Four Tips for Sketching A Cityscape
William Low is an award-winning painter who has long admired New York City’s skyline. His amazing cityscapes have been included in public arts campaigns, books, galleries, and exhibitions. We asked Low for his tips on sketching skylines. Have a look below for four tips on sketching your cityscape.
Bring lines to life. With cityscapes, there are buildings, windows, doors, architectural elements—a lot of lines. Low says, “There’s a temptation to use technology to draw a straight line. If you allow technology to control the look, the buildings will be more accurate, but it will seem lifeless. I want the buildings to feel like places that are bursting with life; nothing is straight, nothing is perfect. So if I use the computer to draw a line, I make a new layer and hand draw a new line. It makes it feel less precise.”
Find the rhythm of the city. Low suggests looking at the largest shapes in the cityscape first. Consider the buildings and the shapes of their shadows. “The buildings hold and receive light from the sun or the streetlight, and the shadows will cast really interesting shapes. The rhythm and syncopation of shapes that happens in buildings is magical,” he says. “Try to find the rhythm in the flow of geometric shapes.”
Refer to photographs. In the past, Low often painted on location. But he explains that illustrators sometimes have to rely on photographic reference. “What is the detail of this building? How does the light fall on it at this time of day?” Low asks. He likes to refer to books about old New York and its architecture, as well as the works of master photographers and painters.
Capture a moment. Try to capture a moment in your painting, he suggests. “Maybe there’s a rolling cloud, or a kid pulling a kite that’s hanging in the air. A bus makes its turn on the corner, and there’s a pigeon flying with part of its wing reflected in the window. Try to capture something that is a split second image,” Low says, “a slice of time.” He points out that in children’s books, you have a sequence of images to illustrate the story, so you can use the passage of time to create a visual flow.
Low’s cityscapes vibrate with life because of his amazing attention to detail. His love for the city creates classic images with lasting power.
Watch the videos below for more cityscape inspiration from William Low.
William Low - New York City and the Bronx as inspiration from William Low on Vimeo.
William Low discusses his the making of his book Old Penn Station from William Low on Vimeo.