Tonight I hopped on the F train to Dumbo for a reading in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I expected to listen to some sedate paragraphs while lolling about in the grass but I got much, much more – a spectacular view of Manhattan, a masterclass in animation and that ‘I love New York’ warmth.
The reading (which was free) was held by Freebird Books, an independent store that specialises in New York-themed tomes. Tonight they celebrated the release of James Gulliver Hancock’s ‘All the Buildings in New York (That I’ve Drawn So Far)’, a book of cartoonish drawings of New York’s most recognizable structures alongside ones I’ve grown to love more: brownstones, bridges and scrappy Lower East Side flats with fire escapes snaking up their sides.
James put on a really fun presentation. It was held on the Granite Prospect steps by the waterfront, which meant that he had the Manhattan skyline, East River and Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop. After reading through the introduction of his book, he ran out of words and so presented his work in the best way he knew how: By answering questions while sketching parts of the fantastic view behind him.
As James – who is originally from Australia – got talking about his project, it really resonated with me. He noted how foreigners come to New York and want to claim a piece of the city for themselves to make up for lost time. For James that meant frantically doodling every building he saw. For me, I’ve got to know and appreciate this city – and cement some sort of relationship with her – through todaysthedayi.com (I don’t know if you know of it). I realized our two projects were just different ways of fulfilling the same need.
Because let’s be honest, I was never going to approach the city the way James has. During the presentation, he encouraged us to draw the backdrop too. My life drawing class didn’t do me any favours, but I managed a few lines of the bridge before realising it was best if I just watched. Then I picked up a copy of James’ book and chatted to him about Surrey, of all places.
The event, Books Beneath the Bridge, was a brilliant way to spend a summer evening and it’s on every Monday until mid-August. James’ book is really fun and I’ll be keeping up with his blog as he sketches more buildings.
And for now, I think I’ll just plod along with my own way of appreciating New York.