It would not be accurate to say that Scott Tulay moonlights. The architect from Northampton spends a good part of his evenings and weekends drawing, and he makes a little money from it, but drawing is much more a passion for him than a second job.

Then there is the connection between his daily work of creating plans for new structures and the work outside of working hours of making free-form black and white drawings in which he plays with building forms and spatial dimensions to create otherworldly vistas and ambiguous landscapes.

As Tulay puts it, he once described his work to a friend, saying, “I spend my day getting details on how to put each part of a building together, then at night I spend my time to explode.

Although he drew on and off for years, Tulay, who graduated from Northampton High School in 1988, has become more serious about his art over the past 10-12 years and has regularly been noticed for his work both at the regional level and beyond, with exhibitions. in Boston, New York, San Francisco, London and Berlin.

He is currently presenting a solo exhibition in Venice, Italy, at the same time as the Venice Biennale, a prestigious art festival that dates back to the 1890s.

Tulay, who works out of a studio in Holyoke, laughs as the gallerist who exhibits his work in Venice, famed Italian photographer Michele Alassio, “basically said to me, ‘I’m giving you the best time in the world for a show , in the best city in the world for art!’ How could I say no?”

Using a mixture of graphite, ink, pen and paint, as well as the occasional pastel, Tulay creates layered compositions that offer depth, detail and energy, with intricate, interlocking lines of contrast and color. different thickness. Some of these works are drawn from his architectural background and feature building outlines, barn interiors, trellises, and other somewhat identifiable settings.

But these “structures” are placed in fantastic settings that can seem post-apocalyptic or simply ambiguous; many images, such as “Explode” and “Untethered”, would be perfectly at home in a graphic fantasy novel or a Japanese animated film. They are often set against swirling shapes resembling clouds or some sort of mist which add further ambiguity to the design.

“I really enjoy playing with perspective and spatial relationships, breaking up conventional aspects of building construction and flipping or knocking them upside down,” Tulay said in a recent interview at his studio.

“Another way to do it is to process the light,” he said, “so as a viewer sometimes you don’t really know where you are in relation to the drawing.”

In fact, one of his earliest inspirations for the design came from seeing the slatted sides of a tobacco barn on his grandfather’s Hadley farm.

“You come from the sun and inside everything is cool and shady, and there is this ethereal light that passes through [the walls]and you have this post and beam construction… I always liked that.

Tulay also constructs imaginary landscapes that may suggest canyon walls and mountains, but again with great uncertainty.

“Weathered Specters,” for example, features what appears to be a giant rocky chasm with a milky pool at the bottom; a broken train track ends in a rocky abutment near the bottom, while at the top of the design a kind of rickety (stone?) walkway stretches over the pool. And it’s a stilt house above the catwalk?

A layered construction

These intricate designs are the result of an intricate composition process. Tulay starts with white paper which he masks in places with masking tape or liquid frisket, a material he compares to cement-rubber, then he applies paint, ink, etc. with a variety of brushes and other materials such as pieces of lace; the latter adds splashes of shadow and tendrils of black to the drawing.

At some point he will remove the tape or frisket to keep the white lines on the drawing but modify them to give them more depth.

Sometimes he covers sections of his paper with gauze and paints over them to add tiny, intricate lines to a drawing; he will use cotton balls to apply a layer of graphite powder to add depth to the work. His website has a short video that demonstrates some of these techniques.

As for the subject, Tulay says he “tries to strike a balance between abstraction and more detail. More recently, I have tried to incorporate these architectural details more into my landscapes.

He also seeks a balance between being an architect and an artist. He works with Juster Pope Frazier, the Northampton firm that designed the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst and has also designed civic and university buildings in Massachusetts and other states.

While at Northampton High School, Tulay became interested in a career in design; after graduating, he entered an architectural studies program at Tufts University. His studies included art classes each semester at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he focused on drawing, from buildings to figures to landscapes (he also did some painting). watercolor). In addition, he studied art history at Tufts.

“I wanted to go to higher education [for architecture], but I knew I should have a portfolio, so studying art was a big part of that,” he said. “Since then, I’ve enjoyed drawing by hand, including at work,” although much architectural design is now done on the computer, Tulay adds.

And over the past 15 years or so, he noted, the more he drew: “The more I realized ‘I don’t have to think as much as an architect’ when I do this.”

He also found inspiration in the work of artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, the German painter of the Romantic era; Victor Hugo (the French writer was also a prolific illustrator); and local hero Leonard Baskin, especially Baskin’s woodcuts.

Today, Tulay hopes to build on some of the relationships he has established over the past few years by exhibiting his art more widely. For example, he met Alassio, the Italian photographer who now exhibits his drawings in Venice, through an exhibition in Berlin that the two of them took part in a few years ago, in which they showed their work side by side.

“He has become a friend and a good supporter, and I am grateful to him for that,” said Tulay, who traveled to Venice in April with his wife and two daughters to attend the opening of his exhibition – his first visit to Italy.

If he could live entirely as an artist, he might just opt ​​for that, he noted. That said, Tulay added, “I love working as an architect and I love being an artist. I like to think I’ve found a pretty good balance between the two.

To learn more about Scott Tulay’s work, visit

Steve Pfarrer can be contacted at [email protected]


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