See It & Sell It: Professional Architectural Illustration with Bobby Parker

By: The Houseplanologist

Architecture is a competitive business. There are thousands of talented designers out there, and selling your concepts, or choosing between different plans if you’re a home buyer, is a lot like other parts of life: it all starts with great presentation. That’s where architectural illustration comes in. A beautiful rendering is like great package design – it attracts attention and teases out buyer curiosity. But it’s also part of the product itself. Effective illustrations breathe life and zest into building plans, firing up the imagination and bringing depth of understanding to those of us who struggle to see an architect’s vision without additional help.

Minnesota-based architectural illustrator Bobby Parker has many years experience in architectural rendering and kindly spared a bit of time to fill us in on some of the aspects of working in this rapidly changing field:

H: HI BOBBY – CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN ARCHITECTURAL ILLUSTRATOR – HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AND IS THERE A PARTICULAR AREA THAT YOU SPECIALIZE IN?

BP: I’ve always drawn; from my earliest childhood memories, I was drawing. I remember during middle school, we did an occupational survey. We answered questions, and it told us what career path we should follow. Mine was architecture. So naturally I pursued architecture in college, but after a couple years I knew it wasn’t for me; we just didn’t draw enough! So, I became an architectural illustrator. At first it was a hobby, but since I worked in the architectural industry, my art skill was appreciated. I started off with pencil and paper and now I produce photo-real architectural renderings.

  Image: ‘The House in the Woods’, Exterior Photo-Real Rendering (Bobby Parker)

Image: ‘The House in the Woods’, Exterior Photo-Real Rendering (Bobby Parker)

H: I GUESS THE DAYS OF HAND DRAWN ILLUSTRATION ARE ALMOST GONE, WITH ALL THE TECHNOLOGY AROUND. ARE YOU 100% FOCUSED ON DIGITAL RENDERING, OR DO YOU STILL GET REQUESTS FOR HAND DRAWN WORK?

BP: I’m 100% digital, but by combining the fundamentals of art with the most current industry technology, I can now create photo-real architectural renderings. I do have a home studio that is stocked and ready to go, with pencils and paper, but I haven’t had the courage to get back to drawing.

H: WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION IS GENERALLY NEEDED TO CREATE A RENDERING?

BP: I’ve worked from napkin sketches to construction documents, so I’m flexible. I do find that the more freedom I’m given, the better my work is, and I think my clients would agree.

  Image: ‘The Empire Office’, Interior Photo-Real Rendering (Bobby Parker)

Image: ‘The Empire Office’, Interior Photo-Real Rendering (Bobby Parker)

H: PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECTURAL ILLUSTRATION ALWAYS GRABS MY ATTENTION ON THE HOUSE PLAN SITES, AND I CAN IMAGINE THAT IT WOULD INCREASE THE MARKETABILITY OF A HOUSE PLAN ENORMOUSLY – WHAT KIND OF COSTS ARE INVOLVED FOR AN ARCHITECT OR DESIGNER WHO WANTS TO UTILIZE THAT KIND OF OPTION FOR THEIR WORK?

BP: We are very visual beings. Although the trained person, for the most part, can see their intent in their own minds-eye, most lay people can’t. We, as architectural illustrators, have the task of helping the lay person see what the designer sees.  I think a great architectural rendering is worth its weight in gold. It would cost a homeowner more to move one window or wall than it would to acquire a well done architectural rendering. Most people only build one house in their life, and it’s usually their dream home, so it’s worth the investment. Now, to place a dollar figure on it would be difficult because each project is different.

H: WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO’VE HAD A DRAFTSPERSON PREPARE PLANS FOR THEIR DREAM HOME BUT WANT TO BE ABLE TO VISUALIZE THEIR PROJECT MORE FULLY BEFORE COMMITTING – DO YOU WORK WITH THAT KIND OF CLIENTELE AS WELL?

BP: Surprisingly, I have had many homeowners over the past year contract me to create an architectural illustration because their hired architect didn’t have the talent in-house. Most firms have draftspeople, but few have artists.

  Image: ‘The Red Wood Crystal Kitchen’, Interior Photo-Real Rendering (Bobby Parker)

Image: ‘The Red Wood Crystal Kitchen’, Interior Photo-Real Rendering (Bobby Parker)

H: IS THERE A ‘SIGNATURE STYLE’ IN YOUR WORK – PARTICULAR TECHNIQUES OR INFLUENCES YOU LIKE TO INCORPORATE?

BP: I love light and shadow, so you’ll always see a lot of contrast in my work. Generally, I use contrast to draw the viewer into my image, and ultimately to the image’s focal point.

H: AND FINALLY, ARCHITECTURAL ILLUSTRATION IS SUCH A SPECIALIZED AREA – DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ANYONE THINKING OF PURSUING IT AS A CAREER?

BP: Learn basic art fundamentals. Most renderings you see now are done by the office tech because it’s software after all that’s being used, but that’s a huge mistake. Study art first and learn the software afterwards.  There is art science behind a good architectural rendering. Although good software is important, it’s the artist that makes the magic happen.

  Image: ‘Butterfly Window Box’ (Bobby Parker)

Image: ‘Butterfly Window Box’ (Bobby Parker)


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