My current body of work stems from an initial desire to explore as many neighborhoods in St Louis City as possible. While I have lived in the St. louis area all my life, I had always just been to certain neighborhoods and didn’t really go outside of the areas I know. I have always been fascinated by the brick architecture of St. Louis. I love the many beautiful unique buildings and homes throughout the city but also have a love of the ones that are neglected and abandoned, which, to me, still retain a sense strength and beauty in absence of love.
I started drawing buildings in St. Louis in the late Spring of 2014. My initial goal was to sit with the building and draw, by observation, and experience it’s environment. The drawings were traditional, portrait-like and done with graphite. I felt a need to go back to the very basics of drawing – recording what I could see. I typically chose subjects on the north side of St. Louis that were neglected and in various states of ruin that I thought wouldn’t be around very long. I could rarely finish a drawing on the spot so I documented the buildings through photography – mostly using an iPhone – and finished the drawing in my studio. Drawing lead to walks around neighborhoods, more photos, sometimes talking to residents, and research into the histories of the buildings.
Eventually I started biking and found I could see more by exploring larger areas in the same amount of time. Plus I always made a point to return to see how the buildings I drew were doing. Sadly, as I thought, many have been demolished. For one, I found it in mid-demolition and had a chance to draw, photograph, and watch workers pull down walls and collect bricks that were over a hundred years old. For others, I’d just find a pile of rubble or a big hole in the ground. I think there may be one that is being rehabbed.
Since the Spring of 2015, I started exploring nooks and crannies downtown, through the central corridor (Midtown, Grand Center, Central West End) and eventually into neighborhoods on the south side. I sometimes shoot photos on the east side too. I also stepped up the photography and while the iPhone on the bike is much more convenient, I started taking pictures with my point-and-shoot “good camera” and a Diana F+ film camera. Plus, I was sharing many of my photos, drawings, and whatever I know about the history of buildings or neighborhood on Instagram and found many others are interested in the same things I am. Around this time, I started to do most of the drawing in my studio partially due to winter weather but also because it was more efficient and the drawings were being made using charcoal.
The more I explore, the more the work evolves, and the more I learn. Currently, I am creating charcoal drawings by combining pieces of buildings throughout the city. I try to combine pieces from buildings from the north side and the south side. I’ve learned that St. Louis neighborhoods each have their own unique flavor but the architecture is something that binds this city and makes it unique. All of us are aware of that “Delmar Divide” but both the north and south sides share architectural styles and both have interesting histories. In the end, we are all one and our architecture is our history.