Art or Architecture? Jack Bialosky Draws The Line

This post was originally published in the 2019 Spring Issue of CAN Journal. 

Jack Bialosky may be an architect by training, but he’s an artist by inclination. “I’ve been drawing and sketching since I was three,” says the patrician-looking 93-year-old. “I always knew I wanted to do that.”

As an architect, Jack founded the award-winning Bialosky and Partners in 1951. His son, Jack Jr., took over the reins nearly thirty years ago. Thus far, however, Jack has sidestepped the dreaded word “retirement,” still putting in three or four days a week at the office.

But when he’s not on the clock, you’ll likely find Jack painting: meticulous acrylics that number in the hundreds, depicting painstakingly rendered structures ranging from pagodas and temples to windmills and barns. No detail is too small: Shingles, pavers, and window panes are rendered so realistically that the work sometimes looks photographic. “My art comes directly out of my architecture training,” Jack says. “I can look at a building and see how it was put together.”

While he always loved to draw, Jack’s practice came into focus in the 1950s, when he was given a blank sketchbook to take with him on a European trip. Eventually, he and his late wife Marilyn became world travelers—and everywhere they traveled, Jack kept a sketchbook by his side. “I sketched wherever we went,” he says, a claim backed up by his stacks of exhausted folios.

Those pen-and-ink drawings form the basis for many, but not all, of Jack’s paintings. Inspiration also comes from pictures he finds online or in books, and photos sent to him by family and friends—often of their own houses, with the request that Jack turn those photos into paintings.

“I paint for the joy of it,” says Jack, who often paints at a plastic drafting table in the corner of his dining room. “I love painting, and I love the way that it connects me to people.”

While buildings are the subject of much of Jack’s work, the occasional landscape also escapes his paint brush. A waterfall he captured in Yugoslavia is one such example, and with its pillar-like trees, rippling water and geometric rock formations, it hearkens back to the Post-Impressionists. “It’s different from most of my work,” Jack says. “Maybe that’s why it’s one of my favorites.”

While Jack’s ability to render castles and cathedrals is nearly flawless, he allows that portraiture remains a weak spot. As a result, he has sought out assistance from Cathy Bryan, coordinator of creative arts and art therapy at Judson Park, the Cleveland Heights retirement community where Jack has lived since 2012.

“He’ll get there,” says Cathy of his efforts. “Jack is a lifelong learner. He is always pushing himself within his practice. Watching him grow is a pleasure.”

Yet Jack, ever humble, resists categorization. “I don’t call myself an artist,” he says. “I’m more like an architect who can draw.”

A retrospective of Jack’s paintings will open at Streeter Gallery at Judson Park, on May 17.

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