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The Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far (or creativity can be the cure for what overwhelmes you)

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the mass of buildings that is New York City?  If you  think about it, it is amazing that the mass of buildings (and people) sit on this proportionally tiny island, so close together, and almost everywhere you look.  It can all seem so impersonal and monolithic.

Enter James Gulliver Hancock, who turned his obsession with the buildings in New York into a quest to draw all 900,000 of them. It was the Brownstones of Brooklyn in 2010 that pulled him into the project, which he chronicled with a personal blog.

Now we get to enjoy Hancock’s new book, The Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far (Universe).

This wasn’t Hancock’s first walk around the block. He’s drawn “All the Rain in London,” “All the Snow in Montreal,” and All the Bicycles in Berlin.“—which would ultimately end up on one large silkscreen print. The enormity of this project sets it apart; that and his belief that it is possible.

Hancock says that the commissions he gets to draw buildings that are special to people  give him a feel for the reality of the city. Through them he is able to experience new perspectives. One couple commissioned him to draw their previous apartments, which they so cherished, before moving in together. He drew their new apartment too.

Hancock says,  “This collection and obsession have become an almost ritualistic undertaking, a therapy of sorts, helping me to organize the overwhelming infinity and chaos of New York into something I can know and understand.”


Hancock reminds us that there are many ways to relate to things that overwhelm us, and that doing something creative is key.  If you were to render a drawing of the place you live, or write a graphic novel of all the stuff of your life, what would it look like?

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Karen Steinberg