Chuan Ding is a landscape designer at AHBE Landscape Architects and has a playful way of sketching what she sees.
When did you start sketching?
I began sketching when I was really young. One of my earliest memories is of my dad; he was an oil painter and would leave his unfinished canvases on easels around the house. One time I took his brushes and painted on top of one of his paintings. He still has it.
Were you always drawing on your notebooks in school?
I drew a lot in kindergarten and elementary school, but quit drawing in high school because I spent so much time studying that I did not have time to draw. When I went to college in China, I started drawing again because we were required to for school. I went to Nanjing Forestry University and we were trained to draw classic Chinese landscape scenes with lots of decorative patterns. The sketches were very formal and took many hours to make. We did not use computer programs for technical drafting or drawing through our third year. Our end of studio exams were about 4-6 hours long and all our plans, details, bird’s-eye-views, and perspectives were hand drawn.
I am sure the process was quite different when you went to USC for graduate school?
At USC I only sketched when I was thinking through an initial concept. Most of the time I used the computer for drawing.
Do you sketch now during the design process?
I always like to start with a sketch and then put it into CAD. I have my own style – loose and fast – and it helps me to think through ideas and organize my thoughts. Sometimes I don’t have an idea and I start drawing. At the beginning, it may not have any meaning, but eventually a shape will emerge and I can develop that idea.
How do you find time to draw?
Drawing is a stress release for me and I began sketching in meetings. I started sketching more when I burned out my hard drive at work and the spinning wheel would come up on my computer after opening Illustrator or other drawing programs. I made use of the time by sketching. I also sketch at home. If I am watching a movie and I see a nice composition, I will take a screen shot and then copy it by drawing the scene.
I knew you were talented at computer drawing because we work on projects together, but I didn’t know you were also talented at hand drawing until I noticed your Post-it note calendar in your work space. Tell me about your calendar?
I try to find something special, or fun about every day and I spend 10 minutes making a sketch about what I discover. Drawing is a way to express myself and if I find something inspiring, or fun, I sketch it and put in my calendar.
Do you think you will keep producing your calendar every month?
That is the plan for now.
Interview conducted and condensed by Jenni Zell.