For the past six months I’ve had a complete obsession with drawing UK skylines. I’ve drawn all sorts of places – from the obvious (London, Glasgow) to the more unusual (the Wirral, Carlisle). I’ve just completed my thirtieth – a slightly more personal illustration of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, which is the area in which I’ve had my studio for the past three years.
I’ve absolutely loved drawing every one of them – and the process I’ve developed really satisfies the logical way I like to work. With very few exceptions, each skyline had developed as the result of a collaboration of different ideas – all via social media. I simply pose the question “what landmarks make your city special?” and let Facebook and Instagram responses guide me to the most notable, iconic, memorable landmarks – both classic and contemporary. From Hull’s white phone boxes to Nottingham’s Sky Mirror, nothing is too small or too insignificant – and if enough people mention it then I include it in the final illustration.
I generally work on a tally list and pick the 8-10 most popular things – although I must admit there are a few times where I’ve picked out things that I really fancy drawing, even if they’re not that popular! Completely by chance, every single shortlist has included enough tall, short, big and little landmarks to make up a visually appealing composition.
The really lovely thing – and something that I didn’t anticipate happening – is that I am now a whole load more knowledgeable about UK cities. I can be sitting watching TV and know exactly where a programme is set before anyone has even spoken a word! I have a little list in my head of places I really want to visit too. Cardiff’s Animal Wall is at the very top.
I’m frequently asked “why’ve you bothered drawing such a small city?” and my answer is simple – if you look at how many skylines there are of big, touristy places like London or Liverpool you are spoilt for choice. I love drawing smaller, more obscure places. Leicester is one of my biggest sellers, and Leeds is really popular too – in part, I am sure, because there are a lot less illustrations of these places!
My favourite? Well, that has to be Liverpool. The most emotionally draining was Oxford – a city where I lived for a short time after graduating, and a city where I properly fell in love for the first time. It was like walking down memory lane… a somewhat bittersweet experience. Lancaster held some strong memories for me too, but for some reason this was much easier for me to draw.
I absolutely love anything that adds a bit of character - so a donkey on the beach in Blackpool, a little Herdwick sheep in the Lake District or a little Viking sauntering along the street in York, all add to the interest for myself and - hopefully - for the viewer too!
Adding my skylines to wedding invites was a no-brainer – I have an existing Liverpool skyline illustration (which I drew years and years ago) which has always been really popular on wedding stationery, so to expand on this and offer invites with any skyline made perfect sense. I can even work on a little bespoke illustration of a wedding venue and drop this into the skyline for an extra personal touch. My Personalised Graduation Skylines and Cards have been really popular over the past month or so too.
And, what’s next… well, on the list is Durham, Bath, Reading and Middlesborough – all by popular demand. I also want to branch out and draw some European cities, inspired by my own travels – Paris, Berlin, Barcelona... I definitely want to do Sydney soon too. I’d love to hear any other suggestions!
Ultimately I’d love for people to say “oh, I was born here, went to uni here, got married here, and my child was born here” and be able to buy multiple skylines to tell their own story. I’m getting there, but I know I have a lot more work to do… watch this space!