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Oh Really?! All the Buildings in New York, James?

Written by in Profiles

{Author’s Note: The tsunami of info from the HOW Conference delayed this story a few week but the work is still notable and the idea is inspiring. Enjoy!} JAMES GULLIVER HANCOCK‘S opening night photos can be seen on his  FLICKR page.

Talk about ambitious. Bow-tied, Bespectacled Brooklyn-based Dandy, illustrator and artist James Gulliver Hancock (and office mate of Jessica Hische in the Pencil Factory (go see on YouTube) unveiled the first of 500 drawings from his insanely ambitious project, All The Buildings In New York.  After the opening May 18th at 119 Ludlow Street, we asked James to tell us about his life, motivations and this project. You can learn more about it by visiting his blog on the show.


1) What is up with that bow tie? Is that an Aussie thing? And the vest? And the specs? And the hair? Did you look like this when you were 15?

Ha! No I looked pretty different at 15, had so many different haircuts, OMG, so crazy! My attempt at dreadlocks was a disaster [We await a photo of this smash up]! As for the bowtie etc, I guess I love the idea of the old fashioned dandy, the well dressed man, conscious of little details. I hate everyone wearing t-shirts and tracksuit pants, why not dress up a little when you go outside. I wish everyone still wore hats.

2) How is the All the Buildings in New York show going? Were sales good? Lots of visitors? Leo Castelli?

The show was amazing, in classic New York style it was hidden in an underground gallery, with all sorts of interactive elements like wallpaper prints (silkscreened by hand in the studio), kids puzzles about Manhattan, and building blocks. People really loved it, there was a nostalgic vibe with everyone talking about their favorite memories of the streets of New York. People bought lots of prints and paintings and lots of opportunities arose from it.


Gallery wall was filled with pre-WWII apartment buildings!

3) How do you travel to all these building sites? Do you sketch them or photograph them? Do you have a Borough you prefer? Have you drawn at least one building in every Borough?

In summer I get around by bike, I sketch some and scan them straight into the blog. Other times I take a photo and work up a more complicated painting. In the dead of winter when the snow was 5 feet deep outside, I reverted to tooling around on Google maps and finding the building’s I’d seen walking around, so I could re-visit and sketch up later. I’ve done at least one drawing from every Borough, but only the Staten Island Ferry for that Borough.

4) What is your favorite building you’ve illustrated?

I honestly love all the buildings. Being an outsider it’s fascinating to live amongst the Sesame Street TV of my childhood. Because of that I guess maybe the brownstones and townhouses are endlessly amusing for me, always waiting for Bert and Ernie to come walking down the stoop.


5) Do you really love the Trump Tower, James? Come on. OK, besides the Solid Waste Garbage Barge HQ, what is the most dangerous building you have considered illustrating in the five Boroughs?

The one falling down on my blog. It’s a detailed line art illustration, with the scaffolding holding up one side of the building. I love this one as I always wonder how New York buildings would work if they want all holding each other up. Maybe a metaphor for life and America in general?

6) Yes, ours can be perceived in some quarters as a nation of crumbling edifices and dusty attics still dependent upon one another for support…even when we do not admit it. Does being married to an Australia-born Korean Pop Star seem surreal?

Ha! Sometimes, yes, but we collaborate a lot on her work too so I’m in her world all the time, making videos, hearing what fans think etc. It’s super fun going to places around the world and taking our art to different cultures and seeing the reaction. We both get a lot of press so it’s pretty even there :-) It’s hilarious when we turn out to be in the same magazine at the same time.


7) I can relate. My life is bling and glam and limos, 24/7/365. But back to you… do the Korean fans wonder about your bow tie, too? Do have a dog or cat named after a font?

Yes! And no we have no pets, but I’m sure Jessica Hische [his office mate and she does have a cat but it is not named after a font] does. We are so transient pets don’t fit in our lifestyle. It’s sad. I want a pet! I covet other peoples’ pets. If I go to a dinner party with a cat I’m transfixed.

8) OMG. You poor dear. You need stability in your life, James, like a Saint Bernard and a Great Dane. Consider All the Pets in New York as a project? It could be therapeutic. Speaking of childhood, do you recall your very first drawing… and what was the drawing intended to represent? Is it identifiable as that today?

My first drawing was in pre-school. I remember there were four activities you had to rotate around. I really didn’t want to sleep, or make puzzles or whatever the others were, I was only interested in drawing. So I devised drawing the most elaborate drawing I could think of – I’d draw the whole city, with all the buildings, the people in them, the cars etc. I remember doing the spiders webs between the buildings too. I though this was ingenious! I guess ever since drawing and obsession has been a big part of my work.



9) We can now see your trending data. Insanity since Kindergarten. Your suffering darling mother. When do you think you will give up trying to draw the other 899,500 NY area buildings?

Everything else in New York is starting to distract me now also. I’ve started to paint pictures of random people on the street and make up stories about them. So not sure, but I’m addicted now, I can’t stop drawing.

10) All the People in New York? Living and dead? Now, you and your wife first landed in Los Angeles from your home country, Australia. What do you miss most about LA?

Nothing. OK… the food was good. The print from LA was called ‘All The Cars In Los Angeles’, I hate cars, but I love drawing them.

11) Yes. I have been meaning to tell you, you need to eat more Brooklyn Pizza. Your cheekbones are too pronounced. What do you miss the least about dear old Los Angeles?

Everything, Cars, disorganized city planning, lack of hanging out in the park, driving 40 minutes to see a friend, not riding a bike, being woken up by earthquakes… etc.

12) You are overlooking the police helicopter chases. Be truthy: did you have a tan in LA?

My mother is English. I don’t tan. I burn. Instead of a tan I had a huge hat.

13) You would be amazed what LA tanning salons can do for that English pallor. Did you sell your convertible before moving to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, NY, Earth?

In my 15-year-old dreadlock head I’m there in a red convertible, cruising around in the classic arcade game “Outrun.”

14) Don’t go back there, James. You have made so much progress since that unfortunate hair-do. Besides, you have 800K  more structures to draw, right?

Was that a question?

15) It was a directive. Here is a question: when will you post a photo of yourself in dreadlocks and bow tie?

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    […] James Gulliver Hancock rocked my world with his wild ambition. And the result of such bravado paid off; his paintings are delicious.  Go big, then go home! […]