Drawing New York City from Memory
OtsoNY recently caught up with talented artist, Stefan Bleekrode, who has an remarkable memory for city architecture.
Stefan is from Eindhoven in The Netherlands and now works as a full time artist. But what is different about Stefan is his ability to draw incredibly detailed New York cityscapes solely from memory after spending only a short amount of time in the city. “In 2012 I had a sell-out exhibition,” explains Stefan. “This allowed me to quit my day job and spend all my time drawing. Before that I used to work in various jobs during the day and after work I would devote most of my time to drawing and painting.”
The Dutchman first began doing these type of drawings at the young age of 10, and would recapture holiday impressions. “I'd be exaggerating if I would say that everything's done from memory though,” smiles Stefan. “That's not true. However composition end perspective are done entirely from memory. For specific architectural details though I use sketches or occasionally photos. Depending on the city I'm drawing between 85% and up to 99% can be done entirely from memory and imagination.” Stefan adds, “For instance, if I do a drawing of London, a place I know extremely well, I don't need any reference material. But for this drawing I'm doing of Rome now I occasionally have to use pictures, too many intricate architectural details. But New York I know so well now after several visits I can go without photo's almost entirely.”
Depending on the size and subject matter, the drawings can take Stefan up to 5 months to complete, and in a world now dominated with digital technology, Stefan continues to stay true to the art form of pen drawing. “I use these Conté precision pens for dipping in ink as they provide the clearest and finest lines. Very suitable for these drawings. For shading I use bone black watercolour paint. Sometimes I have to use a felt tip pen but that's only when a drawing has to be done quickly when commissioned.” Stefan continues, “I don't normally use digital media in my artistic practise but I'm well aware of the beneficial effects it can have on any artists work or work in general. For instance two weeks ago I quickly had to reproduce four small images for an illustration. In that case, because of a lack of time and the rather perfectionist demands of the company I had to do these for, I used Photoshop to alter the photos they sent me so I could just draw over the prints with black fine liner pens. This was the first and only time so far I used digital media as an aid. Normally I stay away from it because I want my work to be authentic, it must be crafted and come to life slowly, almost as a journey on paper. Also I want each drawing to be unique, if you look closely small mistakes and scratched away parts should be visible. I don't want to eliminate the human factor.”
Stefan adds, “Clearly computer technology and digital photography have made life considerably easier for designers and graphic artists, but I fear one might lose touch with the more traditional means of composing an image. For me… the magic that lies in composing an image would be lost for the best part if I'd make use of computer technology. Still, you'll get to your goal much faster and easier with digital media than with traditional ones and there's a lot more room for corrections. Hopefully hand drawn images remain less disposable than digitally produces ones although, because of reproduction means they do loose some of their aura. Overall I think we've witnessed a move away from a more colourful traditional world where effort had to be put into everything to a streamlined, easier world in which everything's at hand and obtainable.”
Other cityscape drawings in Stefan’s collection include Paris, Naples and London. He is currently working on new drawings for Berne, Switzerland which will be showcased in the Autumn. “People can buy a drawing through the website if I have any pieces in stock myself,” explains Stefan. “Most of my work is consigned to the Welkenhuysen Gallery in Utrecht.”
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