Chet Lawson: Architect Turned Artist


When new Anderson Artists Guild member Chet Lawson enrolled at Clemson University decades ago, he wanted to be artist. “My dad told me, ‘You’ll starve to death.’” After lots of thought—and inspired by Michelangelo, who was an architect as well as a painter and sculptor—he majored in architecture with a minor in fine arts.


That led to a 40-year career, mostly at Daniel Engineering (now Fluor Engineering) in Greenville. His specialty was putting together all the design pieces for presentations to clients and competitions. “I was the TV version what people think architects are—I came up with the big ideas,” he said. He taught himself to do renderings, which used to be made with casein paint. “It took a month to do one back in the day,” he said.


Some magazines—Popular Mechanics, Country Home, and Southern Living—were impressed by his skill and hired him to make illustrations for house plans they sold. “I did that at night,” he said, adding that those funds paid for several trips to Europe.


Lawson retired four years ago but maintains his license for occasional projects. The unexpected death of his wife three years ago, followed by the pandemic, upended his life. He built a couple of musical instruments but lost interest. Then he picked up watercolors.


He has taught himself by studying the masters, especially Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, and John Singer Sargent. He’s a realist who works mainly from photographs.


Through word of mouth, people are discovering him. “Last month I sold three pieces,” he said.

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