The art of architecture

By Ronda Voorhis | March 1, 2019

Editor’s note: Ronda Voorhis recently published an art book called “Drawing Wichita”, which features 97 pen-and-ink illustrations of historical buildings and beloved sites in Wichita. The book is on sale for $27.99 at The Workroom and Doo Dah Diner, and can also be ordered at Voorhis is giving a free presentation about the book at 1:00 p.m., March 12 at the Downtown Senior Center in Delano.

I have always been interested in buildings and the details on them. Or lack of them. People walk around downtown every day and never look at the intricacies of artwork on the buildings without thinking that someone drew, carved, created all that by hand more than 100 years ago.

I wanted to preserve a moment in time looking at Wichita as it is in 2018. Some things are going to be lost, such as Lawrence Dumont Stadium, and others will morph or need to be renovated. Just looking at pictures, it is difficult to see the details of cornices and fireplace chimneys and overhangs. But drawing them in black and white gives clarity to even the most mundane. 

In the past, all architectural drawings were done by hand. When I was in college at Kansas State University, architectural rendering was a class for fifth-year architecture students. I took it even though I was a magazine journalism student and graphic arts major. Those drawing skills have mostly been lost because students started using computers in 1988 for everything. So I’m the last of the last. 

I work in a large format, 17 by 14 inches or larger. And I use tiny, tiny pen tips (0.7 is the normal pen tip for writing utensils we use everyday; I’m using 0.005 and 0.003 Micron pens.) I work from my own photos, have them enlarged at CityBlue and trace the outline. And then I draw from my computer screen where I can see the details at 700 percent. Some details are in shadows and I can bring those out in my drawings that you can’t do with photos. And I try to put some kind of artistic flair into the drawings so they aren’t just flat renderings. 

I am interested in the history of these forgotten or preserved buildings, so I wrote a bit about each one for the book and then added on a map.

I want to tackle other Kansas cities with amazing stories and buildings. Lawrence is the first on my list. Abilene is fantastic. And the small towns that have one or two or more extraordinary buildings that are boarded up or past their prime deserve to be remembered and honored.