“Engineers Make Great Artists” July 12, 2020
|Ben Luk – Uma Kelkar|
As children, we all reach an age when we start to believe we are “good” at some things and “bad” at others. For some, that means abandoning art, while for others it may mean giving up on math or on writing. These ideas are often backed up when we are taught that our pursuits are mutually exclusive, such as, good mathematicians aren’t creative enough to be artists and artists are too chaotic to excel in math. —. This episode is for anyone who feels that labels should not define who we are and for those who, because of their chosen profession, feel they need permission to draw.
Host Rob Sketcherman surprised us with an in-person guest, Ben Luk, a structural engineer who also lives in Hong Kong. Uma Kelkar, an electrical engineer from India, joined from her home in San Jose, CA, an area of the US known as Silicon Valley with a high concentration of tech companies. Both guests talked about how working as an engineer helps with being an artist, and vice versa.
Uma brings her engineering brain to sketching in two ways: discipline and a process of tweaking. She says of discipline that it means making art is not about being in the mood, rather about putting in the work. Ben added to the description of tweaking by saying that engineers are trained to solve problems, and therefore trained to criticize their own work to discover parts of a project that aren’t working. Both Ben and Uma bring this process to their sketching as well.
For instance, Ben initially started urban sketching by using his technical drawing ability but got bored making black and white sketches of straight lines, so he taught himself how to use watercolor, saying, “If you can’t do something, go and learn it!” This concept inspires his challenge of working “backwards,” or opposite of your instincts.
Ben’s Challenge: Loosen Up Your Lines with Different Directions
Start your sketch by drawing on the opposite side of your dominant hand, working your way only from left to right or right to left. This approach takes away your reliance on muscle memory, forcing your brain to rewire itself.
Follow Ben on Instagram, too!
Uma’s challenge is based on her approach to her work, which is to keep learning, knowing that painting is an up-and-down process. If your sketch is not working, identify the problem area (your materials? your mark-making?), make a change and try again. If you’re happy with the outcome, can you repeat it? Uma says, “This is how you invest in yourself.”
Uma’s Challenge: Engineer a Path to Your New Skill
Pick a skill you wish you had and develop it through focused repetition and objective evaluation of your process.
Follow Uma on Instagram, too!
Our guests left us with advice for technically minded people interested in urban sketching. Start now, because you already have skills that you are bringing to sketching, such as technical drawing and the ability to tell the story of the work you’re doing (a skill needed in the sciences!). Learn by looking at other sketchers’ work, and by becoming a part of the USk community. Join your local chapter, and post on the Urban Sketchers Facebook Group where you will find positive feedback that will boost your sketching confidence.