November marks an important milestone for David Salkin: he’s presenting his very own work for the first time in his West Town studio space. A collection of hand-drawn sketches that stand in contrast to his studio’s predominantly digital body of work, “Drawings” offers an introspective look into the designer’s creative process. In conversation with Newcity, Salkin dives into the details of an unexpected exhibition born out of a moment of self-reflection, that becomes a significant turning point in both his creative evolution and in his studio’s trajectory.
Tell us about this exhibition: How do the hand-drawn sketches on display relate to the studio’s predominantly digital body of work, and what insights do they provide into your design process?
I used to draw, build and experiment with materials my whole life, and gained other hand skills in architecture school. Luckily I only use programs like Photoshop and Illustrator as non-generative design tools, not as co-designers, and they are invaluable and completely necessary. But with drawing, I can produce iterative ideas, and intuitive gestures, play with colors and transparency, invent new shapes and spatial relationships, and then, the best thing, is that the drawing can exist, physically, for me to reference or add to, not just disappear in the cloud.
A few weeks ago I realized: “Oh, no! Have I not drawn anything in six months? The only time I’ve used a pen is to sign the check at dinner. But I have sketchbooks and supplies all around. I have random artistic impulses and design solutions, but now I instinctively go to the computer or type a note on my phone. The idea is then diluted, never properly developed, and usually just… dies. This is a cycle I need to break.”
Why did you decide to present drawings on paper at this particular moment?
I didn’t have a November exhibition lined up at the studio, so decided to take an inventory of some work on paper hidden away in drawers or sketchbooks. I laid them out and didn’t gain much insight, but decided to make it a “show.” It’s scary to put your work out there, and I immediately regretted it. But it helped me reflect by thinking objectively of the drawings as someone else’s work on the exhibition side of my little space. Then came the gallery visitors, the students, artists and collectors who make comments and ask questions. I was mortified to say: “Oh, this is my own work,” but I got over it fast and am thinking of it as a focus group for what work is the most compelling or successful.
This is probably a one-off show, as I am so enriched by the studio’s exhibition program. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to be more proactive at getting pen to paper or designing patterns or compositions just for the hell of it, to build an inventory of ideas and keep my skills honed.
The exhibition seems to act as a pause to reflect on the studio’s trajectory. How will this taking inventory inform and shape the direction of David Salkin Creative?
Most of my pattern designs are intended at multiple scales and can function, for example, as a design for a scarf, or paving pattern for a garden, or a way to organize residential housing blocks in a city. The latter two scales of architecture and urban design are what I am most interested in now, but I now know that working and processing at the scale of the marker-and-sketchbook will help me do my best thinking and produce the best work.
What are you most excited about, moving forward?
I’ll also continue to enjoy the collaborative work, building on previous collaborations with a luxury leather goods designer, Pakistani block-printers, manufacturers, weavers, architects and decorators. I’m not sure what comes next, but let’s just say that I am constantly reminded that there are opportunities for better design in everyday life.
“Drawings” is on view at David Salkin Creative, 1709 West Chicago, through December 23.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com