Ron Kasprisin ’61 likes to tell the story about how failing engineering school his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame University inspired him to follow his bliss—drawing and designing. That bliss landed him in the architecture program at Notre Dame and led to a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington.
Kasprisin then launched his dream as an architectural planner in Cleveland. His career took him to Boston, Minneapolis and up and down the West Coast. Some of his favorite projects involve waterfront redevelopment in small towns of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
“As an architect planner I get involved in planning policy and strategy for communities,” he says. “As an urban planner I may do a specific design for a downtown or waterfront, but not the actual building. I help set the stage for building implementation.”
In 1989 he joined the University of Washington as a professor. “They needed professionals with practical experience to balance the Ph.Ds,” he says. And so he taught Urban Planning and Design for 25-plus years. During that time he wrote five textbooks on urban design. He is now working on his sixth.
Writing, he says, keeps him sharp. “When you write a book you don’t just write about what you know; you write in order to learn more. I really enjoy writing textbooks because I’m teaching myself things I wish people had taught me a long time ago,” he says.
He’s hard core about approaching design with open-minded, creative thinking and not just a structured, linear process. “In the design process—whether architecture, landscape or urban design—you are dealing with complex contexts,” he says. “You need to design for more than organizational or functional relationships. You need to consider elements like site issues, the cultural issues of users and more. The process needs to be open.”
At age 75, Kasprisin is really hitting his stride as a professional watercolor artist and art teacher. He’s been displaying and selling his work for years, but he recently attained signature status from the Northwest Watercolor Society. This year his work will be part of the juried Northwest Watercolor Society's 79th International Open Exhibition.
He describes his style as impressionistic. “I don’t paint detail. I enjoy the illusion of objects rather than rendering in a realistic way.”
His subjects include maritime, wildlife and food, among others. Painting is more about the message than just the object, he notes. “For example, in Lemons Basking in the Afternoon Light I was trying to capture the light, not just the represented object.” To see his work, visit https://www.ronkasprisin.com/
Kasprisin lives and paints on Whidbey Island, Washington. A former West Park resident, he attended St. Patrick’s Parish School before Saint Ignatius High School. “I loved everything about high school, the camaraderie, the academics, the friendships. I played football for four years,” he says. “I look back and appreciate how the whole experience helped me learn how to think.”