to write the book?

M. Abrams – The inspiration for this book originated from my teaching experience as a field sketching instructor, there I realized that through the act of drawing, students can discover, analyze, and comprehend the built environment.

The Art of City Sketching aims to provide readers with an opportunity to explore their creative potential and to practice their design skills through structured drawing exercises. What exactly constitutes a sketch? How can we organize and compose thoughts, ideas, and observations in a sketch? What can we learn about the built environment through sketching? These questions generate the overall framework of the book.   CCAD – What can students of Interior Design expect to learn after reading the book? M. Abrams – The book’s main learning objectives are:

  1. To envision sketches as a tool for storytelling.
  2. To teach readers how to think through drawing.
  3. To develop visual acuity and graphic interpretation of the built environment.
  4. To compose well-designed layouts.
  5. To capture through drawings the essence, proportions, dimensions of the object and its surroundings.
  6. To teach non-traditional types of drawings.

Moreover, The Art of City Sketching contributes to the field of architecture and interior design by:

  1. Providing time-tested techniques and methods to guide readers through the laborious and often complex process of sketching.
  2. Examining and dissecting buildings and public spaces through architectural sketches, diagrams, and perceptual drawings.
  3. Underlining the incredible potential in using a limited set of tools to evoke creativity, develop hand-eye coordination, and accurately depict the built environment.
  4. Providing a self-guided architectural manual for storytelling through sketching.


CCAD – How can/should students use the book?

M. Abrams – Each person views the world differently. Drawing helps document and share a point of view with others. Learning to sketch takes time, effort, practice, and solitude. The Art of City Sketching is a field manual for freehand sketching that will accompany the student throughout their design education and assist him or her to illustrate their viewpoint.

This field manual will not transform anyone into an instant architect or sketch artist. It will not guarantee the reader will draw like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo any more than a guitar manual would turn a novice guitarist into Eric Clapton. Instead, the book presents several creative methods, demonstrations, tips, and samples to support readers as they engage in the act of drawing and visually decipher a city one sketch at a time. Ultimately, The Art of City Sketching aims to build confidence in readers and their graphic work.

To challenge the reader, each chapter increases the level of drawing difficulty. Therefore, readers at different skill levels will benefit from the exercises and techniques presented in the book. Throughout each chapter, exercises present a particular set of goals with varying levels of difficulty, drawing parameters, and time limits. 


CCAD – Why should students of Interior Design focus on field sketching?

M.  Abrams – Great question! The term “field sketching” is not about drawing urban spaces or cool buildings. The term refers to the study and investigation of systems that create our built environment. Thus, field sketching allows the student to answer the “why” and “how” spaces are shaped, perceived, and placed. The design of buildings involves a complex and vast number of systems that include interiors, details, structures, circulation elements, hierarchy of spaces, among others. Understanding the aforementioned building systems is an integral part in the formation of interior designers and architects alike.

Finally, The Art of City Sketching aims to help students in interior design, and related design fields, to thoroughly think through drawing, and to envision sketching as a tool for storytelling.

Corcoran Gallery Analytiche Sketch - Michael Abrams“This sketch mixes a perspective view with a sectional drawing.  This type of sketch, known as an analytiche, is explained in chapter 7 of my book”.

In addition to teaching MA Interior Design students at the Corcoran, Michael is also an Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Interior Design at George Washington University where he teaches and coordinates architectural sketching programs. In addition to the distinction of this recently published book, he is also the winner of the Infinity Competition hosted by AIA Indiana Chapter; and received an honorable mention for the architecture competition “Soundroom” in Madrid, Spain which was sponsored by opengap.net

The Art of City Sketching: A Field Manual is available at Amazon in digital and print versions. http://www.amazon.com


Read some of the book reviews: “Michael Abram’s encourages us to slow down, use our eyes, hands, as well as our minds to step outside of ourselves so we can better understand the many diverse strategies that have historically defined and constructed our surroundings”

Stanley Ira Hallet,  Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the School of Architecture at Catholic University of America.

Source: The Art of City Sketching: A Field Manual

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s