Jeffrey BlandJeffrey Bland is one of those people whom one might call a modern day Renaissance man. As an architectural designer and draftsman, Bland looks around in his environment for ideas on style and improvement. For example, he didn’t buy bamboo brushes to do his Sumi-e Japanese ink painting, he crafted his own bamboo brushes using deer and elk hair. He pursues his curiosity.

Born in Queens, N.Y., Bland showed design talent at an early age and in high school, his art teacher influenced him with her encouragement.

“She pushed me to draw objects and subjects I was uncomfortable with or felt I couldn’t do,” he said. “I have always had an interest in art and that led me into architecture.”

He received an associate’s degree in architectural design and engineering theory and ended up working for a mechanical, architectural, consulting and engineering firm as a mechanical designer and draftsman.

“After school there were positions open in the architectural and mechanical disciplines. The salary for the mechanical position was paying more than the architectural position so being young and single I went the mechanical route, but always maintained my love for art and would draw, paint and sculpt as a hobby,” he said.

As a mechanical designer he became part of the design team for new work and renovations of HVAC systems for commercial and federal buildings, including the United Nations building and World Trade Center in New York, the patent and trademark office complex in Alexandria, the Forensic Medical Center of Maryland, air traffic control towers, and renovation of the Pentagon.

He said the most challenging part of what he does is finding resources to help him figure out something he wants to do but has no idea where to begin.

“As a volunteer, I designed a layout grid of Pleasant Grove Park for Old Farm Day to accurately place all the exhibitors and assure they would all fit,” he said. “I started with Google Earth, took accurate dimensions and then drafted it in AutoCAD.” His design training and skills have added to his perspective. “I like the mystery and challenge of solving the problem to achieve a hands-on approach to projects.  And they keep me physically and mentally active.”

Bland’s skills have saved him and his wife a lot of money when he designs and makes items that are unique and would be cost prohibitive if they purchased them. 

“When my wife, Jackie, and I go shopping and she says, ‘Oh, I like that,’ my response is usually, ‘I can create, draw or build that,’ like the sewing table with two drop leaf sections I just built for her.”

Bland and his wife designed their last two homes, one in Fauquier County and their present home in Fluvanna. His present residence is a modular home that he and his wife designed and then sent to the modular builder to see if it would work with their manufacturing procedures.  When the plans were sent back for review, Bland made the changes in AutoCAD and sent them back. As a result, they offered him a job to work at home as a designer and draftsman to help with other custom homes. It kept him active part-time at the start of his retirement.

His next design project will most likely be designing and building an art studio in his basement so he has a clean area to pursue his painting as opposed to his woodworking shop, which he said is generally dusty. Creating a space for painting brings him full circle back to artistic passions. He has worked in oils and acrylics in the past and his favorite subjects are trees, clouds and animals. When not getting sidetracked by other commitments, Bland said he wants to do his Sumi-e ink painting.

“Unlike other forms of painting, it is different approach. You have to feel the energy through your body and translate it through the brush to the work. I understand the method,” he said. It is a much different style of painting. What looks like effortless simplicity of delicate shapes takes painstaking practice in order to complete one stroke. “Once the stroke has been laid on the paper, you have to live with it,” he said.

“I guess the drafting side of my professional job has helped sustain my interest in art and drawing.  Traveling and seeing what other artists are creating inspires me to explore other mediums,” he said.
Bland is a dedicated hobbyist who also makes bowls, chess pieces, pens, and stools on a wood turning lathe. Photography is also a lifetime passion, and when he started a family, he recalls setting up a dark room in a bathroom. He also participated in courses at community colleges in art and welding.