My long and winding road to the architectural art door

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….  No, wait, that’s something else.  However, it has been an long and winding road that has led to this  architectural art door  for me.  Growing up I was never in the least bit interested in architecture.  My first loves were animals, animal behavior, math, science and art.  I know it may seem an odd combination, but that is what makes life interesting – all of our diverse choices and experiences.   I enjoyed the sciences because there was almost always a “right” answer.  None of this obtuse “what was he really trying to say in this novel, poem, musical piece, or art work” for me.  If he really meant that, he would have just said it, right?  And I loved animals and art,  just because I loved animals and art.  I loved to draw and most of what I did revolved around animal art.  I used watercolors and Ebony pencils mostly and still have one or two pieces that I did in my teens. 

Unfortunately, because of the heavy science course loads in high school and college in the seventies, I wasn’t able to take many art classes.  I had maybe two in H.S. and 2 or 3 in college.  I say that now with a little bit of regret, but when I was in college and took those few classes, realistic art was very looked down upon.  I actually had a teacher who told me that I was just wasting my time – realistic art wasn’t really considered worthwhile art anymore.  It was rather on the pointless side to even attempt it and I couldn’t be very serious about art if that was what I wanted.  Not every teacher I had voiced the same opinion, but it came through often enough  even in subtle ways that were very discouraging and I actually gave up artwork for  several years. 

 When my husband and I left graduate school (in animal behavior) we decided that we had to be more practical and do something to earn a decent living.  We were tired of student wages and since government funding was starting what looked to be years of decline, the academic road seemed to be closing .  We moved to central Indiana.  I got a job in a hospital research lab using my biology degree and my husband decided to pursue an interest in building – a far cry from his training in psychology and behavioral pharmacology.  Back in the late 70’s it was still comparatively easy to shift occupations and even though he had no real training, he was hired by a construction company as a field superintendant.  Though he had a lot to learn, he knew how to learn and he turned it into a 5 year study of residential building and real estate sales.  After I left graduate school, there came to be time for art again.  I had gotten over my discouragement from the college professors and started to draw animals as I had in the past.  I bought a nib pen and a bottle of India ink and began to play with them with a joy I hadn’t had in a decade.  I found some Ebony pencils and sketched.  It was a great deal of fun, without the pressure of trying to justify what I liked to do.

And then, with one child born and another on the way, he decided to jump start his own building company.  In the middle of the worst recession in recent times and interest rates in the teens.  Ah, youth.  Needless to say, there was no money to hire consultants or graphic artists for our publicity.  The task fell to me, even though I had never done a drawing of a building in my life, much less created something from a blueprint.  I found what little there was in the bookstore -no online searching available then – and taught myself perspective drawing.  It is a good thing that his first houses were very simple log cabins shaped like a square or an el.  I kept those first drawings for a long time.  They were truly awful and served notice of how far I had come and how far I had to go even yet.  I wish I still had them, but somehow they got lost in one of the moves.  I didn’t throw that artwork away on purpose even though it was very bad because it was an important step on the way.

Since he was designing for our homes, we would often stop on a trip to look at interesting architecture and architectural details and take photos.  At first I didn’t care much and was rather bored, but as time went on, I began to see real beauty in good design and detail.  I started to see things to point out to him – a little easier since I was usually in the passenger seat.  As my interest in architecture grew and we got into more and more complicated structures, I began to incorporate it into my own art.  I started working on pictures of interesting buildings and taking on commissioned work from homeowners and other builders.  I began to get into art shows and had a few things in a gallery.  I got a nice camera to take my reference pictures and started carrying it with me on trips. 

My style has changed a little over the years and for the better I hope.  I still usually start with a line drawing made from pen and ink.  That’s what we needed first for our print media and  I like the definition that it gives.  It must appeal to that more strict scientific side of me, I think.  I have experimented with hard pastels, watercolors, and colored pencils and currently use a combination of the three for the color overlay.  I tend use the pastel overlay as the base most of the time, although I have been trying the watercolors over the stone barns recently.  It is all a great experiment and since I  now allow myself to use the “circular file” there isn’t as much angst over it all.  It has been a great ongoing journey and not one that I ever would have expected growing up.  Here’s some art from the long, long ago.

An arctic fox

A chipmunk

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 18:24:47

    Thanks for sharing your interesting process and progress.

    For some reason I remembered how the art teacher we had in first grade used to “howl” about the sun and the dog houses in every piece of art we did freehand. 🙂



  2. ruthsartwork
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 21:29:28

    Although I have virtually no recollection of art class in elementary school, I am sure that we did have one. The high school teachers were adequate but rather uninterested in science majors. preferring those that took art classes every semester. Not possible for me. It took a long time to get over the disparagement of realistic artwork in college. I finally got enough confidence in myself to let it all go. Having people actually buy my artwork was a great help of course. Someone else found value in what I did no matter what had been “taught” to me before.

    My daughter had great art teachers all through school and has a great sense of design and color. My son has the world’s worst art teacher in middle school even though she was “award winning”. She had a very regimented system of self designed workbooks that had 4th, 5th, and 6th graders dissecting and imitating the great artists instead of finding their own creativity, which I felt was actually repressed. Fortunately, he had a fabulous music teacher who encouraged a life long love of music in him. It wasn’t until he took the stained glass classes late in high school that he became interested in art again. They both do beautiful work in stained glass now for fun and maybe profit in the future.


  3. lindahalcombfineart
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 06:10:35

    Ruth, your back ground is similar to mine – loved art, had to make a living, degree in Math from Purdue, worked for MANY years doing art occasionally and taking an occasional class or workshop, years without art. Now I am retired and art in many forms is my avocation, relaxation and release. Your drawings are wonderful. Detailed and very realistic. Just great!


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