45-second Furniture


My youngest daughter, Katy, has been taking art classes at the Cincinnati Art Academy this summer, so I have been duplicating some of her interesting exercises while she’s in bed or not watching.

Last week, her instructor made them engage in some 45-second sketching exercises. Katy and the other students were shown an object and given 45 seconds to sketch it. I was fascinated by how the students could capture the essence of the object in such a short period.

It reminded me of some Zen ink painting I had done in college, but that’s another story.


So I resolved to sketch some of my furniture designs in 45 seconds or less to see what would happen. I have about 20 different forms floating around in my head right now, so I barfed out a few this evening while sitting in a Syracuse, N.Y., hotel room.

After a few crappy attempts I got into a groove. First I drew the floor – that was a huge help. Then I started sketching the elevation.


I tried sketching some orthographic views, but those were more difficult because I fussed over getting the perspective correct instead of capturing the overall form. My best drawings were simple straight-on views of elevation, profile and plan.

And 45 seconds is plenty of time.

I drew these on the back of some old airline boarding passes. I forgot my sketch book.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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15 Responses to 45-second Furniture

  1. richmondp says:

    When you are satisfied with your 45 second furniture sketches, treat yourself to the same exercise with a nude model. I predict you will be amazed at how well you do.

  2. durbien says:

    Always use ink
    Be decisive. One stroke, one line.
    Don’t forget: light and shadow define form as much as lines do
    Never trust a housemate with a dog named “Toke”

    -Things I learned in Architecture School, Syracuse NY 1986

    • volzwgn says:

      That wasn’t from a class taught by Sargent was it?

      • durbien says:

        Actually, I’ve forgotten his name. Which is funny because I remember what he taught very well. He was a M.Arch Student, so I’m sure he was just teaching what he was recently taught (aren’t we all?). OTOH I’ve forgotten a lot of things that happened to me in Syracuse, which is possibly a good thing.

    • jenohdit says:

      I would add move your hand not your fingers. Much easier to get clean, decisive lines that way.

  3. David Cockey says:

    I’ve encountered two very different approaches to sketching. When I sketch an object I start with major elements which define the basic geometry and then fill in the details, constructing the object as I sketch.

    I used to work with auto designers and many if not most had a different approach. After looking at the object and/or thinking about what they wanted it to look like, they would put the image in the mind down on paper, sometimes starting with details and then filling in the major elements around the details. It seemed like the sketch was almost fully formed in their mind before anything went down on paper.

  4. Kinderhook88 says:

    Nice work. Sketching has always been my weakness.

  5. woodworkerme says:

    Sometimes I sketch things out for the customers to visualize size and details. Then I work from them myself. It sure helps to keep with the design….Come to think about it, I should add sketching to the woodworking 101-A ..Thanks.

  6. woodworkerme says:

    hey is that nails in the drawer or dovetails?. looks like nails to me. not your normal style.

  7. I remember doing a lot of this in art class. I miss art class.

  8. Sean Hughto says:

    If you have the time, you might want to check out Daltons. Amazing furniture and A&C period stuff.

  9. Bob Jones says:

    These definitely rank as refrigerator worthy 🙂

  10. Hate to be late to the party but what about some fast doodles about some kind of retractable arms on the tool chest to hold tool tote so you have no need to find a place to lay the tote when getting into the bottom of the chest.

  11. beshriver says:

    Had I known you were in the ‘cuse I would have invited you for dinner… Next time you come to upstate consider yourself invited.

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