NAT 240318 Upside Down Artist VSAKLANI-11-1716730458660
PR Judson with a detailed sketch of Dubai Opera, which he drew upside-down from memory in just 1.5 hours during a live demo at Gulf News in Dubai Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: In an era dominated by advanced software and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for 3D renderings in architecture, a Dubai resident has been defying convention by crafting hand-drawn sketches of buildings and cityscapes upsidedown.

Not just that, Indian expat PR Judson, who has designed several homes, churches and other buildings in multiple countries, can also draw inverted sketches without lifting his hand off the paper. What makes his achievements even more impressive is the fact that he has no formal education in architecture and has only studied up to Grade 10.

To prove his skill in sketching inverted 3D renderings of buildings, Judson provided several video clips and even offered a live demonstration of sketching the Dubai Opera building upside down at the Gulf News office.

Photographic memory

A day after he was informed about the building to be drawn, he did not even require a photograph in front of him to copy it.

“It comes from my mind,” said the 58-year-old, who also had a rags-to-riches story to share.

He proved his photographic memory by drawing a detailed sketch of the Dubai Opera’s exterior in his unique inverted sketching style. It took only around one-and-a-half-hour for him to complete the upside-down black and white sketch on an A2 paper.

Asked how he could draw the inverted image without looking at a model, he said: “I need to see and observe it only once. I can recollect it from my memory. I can also draw inverted sketches of buildings or even a cityscape from my imagination.”

He did show videos and photos in which he could be seen sketching the bottom-side-up images of such imaginary buildings and city blocks.

“If you suggest any type of building, be it a church, hotel, resort, or landscape, I can draw it upside down without taking my hand off within half an hour. I don’t know how my brain is enabling this. To my knowledge, there has been no person other than the legendary African American architect Paul Revere Williams who had the skill of sketching upside down. This unique skill is my biggest achievement and I would like to showcase it to people,” said Judson.

Credited with reshaping American design in the 20th century, Williams reportedly mastered the skill of drawing upside down so he could sit across from American clients who were uncomfortable sitting next to an African American.

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How did he begin?

But, why and how did Judson start doing it? He says he has no clue except the fact he had automatically started drawing sketches this way for the convenience of his clients sitting in front of him.

“In fact, I recognised that I was doing it differently from others when one of my early clients pointed it out. He was dumbstruck as he watched me draw and asked me how I was doing it. That is when I also realised that what I was doing was unique.”

Judson is also proud of the fact that he could bring in the 3D aspect of buildings in his sketches. “An artistic rendering of a building by an architect and sketching by an artist are different. The architect’s design has to bring in the perspective to portray the 3D element of the building considering various elements, particularly spatial relationship.”

Explaining how he learnt the basics of architectural designing, Judson said: “I used to draw well and did various types of works for a livelihood from a young age. Life was extremely tough and I had struggled for many years. But I used to visualise designs of buildings and make hand-drawn sketches. However, I learnt the basics of architecture from an Egyptian architect in Qatar where I lived between 1987 and 1993 while trying to be recognised as an artist or a designer.”

He said he considered that training as the best gift for an expat worker with talents even though he did not have the academic background.

Adapting to computers

However, subsequent to various challenges that he faced, Judson had to fly back home.

“Once I reached Kerala [a state in southern India], I started designing buildings for several architectural firms, starting a freelancing culture in 3D architectural designing. I made hand-drawn 3D models for almost all major architects in Kerala. In 1996-97, I became more confident by learning 3ds MAX and Autocad all by myself, which was unbelievable to many. Later, I started an architectural firm, Judson Associates, and an interior designing company.”

He said newspapers in his state ran features about his rise in the industry with the unique skill. “I have always been open about my background. It is my clients’ trust in my talent and dedication that has kept me going in supporting the qualified architects employed in my company.”

Judson visited Saudi Arabia to canvass expatriate clients after ‘Googling’ them online. “When I visited Saudi, some airport officials noticed my album and they loved my work. I got two work orders from the airport itself and continued to get many works from Saudi later.”

Journey in Dubai

Seeking greener pastures, Judson decided to fly to Dubai in 2002. There has been no looking back ever since he landed in the Manhattan of the Middle East. Starting with a 3D animation and graphics designing company, Judson later expanded his business and now owns two interior design companies in Dubai and another one in the US.

“My education and language skills may not be up to the standard, but I am more than 100 per cent happy about supporting the families of around 400 employees working in India, Middle East and the US.”

Judson is also a proud father as his elder daughter, Tania Judson, fulfilled his dream to be a certified architect and now oversees the operations of one of his firms in Dubai and the one in the US. “My younger daughter Neeraja is in charge of admin and business development,” he said.

Undeterred by his lack of formal training, Judson eventually set three records in 2019 for his exceptional abilities—America Book of Records’ record for largest architectural perspective drawn without lifting the hand and URF World Records’ records for the largest architectural perspective hand drawn upside down and for the largest architectural perspective drawing without lifting the hand.

The citations of the records provided by him describe Judson as an artist, an interior designer, a self-taught architect, and a 3D visualiser. According to the citations, he achieved all three records on September 28, 2019 at Hotel Holiday Inn, Ernakulam.

He said his wish is to set a Guinness World Record in proving his skill. “Unfortunately, I am yet to get an opportunity for that because they told me that they consider only attempts for records that can be broken by someone sometime in the future,” Judson added.