The Art of Engineering

“Creativity takes courage” –  Henri Matisse (1869-1954). 

 

Henri Matisse was a French artist known for his use of colour and his fluid, brilliant and original draftsmanship. As a draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and painter, Matisse is one of the best-known artists of the 20th century. His mastery of the expressive language of colour and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.

It is interesting that history documents Henri Matisse as both a draftsman and an artist.  This demonstrates that it is not necessarily what you do, but how you do it that defines you as an artist. You can take a painting class and be told how to paint, but does that in and of itself make you an artist? Art is about creativity and about taking pride in the results of your efforts.

How often these days do you associate engineering, or drafting, as a true art form?

Wikipedia defines art as “a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power”.  In my mind, this describes what we do as engineers.  We are providing visual solutions as an expression of our imaginative and technical skills.

I love my job.  I love being presented a problem and finding creative and innovative ways to solve it.  I’m passionate about even my day to day tasks and get excited when I get to present the results of our work to others.  I remember as a work experience student in high school working in an architect’s office,  I would be expected to sit and practice my printing for hours and hours.  At the time I didn’t appreciate why I was asked to do it, but now I’m certain that the experience helped mold my career.  It taught me that presentation is important.  It helped me realize that it doesn’t take any additional time to present something well, it just takes a passion, a commitment, and a lot of practice.

Have we lost the passion as technical designers that seemed to be common in the days of Henri Matisse? When did following a specification become more important than being creative and taking pride in our work?  You can be taught the fundamentals of engineering and be provided a series of guidelines to follow, but real engineering comes from passion and creativity.  This is something that I reinforce and encourage to my team on a regular basis.  Passion can help you overcome any challenge, and taking pride in what you do will ensure that others will appreciate the art that is created as a result.

 

Written by: Donovan Nielsen, P.Eng., President/Principal

Originally published in LinkedIn.