Behind the Pages: All the Buildings in London by James Gulliver Hancock

All the Buildings in London
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After the successes of All the Buildings in New York, Sydney-based illustrator and author James Gulliver Hancock set out to explore the city that captured his romantic fascination as a child. Growing up in Australia, Hancock’s English mother often took him to the British Isles. Though they never stayed more than a few months at time, London cast a spell on his heart and planted seeds that would spark nostalgic memories in the years to come.

James Gulliver Hancock attended the University of Technology in Sydney with the intention of exploring the realm of visual arts. After graduating, he landed in the fertile ground of Brooklyn’s Pencil Factory, home to a collective of brilliant book illustrators. While there, he explored what art could be achieved with pencil and paper. Since that time, his talent flourished, and his work has been well received, as is evident from the success of All the Buildings in New York, which began as a digital diary.

He used his images to remind him of his neighborhood, the people he encountered and as a mechanism to process the sights he saw around him as a visitor in a foreign land. His experiment gained traction, received media attention and then earned a book deal. It was an organic process and he finds it ironic that his obsessive interest in the recording of places, people and community resonated with viewers.

All the Buildings in New York
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Unlike his previous book, All the Buildings of London was an intentional creation and a natural follow-up to his first book. “London is special for me, because I am half English.” Hancock notes. He remembers the journey of the London book as a different experience, and that “it was more of a romantic vision than of a coming to terms with day to day living kind-of thing, like when (he) was in New York.” “It was great, I had always visited London when I was a kid and I had seen all these places that I wanted to spend more time with and sit down and concentrate on.”

With a knack for discovering the unique tidbits of history that make a city sparkle with life and energy, Hancock uses his art as an illustrator to transport a reader to a certain place, time and location. He finds it fascinating to discover the “juxtapositions with one really contemporary building next to another building that is essentially falling apart...it is a sort of patchwork quilt that makes up the whole thing. It’s really fun to draw and fun to look at.” He fondly recalls the gift of being able to ride his bike, gawk at his surroundings and capture the amazing capsule of history and everyday art that surrounded him.

He tells us that while in London, he “would just literally stop and grab a sketchbook or a little scrap of paper and pen and start drawing rather than stopping to take a photo.” Hancock adores those initial stages of construction, when he as an artist has time to “think about the drawing and plan it all out and make sure it’s going to fit on the page and stuff like that, but when you have sort of done that and...You just get to think. I think people don’t get to do that enough, and I get to do that a lot, which is what I really enjoy.” He often wonders how his capturing a building out of context and featuring it in his book causes readers to explore and discover the details of their cities again. “It’s not very often that you stop to look up at a building or that you pay attention to all of those weird little quirks that make up a city.”