Sunday, November 13, 2011

Making blueprints

I joined Twitter in early July to tweet about Napa Porchfest. I use the same name - "mizblueprint" - on Twitter.  At the time I wrote the first thing that came to mind as my introductory line, "I used to draw for a living. Pushing a mouse and plinking a keyboard is not quite the same thing."

My earliest languages were English and crayon. My Mom was amused when I drew portraits of my family on the wall above my crib. I remember what those drawings looked like. I drew each family member as a cookie. With arms and legs, feet, hands, faces, ears - and one with a bite taken out of it. I learned years later that in the universal visual language of children, the drawings were rather typical. They may have been a little earlier than many, but I talked early also.

I recall drawing incessantly.  After I learned to read, I alternated reading and drawing. Then swimming, bikes and childhood games filled my days. In the evening, I would draw. Mom saved and framed some early work, and I sold a drawing at about age 12. This was to my father's boss, but he actually hung it in his living room, so I was pleased.

At the end of sixth grade, I wanted to study art with a wonderful teacher who emigrated to the US after escaping from Hungary ahead of the Nazi invasion during World War II. As one of six children by then, I had to choose between piano lessons and art lessons. Not a difficult choice, really. By seventh grade, my art teacher suggested that I might have the skill set to become an architect. Click! What a perfect fit, thought the twelve year old me. I could draw for a living.

In those days, my father often had blueprints at home due to his job as an engineer and construction manager. These were real blueprints with blue backgrounds and white lines.  I recall the change to diazo blueline prints, which were the material of my life in architecture for many years.
William Corlett blueprint

The childhood idea of drawing for a living changed as computer drafting developed. For almost 15 years I continued to draw with graphite and ink on vellum as the world of computers altered the practice of architecture. Now my opening quote is a rather poignant statement about the in-between state in which  many of my generation find ourselves. Are we computer jockeys? The visceral feel of the pencil or pen against the paper - the sweep of the arm - the flourish of a free-hand sketch on yellow "flimsy" - the former tools of our trade - are rapidly disappearing. A colleague has given up his office and returned to a home office. He has also returned to hand drawing. Is there a place for that in the business of architecture?

And what about the childhood idea of drawing for a living? "I used to draw for a living. Pushing a mouse and plinking a keyboard is not quite the same thing."