Art

LAEM Sessions: James Hancock is drawing all the buildings in the world’s most beautiful cities

In April 2010, Australian illustrator James Gulliver Hancock started the herculean task of drawing all the buildings in New York. Today, he’s not only illustrated New York’s architecture, but also London’s, Sydney’s, and Melbourne’s.

Hancock embarked on the project shortly after moving to Brooklyn with his wife, musician Lenka. Amazed by the surrounding urbanscape, and looking to acquaint himself with his surroundings, Hancock began doodling the buildings he passed by daily.

Some of his illustrations include NYC clichés like the Chrysler Building and the Flatiron, but there are also others like historical brownstones or quirky shops.

Although it’s virtually impossible to draw all of the Big Apple’s estimated 900,000 structures, Hancock has already made thousands. And he’s not only focusing on New York, he’s also started a series (and a book collection) on London, Sydney, Melbourne, and currently, Paris.

We had the opportunity to talk to Hancock to find out more.

>>Also watch: The full length interview and drawing session with James Gulliver Hancock

For your All the Buildings series in New York, how did you choose the buildings that you ended up drawing?

“Initially this project was a personal diary of all the buildings I would pass on my daily commutes and wanders. I would see a funny looking corner store and stop and draw it. Mostly I would stop because I wanted to record this part of my New York experience and the particular quirky buildings I chose really acted like markers in my exploration of the city.

“As the project grew I got commissions from people which saw me go to all sorts of places I wouldn’t have otherwise visited and see some really interesting parts of the city I had no idea about. Also when I started doing the accompanying hardcover books I wanted to make my way to the classic buildings like the Empire State and make my mark on those ones too.

“Now when I approach a new city (the latest book to come out is All the Buildings in Paris) I try and get a really broad look at a place, so everything from the cliche tourist sites to a non-descriptive building down a little alley, and everything in between.”

Tell us about the animation you did for the classic Josh Pyke song, Middle of the Hill, back in the day?

“This was a great project for my old friend Josh Pyke. We actually went to high school together and we used to collaborate on graphics for his early bands which were super fun.

“For his first album, I did these naively x-rayed animal pictures, so bunnies and birds and cars and houses, all with their insides revealed and related to our anatomy. So the houses had lungs etc. This came out of my reading of some of the lyrics of Josh’s songs.

“Once we had the album art I worked with the amazing guys at Sydney-based animation studio Mathematics to bring the flat drawings to life and create a whole animated world for Josh to traverse.”


What are you working on currently that you’re particularly buzzed about?

“I just released some exciting new packaging for Josh’s latest Best of Album, which is a little diorama, so if you buy the CD you can cut out the packaging and make this super cute little suitcase diorama.

“I also did a similar thing for Lenka’s latest release which is a DIY pop-up diorama. It’s really fun re-thinking things like CD packaging when they are almost becoming obsolete.

“I’ve also got the All the Buildings in Paris book coming out early 2018 which I’m super excited about as it was so much fun drawing buildings from such a gorgeous city!”





All the books in Hancock’s series All the Buildings are available for purchase on his website.