From the Religious Studio, General

A Flight Outside the Office


Like any good architect, Mike Lawlor knows how to draw details. And like any good architect, he knows how to do a lot more—because architecture is about details, and it’s about something much more. 

Through a collaborative effort with sci-fi poet John Philip Johnson*, Mike Lawlor has helped grow a world beyond the office, and helped grow one of the earliest prototypes of “graphic poetry”. The project itself is the effort of several artists each illustrating one of Johnson’s sci-fi poems—illustrating in their own style but under the unified theme of the book.


Mike Lawlor’s assigned piece, “After the Changeling Incantation”, is a poem about the metamorphosis of a man into a bird, from living on earth to soaring above it. The process Mike took to turn text and ideas into pictures is illustrative of a distinct form of creative, analytical exploration. In Mike’s own words:

Back in July [our Graphic Designer] gave me a packet of vellum that CRSA was getting rid of. I took the vellum and spent a few weeks just drawing out ideas that I thought might relate to the poem about a man who is transformed into a goose. After a time I had 4 pen and ink drawings that worked well with the storyline of the poem. At that point I got bored with pen and ink and decided to start painting on the vellum with black and white paint. At that point I decided the final 3 images should be paintings instead of illustrations…I watched a lot of videos of birds in flight in an effort to be accurate. The thing I realized by watching birds fly is that man has still to this day not been able to replicate the wings and flight of birds without the use of machinery.  In that way they are superior to us. Of course no bird has ever flown to the moon and back.


The architecture process inside the working world’s walls and the creative process outside it are not wholly separate. There are of course surface similarities, namely, iterative process, brainstorming, design by exploration, refinement and production. Mike notes that “We like to think art and architecture are closely related. I believe this but I keep my belief under my hat…in terms of how a book of illustrated poetry relates to architectural building delivery, in the end its all graphic communication whether its conveying an artistic idea or the instructions on how to build a building. The success of the final product has a lot to do with the how the message is communicated.”

But there is also something intangibly different about work and non-work. There is a spontaneity, freedom, and a magical quality when the confines of the office are removed. Like any good architect, Mike Lawlor goes home from work, but he never stops working.


BookCover*John Philip Johnson is the winner of the Elgin Award for Science Fiction Poetry. His first graphic poetry book, Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town received critical acclaim form U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Koozer. The book is available for purchase at