Dungeon Art (TBT)

Our office has a real dungeon where we keep our unused art, our extra gear, our historical records and our completed files.

Inevitably we need to clean out the dungeon when we no longer have space for the completed files and that means we literally get rid of dumpster loads of reports, depositions, shipping documents, drawings, manuals and photos.

We handle every file before it gets tossed because some of these files contain real treasures. Some files actually are moved completely to our historical section where they are kept forever and, undoubtedly, some of those files will show up in future TBTs.

At the last dungeon clean-out I came across this 1994 Henk van Hemmen sketch of an issue that was resolved long ago:

There are still many in the marine industry who remember Henk’s technical sketching

skills and this sketch is a typical combination of Henk’s quick sketching of a combination of technical, operational and marine insurance issues to cross the chasm between the purely technical and the real world.

Despite it being more than 20 years later, with better computers, digital photography and photoshop, sketching skills are still a vital tool for engineers.

The ability to explain with pen and paper, and to do it quickly, is a skill that can save thousands of dollars in lost time and confusion. An engineer can attain legendary status if he can do it while others are waiting and watching. Like all skills, it takes time to learn, but it is worth the effort. Each engineer will develop her own style, but there are some major truths that exist for quick sketching and these are the ones my father showed me:

1. Before you put pen to paper plan your whole picture. if you are not really sure, you should make a rough sketch first. Henk undoubtedly drew this sketch in one shot, he knew this equipment by heart, but undoubteldy he spent some time thinking about what he wanted to say and already had a mental picture of the end result before he put pen to paper.

2. If you can’t draw the picture in one shot, own a really high quality eraser. Then you can rough out the picture in pencil, trace it with markers and erase the pencil. You will be amazed at how good the picture will look.

3. Lettering makes the picture. Really, really plan where you will write the notes.

4. Line quality makes the difference. Henk often used fiber pointed magic markers, but crushed the marker tips first to get a nice juicy line where he wanted it.

5. Plan your picture as truly freehand (hard to do) or use any handily available straight edge (business card, credit card, note book edge), but be careful about mixing the approaches.

6. Order your own engineering paper. You’ll look cool and they are like free business cards that don’t get lost.

If you get those points down you can go for the ultimate, and do a “Henk van Hemmen”; draw the picture upside down, at arms length, right in front of the person across the table.