When in doubt…
When I started my architectural education, there were times when I doubted that the work that people in my class did was really their own. It was just too good. The NASA practice that we used to do was just as frustrating. No matter how hard I tried, other people simply managed to work faster and more efficiently! This experience was like a rude awakening for me. Back home, there were very few people I compared my work to and they were my teachers so it was only natural that they were better. In college, there were so many people with different talents and skills that the whole spectrum of comparison itself changed. Good drawings were no longer something to feel good about, they were mandatory. What was looked up to was "perfection."
This feeling of coming out of the well and jumping into the sea was frightening. There was so much I was exposed to in a short time span that I thought I'd just be smothered by it. It was chaos. Every time I started to practice or work, I would think about how everyone else was improving and how slow my own improvement was compared to those guys. Then there were my seniors. Those guys were in a league of their own. I though there was no way I could catch up to them. Being alone only aggravated this feeling. And just when I thought I would probably have to settle for being mediocre, I remembered a talk I had with my teacher once.
During my 12th vacation, I used to go to Mr. Milind Mulik's sketching classes. At first it was just about trying to keep my hand moving, more like just keeping the habit of sketching alive. My former teacher had told me that she had taught me everything that she could and that if I felt like improving, I should go to Mulik sir. So there I was. At the beginning of the class, I didn't really get a chance to see him work. It was always one of his students conducting the class and I didn't have a problem keeping up with them. After a few classes, I saw him sketch for the first time and I knew instantly that there was a difference of skill here that would be impossible to overcome with only talent. It wasn't as though I was seeing his work for the first time, I had seen it countless times before. But seeing him work was very different. His strokes translated effortlessly onto the canvas. It was as though his hands already knew what to do. That was the first time I had seen a master artist at work.
Over the next few weeks I tried my best to raise my drawing to his standard. But it was proving impossible. Normally I could draw very well and I had never really failed to raise the level of my work. But he was just a class apart. During my final week with him, I went to his studio and told him that I was considering studying architecture. I wanted a few tips from him as to how I could prepare for it. The following conversation was probably what got me through the entrance exam and helps me improve even today. The first thing he did was actually show me the difference of maturity in our sketches. He drew a human face the way I would have. And then he sketched it in his own way. That single act helped me understand the difference between our technical skill. He explained that simply drawing something wasn't the key. The most important aspect was "visualization." I had to understand what to draw and more importantly, what to omit! Drawing wasn't only about how I trained myself physically. The most important part was to train my mind.
That little talk helped me pull myself back together. I realized that this was just the beginning. There was no way I could compete with people who had put years of their life into honing their talents. I was still at the shallow end of the pool. There was no point in panicking.
It took me some time. But I finally managed to calm down. I could finally ignore the chaos and concentrate on things that were relevant. I could finally work without any tension. There was still a lot of time. It was still just the beginning. And I was ready for round two…