Born in Brighton in 1969, illustrator Jason Brooks made his name working regularly for British Vogue and drawing couture shows in Paris for The Independent. However it’s his sleek, sultry ladies for Hed Kandi that make his style instantly recognisable, having decorated all of the five million albums the label has sold. Throughout his career, from a Central Saint Martins and RCA student to commercial fashion and music illustrator, he has always kept a travel sketchbook, and it’s this he’s returning to for the latest in a series of Laurence King tomes.
“New York Sketchbook is really the culmination of a lifelong passion for keeping illustrated travel notebooks, and an intense fascination with cities’ individual style and character,” he tells It’s Nice That. The book follows similar ones on Paris and London, which won a V&A Illustration award, and features an intricate guide to everything from restaurants and shops to architecture and people in the Big Apple.
“The initial idea came when I was creating glossy, very digital artwork for Hed Kandi and I wanted to avoid being typecast and show what else I could do,” he says. The first was Paris, but New York he says has proven the most challenging so far. Jason recorded the city through documentary drawing, spending countless hours exploring on foot and via the subway, drawing, taking pictures and writing notes. “Nothing is included unless I’ve personally experienced it, so I made several trips to the city across different seasons, each with a tightly mapped out daily itinerary. There’s a lot to cover, from the landmarks to the art galleries, museums and shops, as well as street drawing. Then I finalised and developed all the raw materials created on location in my studio.”
Jason says he aimed to create a sense of cinema in the opening section, “with drama and careful pacing”. One of the first double pages shows people arriving in the harbour dressed in 19th Century clothes against a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty in the 21st Century skyline, which Jason finds “moving and relevant”. In terms of the end, he doesn’t want to spoil it, but says: “I would like people to hear George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue from Woody Allen’s Manhattan when they see it.
“I want the book to evoke the city in an authentic and imaginative way that transports readers of any age on a personal tour through my eyes, whether it’s a visitor, resident or armchair traveller on the other side of the world.”
New York Sketchbook by Jason Brooks is published 21 August by Laurence King.
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