These Insanely Detailed Cityscapes Are Drawn by Hand

These Insanely Detailed Cityscapes Are Drawn by Hand

Sarah Codraro
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I first discovered Patrick Vale's work while sourcing muralists for an installation in our entryway. I became entranced by the organized madness of his large-scale cityscapes—the attention to detail, consistency, and sheer patience they required to complete. Pat embedded himself in IDEO's San Francisco studio for more than a week—morning, noon, and night—to create an alternative map-view of San Francisco. I caught up with him to get the backstory.

In one sentence who are you?

Artist from Bristol, UK, currently living in NYC.

What do you do? How did you learn it?

I draw and paint every day. It is hard to pinpoint how I learned to draw, but I have been practicing since I was a young lad. I would always draw what was around me.

I have always been inspired by artists who draw with an energetic, loose line. Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman, Chris Orr, Robert Weaver, and Linda Kitson were artists I looked up to.

As I got into my early teens, I really got immersed in depicting the urban environment. This was fueled by picture books that my dad would bring back from trips to the US. American cities didn’t look like UK ones.

I went to art college, but I largely stuck to my guns and just made the work that I wanted to make. To be honest, I’m making it up as I go along.

WATCH: IDEO San Francisco mural, 2017

3 favorite possessions?

My sketchbooks from the last 25 years and a giant Spitfire that I made and had hanging in my old studio.

What does a typical work session look like?

I am normally juggling three projects, so I try to split up the day and do a few hours on each.

I tend to do the large-scale work in my studio apartment, and then I have a desk in a shared studio where I do smaller jobs.

So I guess I work in two to three hour bursts, and then go do something else. Obviously, if there is a pressing deadline, that goes out the window. I do 12-plus hour sessions sometimes.

In the garden of Ebineezer Goode, 2016. Another piece from LA. I made this painting on the iPad Pro, sitting in my Airbnb host's garden in Los Feliz.

How do you get over creative block?

Go running, to the gym, or for a pint. Talk to a friend and then go out and draw something. Or just start something. Sometimes I think too much.

I also keep a small, pocket-sized sketchbook on my person, so that when I am traveling about the city I can draw people and things that catch my eye. It is a lovely way to see stuff. People spend so much time looking at their phones these days, they miss out on so many things that are happening in real life.

How do you see the world in 2078?


Pull-out spread for Surface Magazine, 2016. A collage of sketchbook drawings I made on location while traveling around NYC.

What’s your number one bucket list item?

I’d like to watch a cricket test match in the Caribbean.

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

I am looking at painters a lot these days. Here are a few: Peter Doig, Paul Davis, Jacob Lawrence, Jules de Balincourt, Enoc Perez, John Virtue, Edward Hopper, George Bellows

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Sarah Codraro
Sarah Codraro is a marketing director for IDEO San Francisco. Passionate about both business and art, she is a strategic thinker who seeks to combine these two pursuits whenever possible.
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