Monday, June 1, 2009

Artistic Ability

I am a member of the class of 2010 at my school, and am interested in looking at architecture when I apply to college in the fall, and I had an important question.

As a student, I have excelled in almost all fields. It is my understanding that an architect would need to excel in mathematics, speech and English, and art. While I do extremely well in both math and English, a major problem for me is art. I have never been much of an artist at all, and I have never had the opportunity to take any art classes at my school (it's an old fashioned college prep school, that doesn't really offer art). I feel that I am fairly proficient at drawing diagrams and graphs, or anything else that I would need for math class (trigonometry, geometry, or calculus), but I see myself as an absolutely horrible creative or "picture" drawing type.

In short, I am not artistically gifted in any way. BUT I do have an interest and architecture, and feel that any architecture diagrams or drawings I have seen are "different" then what a person would normally think of as art. It is my understanding that they usually involve straight lines, careful measurements, and extreme attention to detail. I think that even with my lack of artistic ability, these would be conquerable obstacles, but I'm really not sure. Like I said, I think I am good at mechanical drawing, but as far as "creative" drawing, I am a complete failure. This is not to say that I don't have a creative mind, but if I was asked to draw a nature scene or anything like that, I would fall flat on my face.

So I guess the question overall is, would I be able to pursue a career in architecture, even with my lack of artistic abilities?

Your self-description sounds much like me when I was graduating from high school. I excelled in mathematics and science but had not artistic abilities. Unlike you, I did have access to art courses but still did not feel I was any good.

Bottom line, you can still become an architect and should strongly consider architecture as a major to choose for college.

As you have determined, architecture is both a science and an art, but you do not necessarily excel in both. I often counsel prospective students that it takes three attributes to pursue architecture in college -- 1) intelligence, which is not necessarily a perfect 4.00 GPA, 2) creativity, which does not mean you can draw like an angel, and 3) commitment because the major is demanding. The best part of this is that you only truly need two of the three to succeed. Your strong interest in the subject can be a great asset.

With that said, it does not mean that you do not use or need artistic talent because you do. In fact, you will take freehand drawing courses. Do not think that it is all done on the computer as the computer screen is just a fancy blank piece of paper. Although, your high school does not offer art courses, teach drawing to your self. Purchase a sketchbook and just draw items in your household for 20-30 minutes per day. One reason you do not have drawing abilities is that you have not developed those skills. Also, approach your school or a teacher that can support your desire to draw. Try to avoid CAD or mechanical drafting because that is not architecture.

Trust me, you are not a failure when it comes to creativity. You simply need to develop those creative skills. Take time this summer to break out of your comfort zone and draw. Do not be self-critical of your work as it does take time. Learn to draw what you can see with your eyes as it is a skill you need to draw what you cannot see, i.e., what is in your mind -- your ideas.

Depending on where you live, try to find an architect that can mentor you and introduce you to the profession. I did a senior project where I worked in an office two afternoons a week.

This discussion can also dictate that institution that you may select as architecture programs are varied. Research programs through -- or -- --. Consider obtaining Becoming an Architect: A Candid Guide to Careers in Design to help in your search.

Dr. Architecture

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