ARC / Connect

Methods of Making

04.10.13 / Douglas Shilo, LEED AP

Marks studio, complete with brushes, paint, homemade easel, music, and a beer

I recently had lunch with Mark Diethelm, an architectural designer at ARC, to discuss a rumor that has been going around the office.  Rumor has it – Mark paints. Not with Photoshop. Not with an iPad. We’re talking horse hair, oil, and an easel! 

I decided to sit down with Mark and ask him a few questions:

In a world dominated by technology, you choose to use your hands to create. Why would you do that?

(laughs) I get burned out from too much Revit and CAD. You can lose the tactile feel of making, the sense of real things being created. When I get home, I don’t feel like sitting in front of a screen anymore, so I paint.

Why painting instead of, say, leather working?

I watched my grandmother paint landscapes and furniture when I was young. I liked to read Make a World, by Ed Emberley. I love that book even today. My high school was basically an art school with some math and science. So, I grew up painting and drawing. Now, it’s a great way for me to unwind; it’s meditative, it’s creative, and I get to use my hands.

What tends to catch your eye?  

I like to focus in on old buildings. There is a lost art in these amazing carvings, eaves, and details. It is so easy to pass by them. I have a strange fascination with water towers and fire escapes. I also enjoy exploring the skyline of cityscapes and tree canopies, and the navigation between the natural and the man-made.

LeCorbusier once said that mornings are for painting, and that afternoons are for architecture. When do you paint?

Well, it’s the opposite for me. I have a normal work day, so painting comes at night. I prefer dusk anyway, since you get both a deep purple sky and interior lights in buildings. This time of day makes for the best shot, whether renderings, photographing, or painting.

What relationship do you see between painting and architecture?

Hand drawing is another lost art. I enjoy looking at the beautiful drawings our principals did by hand. We can’t replicate that with computers – we tend to think less about what we’re doing when the copy/paste command makes everything so easy. Physically drawing brick coursing and details line-by-line forces you to think about what you’re doing. So, the loss of hand drafting contributes to the loss of those details I love to paint. I was forced to draft by hand in my first two years of college, but that’s less common in schools now. I believe that it is important to sketch ideas on paper before moving to the computer for documentation.

Do you have the viewer in mind, or is this more of a personal exercise?

I definitely paint for personal exploration, and I don’t have any viewer in mind. Problem is, the walls in my apartment started to fill up, so I started to paint gifts for friends and family. Now there’s a show, but this just sort of happened, and I didn’t paint with the intent of showing anything.

Mark is a featured artist at “RAW Boston” on April 28th. RAW events are multi-faceted artistic showcases. Each event features a film screening, musical performance, fashion show, art gallery, performance art and a featured hairstylist and makeup artist. These artists are all local, hand-picked talent all of whom have been chosen to feature at RAW. For more information go to:

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