From Architect to Artist

What is it like to change professions at age 60?   I’ve had the opportunity to retire from 40 years as an architect and transformed myself into a watercolor artist.

Before retirement I decided I needed something to do that was fun and creative.  In nice weather there are a lot of things to do outside, but when it is cold and rainy your options are limited.  Especially true this year with the pandemic.  Painting is the perfect solution for those times. 

Starting anything new at 60 years old is a scary thought and I expected a steep learning curve as there was with learning architecture.  There were things I could carryover and things I no longer needed.  I could use my drawing skills and ascetic sense, but could be freed of all the knowledge of codes, building systems and materials.  Watercolor painting takes different skills; how do colors mix?, what brands of paint and paper to use?, what makes a good composition?.  Starting out was fun and frustrating at the same time.  I tossed a lot of paper and paintings trying different techniques and skills.

Architects are hired by a client to design large complicated building in three dimensions that can take years to complete.  Painting in watercolor you work on small two dimension paper that can take only hours or days to complete.  Architects lead large teams of engineers and technicians that help solve the complicated technical problems.  Artists work alone to decide what to paint.  Architects work for a client that gives them direction for what they need. Artists have no clients to please, only yourself to satisfy.  That is a great freedom, but also requires you to walk your own path without outside direction.  I believe the harder task is to know yourself well enough to set your own direction.  Both professions require planning and preparation before you begin.  At our office I could receive good advice from staff to help clarify solutions.  Artists must call on your own personal ideas that may take many sketches before you have a clear path for what you what to do. 

I loved creating designs that solved clients requirements and designing buildings that would be around long after I’m gone.  Now I love being an artist and I haven’t looked back.  There are no deadlines, client demands or budgets to deal with, only whatever time you what to dedicate to a painting and how well you can do it.  As an architect I was always drawing straight lines.  No more straight lines for me.  The faster, looser, the better in watercolors.  Less detail, more fun.  There is satisfaction in both professions when you do something you are proud of.  Both creations will stand the test of time.  There are so many reasons to be positive and create things of beauty.  That is what makes life worth living.  Be happy, love people, do things you enjoy, share the beauty of life.

Jim Heroux is a professional watercolor artist and an award winning design architect.  His buildings and inspired designs can be found in 26 different states. 

Since his retirement from architecture, watercolor painting has given him the opportunity to excel in a completely different art form.  He is a member or the Great Plains Watercolor Society and has won several awards for his paintings in the South Dakota Masterworks Competition over the last four years. In 2014 Jim was selected to show work his work in the SD Governor’s 6th Biennial Art Exhibition that toured South Dakota for two years.   His work is shown at the EastBank Art Gallery, at 8th and Railroad Center, in Sioux Falls. 

Jim also teaches beginning and intermediate watercolor classes  during the Spring, Summer and Fall. He has taught watercolor classed in Destin, Florida where he and his wife winter.

2 Replies to “From Architect to Artist”

  1. Very inspirational!
    Your talent and skill are wonderful, but most of all your heart is coming through.
    Thanks for giving me and others the vision to go on from our architecture bubble…
    Yes, there is MORE in store… just live the journey and process.
    You’re doing that!
    Best wishes my friend.

Leave a Reply