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SKETCHBOOK: a creative tool and a way of life that celebrates design and drawing as vital ways to see and value culture, to discover ideas, and to envision a better world.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Welcome! Glad you're here!

Sketching on Chartres Street, New Orleans
Greetings all!  Thank you for taking the time to check out "James Richards Sketchbook 2.0!"  I'm really glad you're here.  This website is the still-evolving result of three months of questioning and reassessment of my direction as I embark on the "third third" of my career.

It started innocently enough.  After leaving corporate urban design practice and a tenured university faculty position to pursue a number of exciting, creative endeavors, I realized it was time to order new business cards.  Deciding what to put on those cards to describe what I do had me completely bamboozled.  Artist?  I've never been very comfortable with that.  Urban designer?  Not broad enough.  Author? Educator? Speaker?  Traveler? (A look at my calendar page confirms that I spend more time traveling than in any other activity.)

There was some truth to each label.  And yet each was more true as part of the aggregate rather than as a solitary descriptor.  My "work" touched on all these areas.  So what's the essence of the work?  What do I do?

It was then that I realized I was describing a process rather than a label--an ongoing process of discovery.  Discovering creative design solutions.  Discovering my distinct artistic style and language.  Discovering my voice as a writer.  Discovering the essence of the world's great places. Discovering my own talents.  Helping others discover theirs.

Thinking of my career as process of discovery freed me to look beyond arbitrary divisions between art, design and professionalism, and to claim them all as aspects of a full, creative life.  This feels good.  I'm going to roll with it for now.

When seeking, it's helpful and comforting to find signposts along the way.  I particularly enjoyed this quote by Glenn Murcutt, the brilliant Australian architect who was awarded AIA's Gold Medal in 2009, when asked why he considered drawing so important:

"We are taught that creativity is the most important thing in architecture.  Well, I don't believe that.  I think that the creative process leads to discovery, and discovery is the most important thing.  I'm suggesting that any work of architecture--as opposed to merchandise--has the potential to be discovered, and drawing is the key."