Tanvi Buch has always been a creatively inclined person. Early in life, she had a passion for architecture and a desire to pursue it as a career.
“I didn’t know what being an architect meant,” the Los Altos resident said, “but I knew I wanted to be one in high school.”
Buch has built a career in commercial architecture, designing office and retail buildings. However, “in the back of my head, I also wanted to do watercolor,” she said. “I’ve always been drawn to the art form of watercolor. For instance, all the greeting cards I’ve ever bought in my life have been watercolor images.”
Buch didn’t want to wait any longer when it came to creating art.
“The older you get, the harder it is to start something new,” she said. “Even though I was thinking about watercolor, I thought it was too late, I wouldn’t be any good, and I don’t want to be no good. I just thought about it for about 15 years until a friend gave me a watercolor set. And even then, I kept those watercolor supplies for about five years before doing anything about it.”
Buch started five years ago and said she enjoyed it even though her skills were lacking.
Buch’s philosophies for architecture and watercolor blend with one another. For her watercolors, she loves to paint buildings.
“I look at buildings and shadows on buildings, so I’m really drawn to light and shadow and the patterns they create on buildings,” she said.
When designing buildings, Buch said she likes to incorporate plenty of windows, wood and natural light, because the combination “changes how the materials inside look at different times of the day.”
Moreover, the design contributes to her goal for every building.
“The same feeling of beauty you get from the outside should be the same feeling you get from the inside,” she said. “I’m setting you up for an experience that starts from the street and brings you in.”
Learning from a legend
A watercolor that has a special place in Buch’s heart was born three years ago. At that point, she was two years into her watercolor journey and keeping track of websites of established artists whose style appealed to her.
One of the artists was the late Charles Reid. Buch said she discovered Reid was running watercolor workshops on the East Coast; she was particularly interested in a workshop that lasted five days.
Buch was unsure about attending, believing it was still early in her watercolor journey and she was not yet good enough to study under a legend. She also considered the cost of travel.
Buch’s husband, Premal, encouraged her to go: “If you really like his work and you have the opportunity to go you should take it,” he said.
So Buch went.
“It was incredible. Just to be in the same room as him, to watch him, and then to try to do what he had done,” she recalled. “There was one building that was a block away from the studio where we set up our easels. He first demonstrated a painting of that building and it was beautiful.”
Then Reid had the students paint the same building. Buch’s rendition of the building, the Hopper House in Rockland, Maine, remains her favorite painting.
“Something came over me. Maybe I was super inspired, but I was in a rare mode,” she said. “The painting came out perfect. I love that painting; I feel like it’s probably my best work. It’s especially great that Charles Reid liked it. That meant a lot to me.”
The trip was a transformative experience for Buch, and she was glad to have taken the opportunity, because Reid died the following year. Buch continues to be inspired by Reid and is grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him.
“If he was around, I would go back and do another class with him,” she said.
Planning a painting
As for her own work, most of it has been exhibited in Los Altos. She often displays her art at Red Berry Coffee Bar on Main Street, which partners with Gallery 9 next door to manage the coffee shop’s art wall.
Now Buch the freelance architect – who has one house under construction and a second-story addition in the design stage – is seeking to design another house.
She is also taking commissions for watercolor paintings, especially buildings and homes, because she is most familiar with those subject matters.
Looking ahead, Buch said she is eager to improve her watercolor skills, particularly planning and focus.
“I am very fascinated by the planning that one must do before picking up a paintbrush,” she said. “Beginners – and I would consider myself an advanced beginner – tend to sort of jump into painting a scene. But there’s a lot more that goes into the planning of the painting; much more than one would think.”
Buch added that there is always more to learn about watercolor. The deeper she delves, the more depth she discovers.
“Of course, I want to get better,” she said. “I want to love the paintings I paint. Over time, I love them more than I used to love them, but I don’t think I’m at a point where I love everything I paint. And I hope I never get there, actually, because then I’ll stop.”
For the people of Los Altos, Buch wants to impart one lesson she learned from her watercolor journey: “If fear or fear of failure is stopping you from doing anything, just do it. Don’t waste time. I was scared about failing in watercolor for so many years and I feel like I could have started 10 years earlier. But I’m glad I started now.”
To view Buch’s artwork, visit tanvibuch.com.