A Magnificent Obsession: New York

Written by in Profiles

Presenting James Gulliver Hancock’s

“All* The Buildings in New York 

(*That I’ve Drawn So Far)”

 “When I first arrived in New York I was overwhelmed by the cinematic familiarity, and wanted to ground it in reality… sitting in front of every building and really looking at it seemed like the obvious way to make the place more real for me, ” said James Gulliver Hancock of  All* the Buildings in New York (*That I’ve Drawn So Far).  “I wanted to make the vastness of New York comprehensible. Drawing helps me see and understand the world around me. It is a natural way for me to experience what I see.”

The last time we spoke with James Gulliver Hancock  was July 2011, just after the opening of his one-man-exhibition by the same name, “All the Buildings in New York,” (featured  on this blog July 13, 2011). We then asked him  how many buildings in NYC there were (approx 900,000) and how many he had captured then (about 500). That’s  .0005%. You think that’s not impressive? Do it and try to maintain a healthy relationship with your Korean pop star girlfriend (her name is Lenka, and she’s supportive and cool). We dare you. You go, James. This writer couldn’t even draw all the houses on his street.

Now, by acclaim, Universe imprint of  Rizzoli Publishing has published Hancock’s “love letter” to New York City, “All* The Buildings in New York (*That I’ve Drawn Thus Far)” (also on Amazon), an illustrated stroll through one illustrator’s sketchbook Gotham. For any fan of NYC, and I am one, it is fun to “see” if you “see” what this artist “sees.”   Do you remember some charming or odd out of the way street or building and wonder if anyone else loved it, too? New York is full of crown jewels, building-wise, but it is the city’s wrinkles and warts, sags and blemishes that I recall so fondly. I remember when the East Village was still dangerous.  remember when the West West Village was still outrageously gay. I remember Tower Records. Oy. Show me a homely bodega and Korean grocer and I will remember beer and cigarettes on the way out, coffee and corn muffins on the way home. Famous skyscrapers create mysterious shadows — where all sorts of oddity and strangers lurk.  “I (Pretzel) NY?” An imitation in the form of a pretzel shop I once saw in Brooklyn and felt Milton Glaser would applaud.

In this book, much delight lies in Hancock’s depiction of NYC’s sinews and gristle and fascia — the stuff that grounds its soaring “cinematic familiarity.” The Flat Iron Building is lovely. But Hell’s Kitchen is more fun. We wish James Gulliver Hancock all the best with this book. May it spawn a thousand new obsessions worldwide — similar, but different. 

James Gulliver Hancock is  from Australia but says he is “stuck” between New York and Sydney. “I may be bi-planetary,” he said. Well, mate, mind the gap. His sketchbook project is a method he uses to ground himself in his surroundings:

“This project started as a personal diary-style blog,” he said.”I began recording buildings I’d observed and loved as I moved through my [adopted] home, New York.  I’ve been working on this project for about three years now — and I’ve covered quite a lot of ground. So far, I’ve done something in all 5 boroughs, though Staten island has only had its ferry done so far.”

James has also drawn “All the Rain in London”, “All the Snow in Montreal”, “All the Cars in LA” and, “All the Bicycles in Berlin”. What’s next? “All the Wats in Bangkok”? We should be so lucky. Wander forth, good James.




Hey?! What’s the Big Idea?!!
Neenah Paper celebrates creative obsessions of many kinds. What’s yours?
“All the Black Labs at My Dog Park”?
“All the Empty Coffee Cups on the Floor of My Car”?
“All the Unread Books by Deepak Chopra in My Loo”?
We will publish the three top collections and send those three world-class OCD sufferers a one pound supply of  Warren Buffet’s sweetest obsession: See’s Chocolates. Send to our OCD editor, Matthew Porter, PDF files only, with a brief description of your madness:  matt@porterwrite.com


  1. 03
    Neenah Paper said:

    Come on! Let’s see some comments on this nice project.

  2. 04

    Love it! As a graphic designer for an architecture firm, this is totally inspiring!