Douglas Sydnor

(Photo courtesy of Douglas Sydnor)

April 4, 2017

David McGlothlin

Diving into the art of an architect

Each weekend, Douglas Sydnor, FAIA, spends a few hours exploring his artistic roots, which progressed from doodling as a kid to featuring his art today in exhibitions across the Valley.

During the week, he works for his recently restarted architectural firm, Douglas Sydnor Architect + Associates,  and has a diverse portfolio of projects in Greater Phoenix such as the Sky Harbor International Airport Command Center and the McDowell Road Linear Park in Scottsdale.

After hours, Sydnor is an award-winning artist, published author, mentor and longtime community volunteer.

His artwork has been featured in more than 20 exhibits and museums, including his most recent solo exhibition titled “Emotions II” at the American Institute of Architects’ Arizona Gallery in September. Sydnor has also served as the chairman of the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association’s “Young Artists and Authors Showcase” for the last nine years, which aims to facilitate opportunities for aspiring high school artists and writers.

AZRE: What role has art had on your life?

Art was always a big part of my youth with classes and led to some regional art exhibitions, a few ribbons and selling a few pieces. At the university, I took a detour to earn a Bachelor in Architecture from ASU and then a Masters from Harvard University, followed by over 35 years of architectural practice in Arizona. In recent years, I’ve thought a great deal about getting back to the art and finally sat down about 18-months ago to get it underway.

AZRE: Why did you decide to revisit your artistic roots?

This new focus on art is very therapeutic and energizing, as it gives me an entirely new perspective on the visual world. I have always loved the act of creating and the act of making, and the art is a wonderful outlet outside the office.

AZRE: When did you choose your preferred mediums and style?

There were experiments with different mediums on different materials and of different sizes. Ultimately it led to 12×12-inch collages on canvas boards, as it offered a wide range of unpredictable possibilities. There was also an attraction to collage as I had never worked with it before and knew it would be uncomfortable. It motivated me as I believed that it would help me explore new compositions and relationships, thereby informing the architecture.

AZRE: Who or what do you draw inspiration from?

I read quite a bit. I’ve been through 20 art books in the last year. I focused on 20th century modern American art. Then I started gravitating towards specific artists to learn more about their stories. I find myself channeling Richard Diebenkorn or Francis Bacon or Fritz Scholder’s work, but now I’m focusing more on discovering my own voice in my work, which is still early in the process.

AZRE: What motivates your art?

I try to think about what matters. I want to get to the root of an idea more than the technique and the aesthetics of it. How can the art highlight one of the disturbing trends in society, inform people and lead them down a better path?

Online galleries of Sydnor’s after hour creations and more information can be found at douglas-sydnor.squarespace.com.