“Are you good at sketching, painting and drawing?” he had asked me.
He was a well respected architect in the city and he was the only architect my mother knew. He was a distant relative of mine and that was the first time I would meet him. I had approached him to know about architecture.
He was gentle and concerned as this was about a career choice I was to make. I was about 17 then, but I knew enough about the gravity behind his question. I drew, sketched and painted like any child would. I had even won a few minor accolades in my local school but that was not something that could be mentioned as a qualification, at least not to this senior professional!
I remember saying that I had no special talent even as my heart started sinking….
He shook his head as he declared that it was not wise for me then, to commit myself to architectural studies. He thought that I should move towards the less artistic fields like the engineering sciences.
However, as I began to leave, the architect, for a reason I could not understand, gave me a book to read. It was a compilation of essays by the great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Disappointed though I was with my interview earlier, I was not willing to give up on my career choice yet, and that night I read about the principles of Wright’s architecture. As I read through, about nature, about integrity and the noble art of building, I knew I found something that I could commit myself to, with all my heart. I knew that I was going to be an architect.
Nobody had spoken to me about design and construction earlier and I had no prior exposure. I liked to read philosophy, I enjoyed prose and poetry, and I was good at the sciences. I was also inquisitive about the rest of the world and deeply interested in understanding people. The decision to take up architecture just came to me, in clarity, that night. A field that I sought out to learn about from the very next day. A learning that continues even today.
Students and aspirants have often asked me about how one would know if they have the ability to become an architect. Does one need to sketch, draw, paint well?
Sketching, the skill one learns in childhood seems to be a privilege that a few are endowed with, especially the ones who impress their school teachers. They are the ones who are quick to pick up the technique of outlines, fill-ins and copying everyday images. For the rest, who may try to express their perception of the world with a technique not so usual, the school has no patience. They do not make it to the top ranks in our education system and surely, as in the other faculties like music and literature, comparison and condemnation happens. The students are labelled as ones with a lesser ability for art and are separated.
I have since then dwelled on the ability to sketch and draw beautiful pictures, in the many drawings of the artists and architects I have studied and met.
The soul of an artist is not found in the skills that apparently seem to qualify him.
Skills are learnt from a master but the expression of an artist is realised when passion is stoked. A passion ignited by a desire to paint our imagery of the world, our own.
The artist in you, the musician in you is a sensitive thread to the experience of living.
A tiny spark, which is too often snuffed out rather harshly, by the eagerness of teachers and parents who decide for you. Art gets reduced in our understanding to a technique; it becomes a hobby, or a distraction to indulge in, a field away from work and career. People spend the rest of their lives, going through the mundane, struggling for success, wondering where the joy of living has gone.
That is, unless art is seen as the very essence of our living, in every part of our being.
The architect is made when this essence is seen in the order and the science of building and that is a journey of a creative expression for life. An expression of intent, transformed into sketches. Proportions, perspectives that are learnt in art and drafting classes form the basis for this expression and yet the architect develops his own style, his signature.
You are not an architect because you can sketch.
You sketch because you are an architect.
by Samarendra M. Ramachandra