James Gulliver Hancock has a big task ahead of him. The young Australian artist is in the middle of an effort to draw all the buildings in New York. He’s already tackled “All the Cars in LA” and “All the Rain in London,” so he’s had some practice with hyperbolic art.
As a foreigner, do you think you have a unique perspective on the visuals of New York City? I think so. I grew up watching lots of films and TV [shows] that were set in New York. So when you come here for the first time as a non-New Yorker, it’s pretty emotional — being in this place that was so familiar and yet you never thought could exist. The energy of being an outsider definitely influences my interaction with New York.
What’s your process? Do you go and sketch out on the street or work in the studio? I do both, really. When it’s nice weather, I get out on my bike and take my sketchbook. Typically, I do bring it back to the studio and work on it some more. And sometimes when it’s really cold, I just work from photographs that I’ve taken on my phone.
How do you decide which building to draw next? Mostly the ones I want to do are the ones that are around me on a daily basis. That’s how it started — I wanted to do all these buildings that I was in love with, that I’d worked in or lived in. But now, other people are asking me to do particular things, and that’s taken up most of my time.
And how long does it take to do a given building? It varies on how much I want to put into it. The commission ones, I obviously put a bit more effort into it because people have paid for them and I want to do something kind of special. That normally takes a couple of days. But the ones where I’m just doing it to record a place in my life, it’s normally just a sketch that takes half an hour or 15 minutes.
When people see you sketching on the street, do they ask what you’re up to? I’ve had a couple of people over my shoulder have a look at what I’m doing. But for the most part, people just carry on with whatever they’re doing. It’s kind of the thing in New York: Everyone’s doing their own thing, and they let other people do their own thing, too. You can get away with a lot on the street here.
Check out Hancock’s wesite at allthebuildingsinnewyork.blogspot.com.