READERSVOICE.COM: Do you live far from your studio in The Pencil Factory at Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and how long does it take to ride to work?
JAMES GULLIVER HANCOCK: When I’m in New York I’m never far from the Pencil Factory. It’s like an amazing family of support and inspiration there and when I’m away I really miss it. I spend 1/2 my year in my hometown in Australia now, so that’s quite a commute!
RV: How often do you just wander around New York, whether Brooklyn or Manhattan?
JGH: All the time, though it’s usually on my bike, I’m not actually that much of a walking fan. I LOVE riding my bike and you can cover so much ground and be out in the air and see things in a great way.
RV: Do you always draw whenever you travel around?
JGH: Yes, I always have some sort of drawing equipment with me, though it can be anything from a sharpie and napkin, to sketchbook and pen and ink. I love working with whatever materials I have at hand, it usually means you have to improvise and all sorts of interesting unexpected things happen when you have to just work with what you’ve got. I’m always noting things down when I travel though, drawing the objects around me. It really is like a visual diary, I never write that much but take note of visual things all the time, collecting them obsessively.
RV: You’ve drawn streets, buildings and neighbourhoods of New York and other cities you’ve travelled to in order to help you understand places. How long did it take to get a feeling that you understood New York pretty well, and knew your way around, too?
JGH: I think it took about a year of doing the blog allthebuildingsinnewyork.com to overcome the feeling of being a tourist. After that I started to really understand the city and see buildings I had already drawn while riding around. When you draw something you really get to know it, so by drawing the buildings in New York ( which are such a dominant part of life in the city ) you start to feel like you know it all a bit better. Drawing is so great at doing this… making you pay more attention.
RV: What are some of your favorite books of all time, whether fiction, biography, art, anything?
JGH: novels: The Sun Also Rises [Ernest Hemmingway]; The Man Who Loved Only Numbers [by Paul Hoffman].
picture books: Richard Scarry’s Busytown; Quentin Blake’s illustrations in all of the Roald Dahl books; Stephen Biesty’s cross section books [like Castle and Incredible Cross-Sections].
I just read The Goldfinch [Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt], Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage [by Haruki Murakami].
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- copyright Simon Sandall