Architect Michael Imber has painted thousands of watercolors—poetic scenes that display soft, finely-honed architectural details, vibrant, inventively blended colors, and a keen eye for texture, line, and luminosity. But he rarely shares them with anyone. Displaying, he notes, is not the point. It’s about digging into a building or a place, and really being there. And not just recording something, but understanding it, and bringing his own humanity to it.
“You’re forcing yourself to really see what you’re drawing—all your senses come alive,” says Imber, whose San Antonio practice, Michael G. Imber Architects, creates traditional designs across North America. “You’re smelling the sage of the plain or the dampness of the river below your feet or the heat of the sun on your back, or the wind.”
Imber started creating this type of work in high school, when his aunt Margaret Hynes, an artist, gave him a watercolor kit. He’s used the medium as a tool ever since, sometimes butting heads with instructors or colleagues who wanted him to follow their proscribed rendering methods. It’s especially powerful today, when digital rendering is king, and the artistry of architecture often cedes to technological innovation.
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WRITTEN BY SAM LUBELL
This story appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of MILIEU.