Packed into a sweaty tube, or fighting the crowds on Oxford Street: sometimes it’s easier to see London as a battleground, rather than somewhere to be explored and enjoyed. But London is also a very creative city – from its street art to its architecture – so we love the concept behind CitySketch London. This gorgeous book illustrates some of the capital’s most famous landmarks and stunning vistas with the aim of prompting the reader’s own creativity, and getting them to see the city just a little bit differently. We had the pleasure of speaking to Melissa Wood, the illustrator of the book, and someone who loves London almost as much as we do.
How do you begin approaching your city sketchbooks [Melissa has also illustrated Citysketch New York and Paris]? Do you have subjects in mind before you start work, or does the inspiration come ‘on the ground’?
A combination of both – the books are designed to cover different layers of exploration so I do need to follow along in one sense. But there is plenty of freedom for me to find culturally iconic imagery, such a joy to capture with my pen that really identifies each book in its own unique realm.
As a visitor to these cities, do you think you see them differently to how people who live and work there do?
Yes and no. I’m hoping that the loose lines of my illustrations create a keen sense of familiarity to the locals. However there still is the view from an outsider which sometimes help peel back the layers of a familiar scene, giving the viewer a microscope to quirky details that they may miss on a daily basis.
You’ve tackled New York, Paris and now London as Citysketch books. What differences do you notice about the cities? Do you have a favourite?
I do have a favourite and I am not just saying this because you are from London, but my favourite is London! I am a hopeless Anglophile, nurtured on Agatha Christie novels and the imagery that is associated with classic British literature so this book was a joy to create. The differences are pretty obvious – each city has their own energy, colour template, architecture, food, motorways, signage, and language. The variety involved in these three wonderful cities is spectacular fun to study and capture.
I saw from your blog that you visited London in the Olympics – how was that experience?
It was a fabulous time to visit; the feeling of British pride has me still rooting for Team GB and it was marvellous to see the city decked out in bunting as it hosted the world so effortlessly. The buses were fairly empty, which was a delight, and the pride of your nation was everywhere. Good show!
What do you hope Citysketch London will help people discover about the city?
London is a beautiful old soul but it is also an exciting kaleidoscope of pulsating current culture, design, style, and modernity. It is wonderful to experience both and appreciating it for both its past and its future.
What is your favourite sketch prompt in the book?
Thought you’d never ask! I love the regatta and though initially challenging, I completed it to my great satisfaction. I am also terribly keen of the Kensington Palace prompt only because the entire page mimics Princess Diana’s strikingly simple letterhead.
What bit of London do you wish you could take back across to the States with you?
All of it. I am not joking.
An answer we totally approve of! Thanks Melissa!
CitySketch London is priced at £9.99. You can order yourself the book here. Or keep your eyes on the Insider London blog over the coming weeks, as we’ll be giving away a copy.