"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Artist gets joy and gives joy with his sketching of homes

By on August 24, 2019 in Arts with 0 Comments
Mogens Bach, at his drawing table: “Then I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to draw the house?”

Story by Marlene Farrell

Photos by Kevin Farrell

Mogens Bach is a relatively new board member of Cascade Medical Foundation (CMF), but he’s been putting his artistic talent to work for their cause. 

His sketches of homes were such a hit at the auction of the Cascade Golf Classic in June that CMF asked him if he’d also sketch the homes of the 24th Annual Home and Garden Tour as a thank you gift to the owners.

He generously agreed to committing many hours to the effort.

Mogens’ art has a scientific element to it, deriving from his engineering background, first in aeronautics and then in construction.

Born and raised in Copenhagen, he came to the U.S. to work for one of the big airplane manufacturers, but in the ’70s, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas were laying off workers. 

He was given the advice to, “Go back to Denmark.” Undeterred, Mogens broadened his job search, finding himself a gig as a draftsman for San Francisco subway station projects.

A hard worker, he rose through the ranks of one company and started his own when he was 32. For 43 years, he worked and lived in Tiburon, with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. In 1992, he met his wife, Mary Catherine. 

The drawing skills learned as a draftsman mostly incubated during his busy career. 

“After retirement we were gypsies for a couple years,” he said. A stay in a family cabin in Plain gave them a taste of this area. 

Before they came to stay for good, Mogens and Mary Catherine spent one year in Copenhagen, speaking “Danglish” to each other, and enjoying the countryside and city alike. 

It was there that Mogens stumbled into sketching. He visited a home where his shipbuilding ancestors had lived in the 1700s. He journaled, took photos and painted its likeness. 

“Then I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to draw the house? It’d be more personal. Friends told me it looked pretty good.” 

Mogens started drawing friends’ houses and other buildings. “I made about 50 sketches during that year stay in Denmark.”

Now Mogens sketches for fun and for hire in his free time.

Each new project begins with photographing the home, which can be challenging. Sloping yards and prolific shade trees make roof lines and exterior details hard to capture. 

Back home on a light table, he captures the basic outlines from the photo onto vellum and then transfers those lines to his drawing paper. 

Next, with the photo propped nearby, he uses a steady hand and an assortment of pens ranging in tip width from 0.03 to 0.8mm. 

Mogens draws every board, window frame, roof tile and leaf of landscaping freehand. This exhaustive level of detail brings the home to life.

Mogens draws every board, window frame, roof tile and leaf of landscaping freehand. This exhaustive level of detail brings the home to life.

“I don’t draw any lines using a ruler. I use a ruler only to block areas so I can shade without accidentally going over.”

He shared some of the techniques he’s learned over the years. 

“Once I get all the right angles, I shade to add another dimension. I keep the trees lighter so the house doesn’t get lost against the background. I finish with a darkening line to make certain features pop.”

It’s hard to imagine using black ink to make the hues of pale gray that appear in his sketches. “Old pens are handy because their ink is lighter.”

Affable and dapper, Mogens is a people person as much as he is the solitary artist. “I like to chat and get to know the owners.” 

However, sometimes in Denmark he sketched the houses of strangers. “I thought I should knock and show them my drawing, but I’m not a salesman. I don’t like rejection.”

These days he doesn’t have to sell himself; business is finding him. 

Mogens is giving back by being on the all-volunteer board of CMF. “The Foundation isn’t small. It donates in the six figures. “When I was invited to join, I agreed. There are a lot of good people on the board,” he said.

CMF’s mission is to assist Cascade Medical to achieve high quality healthcare, primarily through the purchase of medical equipment, but also through programmatic support.

Mogens, now 74 years old, exudes healthy well-being. One of the keys is his sketching, which takes about a day and a half per house. “It’s therapy.” 

Mogens is truly living “the good life,” doing something that benefits others and his community, while also helping himself.

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