‘B-but, Mr Jimson, I w-want to be an artist.’
‘Of course you do,’ I said, ‘everybody does once. But they get over it, thank God, like the measles and the chickenpox. Go home and go to bed and take some hot lemonade and put on three blankets and sweat it out.’
‘But Mr J-Jimson, there must be artists.’
‘Yes, and lunatics and lepers, but why go and live in an asylum before you’re sent for? If you find life a bit dull at home,’ I said, ‘and want to amuse yourself, put a stick of dynamite in the kitchen fire, or shoot a policeman. Volunteer for a test pilot, or dive off Tower Bridge with five bob’s worth of roman candles in each pocket. You’d get twice the fun at about one-tenth of the risk.’
Eugene Raskin’s Architecturally Speaking treats basic aspects of design rarely encountered these days in undergraduate education; notions of scale and proportion, for example, discussed in light-hearted fashion as are the book’s illustrations by cartoonist Robert Osborn. This one (with apologies for the splice; the drawing spans the book’s gutter) offers a corrective to notions of originality: what was true in the 1950s is equally true today, if somewhat less obvious. Far too many architects are trying to be different but all in more or less the same way. Where’s the fun in that? While reading the Joyce Cary novel (of a decade earlier than Raskin) The Horse’s Mouth, eccentric hardly describes the principal character Gulley Jimson, whose point of view Cary exemplifies with the passage above.
His point is simply that all those folks who’ve convinced themselves of their originality haven’t got a clue. “you should be different, just like me!”
Incidentally, I think the Community Collection has a painting by Jimson. Damned lucky if they do.