Design matters with Tony Trobe

Tom Skeehan is hosting a 'sketching process' public event at the NGA as part of the Canberra Design Festival.

TT: Hi Tom, tell us about the sketching event that is happening at a national gallery next Sunday.

TS: We thought it might be appropriate to celebrate the art of drawing during the Design Canberra Festival and we have come up with the concept to hold an interactive sketching event in the sculpture gardens of the National Gallery.

TT: Is this an event to demonstrate drawing skills or to get people to participate?

TS: Hopefully it will be a mixture of both. We will have at least half a dozen talented people with natural drawing skills that would be available to 'show off' their talents and assist and mentor the public participants.

TT: I understand you have recently published a book on drawing?

TS: Indeed, it is sort of a retrospective of work by leading Australian designers that all draw professionally in their practice. Following on from this I thought that it might be both fun and appropriate for the festival calendar to include an event that celebrates and encourages hand drawing in its many guises.

TT: I am obviously focused drawing from within my own architectural practice but this event is intended to recognise the diversity of drawing styles across a wide range of disciplines.

TS: Yes, we have assembled a whole raft of different talents who have all come to drawing from differing perspectives. They will include industrial designers, graphic designers, fashion designers, artists, automotive artists and architects. It will be interesting to see how they interact but also I think it will be a great opportunity for both young and old members of the public to rub shoulders withthose that not only have talent for hand drawing but a genuine passion.

TT: Obviously to produce a book on drawing it must have been strong thread in your life and career. Have you always been able to sketch and how long did it take to find your own style?

TS: My parents taught me how to draw. I was always encouraged from a young age to draw and make. Drawing has been the way I have always communicated. Each sketch, even a scribble, has an amazing amount of meaning for me and helps trigger the essence of that idea I had all over again.

TT: I was in Paris a few weeks ago and visited the Louis Vuitton building designed by Architect Frank Gehry. Interestingly enough they had a 'back of the envelope' sketch by Frank illustrating his first thoughts about the building.

TS: Yes it's fascinating. This is an interesting example of the diversity of sketching, but not all drawing is easily understood. As writer Mark Rappolt describes these sort sketches by Frank Gehry "At times they appear to be an almost incomprehensible accumulation of squiggles, arcs, and curves ..." Rappolt makes note that Gehry refers to sketching as "thinking aloud" and that this mode of cogitation is never stagnant nor still, and perhaps the importance of the sketching process lies most with the author themselves.

TT: Your book is simply gorgeous and tracks how the contributors found their way into drawing. Have you got a favourite quote?

TS: You probably can't go past Marcus Piper's early experience. "In primary school I was kicked out of a classroom for making 'rude drawings' of the female form. I was in fact drawing a car seat. Back then I worked in a local newsagency and the same teacher would buy People magazine for his drive home. The irony has never left me."

Sketchy Sunday is being held at the Sculpture garden on Sunday, November 19 (noon to 3pm), all are welcome.

Tony Trobe is director of the local practice TT Architecture. Is there a planning or design issue in Canberra you'd like to discuss? Email

This story Design matters with Tony Trobe first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.