Friday, August 28, 2020

CREATIVE GENUS – My Career Path From Crayons to Kerning

My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Berg, taught me that I was an artist.

Okay, sure, teachers—at least the good ones—do that all the time; every kid should feel special. But with Miss Berg it was different. When I produced one of my little masterpieces—usually rather dense compositions of geometric shapes and patterns using those luscious, off-color crayons like blue-green, mahogany and Indian red—she would not just encourage me, she’d point to my work as an example for other kids whose design muse evidently wasn’t speaking to them.


I guess that’s all it takes to plant the seeds of a human being’s self-actualization. Sure enough, even though I’d done nothing consciously to hone that dull blade of creativity, by the time I got to college, it just seemed obvious that I’d major in Art. (For some odd reason, my boys military high school had offered no art program. The powers that be must have considered art unmanly—so we had mandatory football instead. Seriously.)

As college graduation—and the Vietnam War—loomed, I had to figure out a way to continue my education and thus earn a deferment from the draft. It had to be a field that would not only put to use my nascent artistic talents, but lead to an honorable, paying career. So I headed to architecture school.

The creative aspects of architecture tapped into that designer mentality first encouraged by Miss Berg. It seemed a perfectly logical branching out from just two-dimensional shape and crayon-rendered color to three dimensions. Turns out I was pretty good at visualizing space, stacking it, dividing it and making those divisions flow one to the next.

I also loved the creative process: analyzing the requirements of a project, sketching concepts, giving and getting feedback from classmates and faculty “crits,” drafting, modeling… I even enjoyed the bleary-eyed rigor of all-nighters spent in the studio, exchanging ideas and encouragement with my fellow designers.

Unfortunately, along with the third dimension, architecture demanded that I not only design buildings, but make sure they’d stand up when built. And for that, the barely-passing physics and calculus grades I’d eked out in college proved lacking. So I had to take both courses all over again and be ready to apply that knowledge to the second-year architecture class that came closest to engineering: Building Technology.