Shadyside Ink



You wouldn't know it by the drawing above of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, but when the church was built in 1890, pen & ink drawings were at their peak as a medium to publicize the works of architects.  This sketch was likely made by a newspaper artist, very hastily from the architect's presentation drawing that accompanied the proposal to the church's building committee.  It accompanies an article in the Penny Press of Pittsburgh reporting on the award of the project to Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge.  It is remarkable in its accurate representation of the building as it looked at completion, some two years later.  It looks like the artist signed his work in the lower right, but the identity is indecipherable.

The wonderfully refined rendering above is a superior example the pen & ink work done in the period.  The development in the preceding decades of photolithography made possible the faithful reproduction of such detailed and nuanced workmanship.  It carries the name of the architectural firm, but it was most likely done for them by one of the masters of such rendering (known as delineators), David A. Gregg.  Although there is no signature apparent, the technique and sure hand of Gregg is clear.  He did sign other work for this firm in the same period, some of it published in The American Architect and Building News, who employed Gregg.  It seems that he also did freelance work for a number of other architects.  Gregg was so highly regarded that he published a book on pen and ink architectural drawing and he was widely imitated by draftsmen and architects.

By the turn of the twentieth century, photography and ink wash drawings began to supplant pen & ink line drawings to illustrate architecture.  The technique has never been completely abandoned, even with today's sophisticated computer aided drawing.  Indeed, computer software is sometimes arranged to simulate the freehand technique that makes pen & ink so appealing.  The drawing of the church's main entrance above is on a bulletin issued in Shadyside's fiftieth anniversary year, 1916.  Once again there is no signature - a shame, as the work is quite nice.

A complete representation of the front facade of the church on bulletins by 1921.  Once again, the work is high quality, making use of contrasting darks and white to produce an attractive pattern.  Limiting detailed representation to certain parts of a rendering is an effective and pleasing technique - quite apparent in this work.  It avoids an over-busy or "muddy" result.  The eye tends to fill in detail - and differences in light, shade and reflection do vary the amount of detail that is actually perceived on a subject.  The choice to leave out the detail of the front door is a bit unusual.  It is a location where delineators like Gregg might apply lots of detail and ink - producing what they called a "leading black" - often as a focal point of the work.  Here, the front door is depicted as open.  It may be that a conscious decision was made to indicate light rather darkness within. There is no criticism implied of this stylistic choice by a talented, if unidentified, artist.  In any case, the slightly stylized proportions indicate a slavish reproduction was not the goal.  (Also, this view shows three columns to each side of the door, when in fact, there are two.

As pointed out above, freehand ink line drawings are still used by architects - sometimes in preliminary studies.  The well-composed view above shows the church as it was in 1997.  This was part of a series of drawings done for Shadyside Church by the Pittsburgh architectural firm Williams Trebilcock Whitehead.  The church was at the time considering changes somewhat similar to those undertaken in the current Building Community Campaign.  The delineator may have signed (in the grass at the lower right) the work, but it is not easy to make out.  In this case, the foreground is shown with minimal detail, giving a sense of depth with careful representation of the shapes and surface textures of the buildings.

I made my first drawing of Shadyside Church in early 2000 - choosing the "lantern," a key feature of the building.  I used a photo of the church in the afternoon sunshine following a rainstorm.  The church has been gracious to use this representation on notecards as well as bulletins and programs.

About a year later, I chose the Pastor's Study as my subject.

The genius of the exterior design of Shadyside Church is its combination of  a welcoming quality with monumentality.  I made this drawing of the southern facade to give a sense of the monumental.


The scale and form of the front entrance demonstrate the that welcoming quality.

This is a view that no longer exists of the Hulme Memorial Garden.  This space, also known as the cloister is being transformed into an atrium and welcoming entrance from Westminster Place.  It is part of the continuing evolution of this space, which began as a porte cochere.  The ground level here was even with the street and sloped down to the North, through the space occupied by the office wing seen in the back here.

Pen & ink line drawings were an effective way to illustrate much of the picturesque architecture of the second half of the nineteenth century.  A case has also been made that technique influenced designs:  for example the Shingle Style (then know as modern colonial).  In the hands of a master like Gregg, these drawings are worth consideration on their own as fine art beyond their role as illustration.