joshua kery

Learning to Draw

victaulic
Victaulic, 2019. Graphite on paper. 24 x 18in.

"Learning to Draw" is a learning and research project I conducted primarily over the Summer of 2019 with my grandfather, a retired designer-draftsman for the now defunct Bethlehem Steel Co. Over the course of this project, my grandfather taught me to draw in the technical style that he used in his career.

foundations
Foundations Drawing, 2019. Graphite on paper. 24 x 18in.

We developed a teaching process that mirrored how my grandfather worked alongside engineers at the company. To me, he submitted a concept drawing:

opa elevation
Robert Kery. Concept drawing, 2019. Graphite on paper. 5 x 8in.

From this, I executed 'detail' drawings of the various elements of the structure. In the actual drafting process, these 'details' would be the actual drawings fabricators at the steel plant would reference as they built these structures.
my valve access gen arr
Valve Access Platform General Arrangement, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.
my valve access ab
Valve Access Platform Details A & B, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.
my valve access c
Valve Access Platform Details C & D, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.

My grandfather reviewed these drawings and offered feedback on how they could be refined. From this, I redrew and resubmitted them to him:

my valve access redraft a
Valve Access Platform Redraft Detail A, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.
my valve access redraft b
Valve Access Platform Redraft Detail B, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.
my valve access redraft cd
Valve Access Platform Redraft Details C,D & E, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.

My grandfather's home in Surprise, Arizona is a long way from my home in Pittsburgh, so we were frequently mailing our drawings back and forth to each other, and conducting these critiques over the phone. In the downtime between mail exchanges, I created this imaginative draft of the steel plant as a whole:

all through the night
All Through the Night, 2019. Graphite on paper. 18 x 24in.

This drawing is based on an anecdote of my uncle who grew up well within earshot of the steel plant. He described to me the ceaseless work of the company as a lullaby he heard every night.

Some initial drawings as I learned:

my engine
Milling Machine (sketch), 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.
my tunnel
Foundations Tunnel Detail, 2019. Graphite on paper. 11 x 19in.

This project began with research I conducted at the National Museum of Industrial History, much thanks to Curator of Collections Andria Zaia.

nmih
National Museum of Industrial History working steam engine

I was lucky to see many of the surviving drafts from the steel plant in the NMIH's collection and take home images to use as reference for this project:

draft photograph1
Bethlehem Steel Boiler House draft, from NMIH Archives
draft photograph2
Draft negative, from NMIH Archives
draft photograph3
Bethlehem Steel Hot Bed draft, from NMIH Archives

Ilhan Citak at Lehigh University was also helpful to me in this work, and thanks to the university I stumbled across guidebooks for draftsmen that were also hugely important to me in understanding the drafting language and riffing off it in my own drawings.

book lines book textures

Thanks of course to my grandfather and grandmother who spent hours on the phone with me, and to my Uncle Chris and my Aunt Geri, who housed me and helped me connect to people when I visited Bethlehem.