Personality in Pencil

April 6th 2017 Comments: 2 Topics: ,

If you have read this blog for any time, you know our firm is a proponent of hand drawing.  Over the next several weeks, various members of our firm will be speaking about the topic. Today we happily welcome back Mary Catherine Walter, sharing her thoughts and sketches:


The clatter of cars rumbling over cobblestones and forks clinking against plates were almost audible in a drawing that contained neither car nor restaurant, only the memory of a moment. I remember how an inquisitive cab driver peered over my shoulder every few minutes, commenting in Spanish, and insisting when I was finished drawing to judge the results for himself. Where linguistic communication had failed, a picture was really worth a thousand words. On another page in the sketchbook was a half-finished thought, an unrealized idea born from imagination, hazy in pencil, and unapologetically unsure of itself. It was an early iteration of a design that eventually grew up and moved out onto larger paper and grander things, remembering its simplicity but acquiring sophistication.

Poring over old sketchbooks is a trek through a time capsule where every drawing is a snapshot of a memory or idea, a view captured through someone’s eyes of a place they saw (or wanted to see) and how they saw it. It reveals the often uncomfortable process of proportions gradually becoming more correct and lines flowing more confidently over years of practice. It shows that someone was so moved by an idea that they had to release it from their imagination to be shared. Sketches are compelling because they are personality in pencil; there is something human and romantic about their tangibility, like reading a handwritten note from a friend. They are love letters to design.

Amidst a culture of digital editing and impersonal texts, committing to paper with a pen is vulnerable and, therefore, radical. Drawings are fragile, destructible, susceptible to coffee stains. They carry a preciousness about them – take care of me because I matter. It can require a little bravery to confront a blank page and it can be messy to evoke soul from pencil lines, but drawings connect us to our visions, our hands to our minds, our imaginings to eventual realization.


Mary Catherine Walter


  1. Derilyn Lavender Lee says:

    Love the fact the firm holds true to the traditional beauty of sketches! The beginning of the projects are as exceptional as the finished project!

  2. Tom Green says:

    Rare amazing talent.

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