The Kansas State campus seems quiet and deserted this year with classes moved to online or hybrid formats. However, students walking into Regnier Hall can catch a glimpse of life and “light” in the showcased work students and faculty have created beyond their Zoom screens.
One such exhibit, “In Search of Light and Simplicity: Seeing Architecture Through Watercolor” by Adulsak “Otto” Chanyakorn, assistant professor in the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, is in the Cassias Gallery in Regnier Hall until April 9. This free exhibit is open to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Chanyakorn said he drew inspiration for the exhibit from how lighting evokes emotion to create ambiance in different famous architectural buildings and his research interest in how people experience place, space and time.
The mix of watercolor and soft graphite pencil sketches were collected over the past two years. Chanyakorn began working at Kansas State in 2019, a semester before the pandemic hit.
Chanyakorn said pre-COVID-19, students in the program pinned up more of their artwork in the halls of Regnier, showcasing it to their peers and family.
“We typically pin up all of the time, but due to COVID some things had to slow down because a lot of students produced things online so they didn’t have the time to print them,” Chanyakorn said. “That’s how it was last spring when everything shut down, but now things are starting to go back to almost normal.”
Chanyakorn said the hardest part of the pandemic for him is not seeing his students in person.
“I had just started to get to know students and people in the department, and it was a really good time, but then it stopped and we had to run things online,” Chanyakorn said. “I think online there are some good things, but most of the time I miss a physical interaction with students, that eye contact in the way that we talk and smile and see each other’s faces, in a way we can’t get online.”
Painting and sketching gives Chanyakorn a break from the screen, making him fully present in his surroundings.
Chanyakorn taught a watercolor class this past semester, having his students come on campus sometimes so they could also immerse themselves in the places they painted.
“I want students to feel, not just see — because I think the word ‘seeing’ is far beyond just with your eyes, but it is in the senses you have,” Chanyakorn said.
Painting also provides Chanyakorn a way to meditate and reflect, particularly this past year.
“In hard times like this, it’s a way to cure myself …” Chanyakorn said. “To remain positive and believe, because I think that the origin of being healthy, mentally healthy, is that you have to start with your own self.”
When Chanyakorn meditates on things, he likes to write down what he’s thinking and feeling from his sketches.
In his non-painting classes, Chanyakorn said he tries to make long studio classes easier on architecture students by alternating work between hand and computer to help their mental energy.
“It’s a fun thing to do; when you’ve been working with a computer for a long time and you have that chance to do something without a computer, it’s kind of refreshing,” Chanyakorn said.
Chanyakorn tells students, “Be kind to yourself,” and said he tries to treat himself and others with kindness.
“All of these things — my teaching, my creative work, my writings — they are embedded in my work,” Chanyakorn said.
People can see more of Chanyakorn’s work on his website at minimaldrawing.com.