CSA co-founder Kristy Bishop got together with spring artist, Alan Jackson, and learned so much about his drawing process and much more.  Read on to find out what tools Alan uses, how Aikido affects his work, and how he divides his time between his day job as an architect and being a full time artist (something many artists do).

KB: What is an average day like working in your studio?

AJ: I divide my time between working on architectural projects in my home office and working on drawings. I usually work on architectural projects during the day. However, if there is some busy work to do on a drawing project such as sanding downwood panels or cutting paper or laying out a drawing, I do that during the day. I usually do final drawings after supper when I am more relaxed and have the tasks of the day out of the way.

KB: Are there any special tools that you use when working that you cannot live without?

AJ: I layout the drawings on a drawing board with a parallel bar, an adjustable triangle, scale, lead holder. The pen I’m currently using is the Sakura Micron 005. Prior to that my favorite pen was the Rotring Artpen recommended by Hirona Matsuda at Artist and Craftsman.

KB: You’ve previously mentioned that you set boundaries or rules for each piece.  Can you give some examples of what these are and the challenges that you give yourself?

AJ: Well, such as “no marks touching” if they are small marks, or “no lines touching” if they are long wavy lines…and the spacing has to be “just right- not too close, not too far apart.”

KB: I know you are an architect and that is a huge influence on your work. When and how did you start making these intricate drawings? Is this something that you have always done?

AJ: Around 1979 or 1980, I started doing drawings in a sketchbook I got on a trip to DC. After work, I wanted to do something other than architectural drawings – something more spontaneous. The sketchbook has gridded paper and so I started just drawing lines in an automatic way, but the grid provided a structure to the spontaneous drawing exercise so they became bi-laterally symmetrical compositions which I composed as I went along.

KB: Besides being an artist and an architect, what do you like to do in your spare time?

AJ: Off the clock time is spent doing Aikido, walking, watching movies on Netflix, listening to music, or reading. I also take weekend trips to visit friends, family or going to Aikido seminars.

KB: How does Aikido affect your art?

AJ: The physical exercise is a good counterpoint to having to stand still and draw. It has taught me how to pursue relaxation which helps keep me focused and helps prevent my hand from shaking when I’m doing the meticulous line drawings.

When I began doing the large drawings that were in the Under the Radar show at the City Gallery in 2011, I thought about “whole-body connection” which is the emphasis of all martial arts training. I worked on drawing long straight and wavy lines by moving my whole body rather than simply my arm. All good, relaxed efficient movement employs whole-body movement – and originates from the “center.” It keeps me focused and thinking about precision.



Alan Jackson is one of the Spring Season artists.





Spring artist, Alan Jackson invited us into his studio located in his home in Mt. Pleasant.  He creates his work in the evenings and sets certain rules and limitations for each piece that he is working on. In addition, he always completes each pen and ink drawing in one sitting.  Line by line, dot by dot, hour by hour, Alan creates his intricate work. This is pretty extraordinary seeing as how precise and meticulous his work can be.  

Alan uses many specific tools borrowed from architectural drafting such as an A. W. Faber Lead Pointer and a Caran d’Ache fixpencil lead holder.  This pencil is not your average number 2.  It yields extremely sharp points and lines and was used prominently when architectural drafts were done by hand. Even erasing is a precise task.  Alan uses an erasing shield to avoid unnecessary marks on his work and, believe it or not, he uses an electric eraser as well!  Compared to the electric eraser, the horse hair drawing brush on the left may look look archaic, but it is equally as necessary for keeping a clean and flawless drawing.  Alan uses it to brush off eraser dust from his work.


Alan is one of the spring artists.





Inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere and today we get to share what inspires spring artist, Alan Jackson.


There is perfection in drafting; in geometry; in numbers.” -Agnes Martin


“Aesthetics is for the artist like ornithology is for the birds.” -Barnett Newman


Baroque/Classical and Jazz all remind me to enjoy what I do and to sometimes feel euphoric about it.


My teachers inspire me to never stop learning and to pay attention to the details.  My training partners inspire me to be precise, effective and to challenge myself.  Aikido has taught me to be observant but not to be distracted by the obvious. Some things are hidden in plain sight.  Taiji has taught me to study how to relax. True relaxation is much more difficult than one would expect. It has also taught me to invest in failure because that’s when unlearning and learning occur.


left to right, Pliny’s Villa, Leon Krier, Villa Mairea, Alvar Alto, Atlantis, Leon Krier

Through my training as an architect, drafting was part of the daily process. I enjoy the care and meticulousness of drafting and creating something by hand.  The idea for many compositions developed from an effort to combine drafting and freehand drawing.   Each piece is conceived and initiated with a set of limitations while the final execution is intended to be a spontaneous, and creative semi-automatic process allowing for progression and innovation within the limitations. The emphasis is on executing each line with precision.

Influences include Louis Kahn, the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and the theorist Leon Krier.  Each of their drawing styles inspire me to focus on how a line is executed.


My father taught me to work hard and enjoy family. I honor his memory by enlisting my grandkids to collaborate with me long distance on art projects. We send sketchbooks back and forth. I’m inspired by their contributions.

My friend since childhood Harold Daughtry taught me to appreciate fine art and to guard against mediocrity. My memories of him give me the courage to discard work and the strength to start over.  My good friend Allan Wendt inspires me through conversation and his commitment to his art.  My family inspires me.  My wife Pat and sons Patrick and Daniel inspire me. They have always been supportive while being patient, and provide a sense of humor when they sense it is needed.


Walking inspires me to periodically look at each piece of work with fresh eyes and not get complacent.  Driving the back roads or taking a trip has the same affect.  It provides an opportunity to step away and be objective.

Alan Jackson is one of the Spring Season artists.