From London to LA
Meet Patrick Vale, ROW DTLA’s newest artist in residence. Hailing from the UK, Vale is known for his life-like sketch drawings of urban cityscapes. He spends most of his days traveling between London, New York, and now Los Angeles in aims of discovering each city’s distinctive features and gaining inspiration for his next creation. Vale graduated from Central St. Martins, London with a degree in Graphic Design, and is currently in the process of drawing a large-scale sketch of the city line from ROW DTLA. Read up on Vale’s journey as an artist, his love for the city life, and a UK take on Los Angeles.
What inspired you to branch out from London and venture to New York?
I have been fascinated by NYC since I was a young lad, so it has always been a dream of mine. My dad would travel a lot there on business and come back with photos, which I would spend hours drawing. As I got older, I would travel there independently and gather my own research. NYC was usually the subject of art I would make when I wasn't doing other commercial projects over the years. I am starting to be a lot more experimental in my practice and work — moving into the fine art world — so I’m doing less of the illustration projects. Having been in London for 16 years, I felt it was time for a change, so there was only ever going to be one place. Having said all that, I have been spending a lot of time in LA, and this city is equally as fascinating. I could see a situation in which I live in both places, depending on the work.
What do you see as the advantages to have lived and worked in both major cities? How has this influenced your art?
I am incredibly lucky to have lived in London for 16 years and now NYC. As an artist, you only have to step out of your front door to be swept away in the city’s energy. There is inspiration to be found constantly. Simple things, like riding the subway, can provide you with wonderful moments of human behaviour to observe on your way to seeing some of the best art collections in the world. Both NYC and London are “world” cities, and I have been lucky enough to work with people and have mates from all over the world. This can only enrich you as a person, and as a result, your art.
Tell us about how you are challenging the notion of “looking” in your art pieces.
My work is incredibly detailed, but hopefully the line work doesn't feel static. I keep it loose, and hopefully you get a feeling of the city being alive and animated. I encourage people to look at the work and get lost in the details, both the familiar and the new, making up their own stories and connections. I am not a trained architect, so when I tell the story of a city, the detail of an AC unit is as interesting to me as a bit of stunning building design. I guess I'm trying to reflect the character. What has been fantastic at ROW DTLA is working on a large scale; we have blown up drawings and made them billboard size. That has really made a big impact for the viewer. People can see the amount of physical work I have put in, and perhaps that mirrors the work of people in the city. We have created this urban world over the years and it’s constantly evolving. Perhaps a drawing such as this makes you see the city a bit differently. It makes you stop and stare and think, something that is very rare in our modern-paced world.
How did you come to love city landscapes?
I was always drawing from an early age. I drew what I saw, stuff I made up — anything and everything. As I got a bit older, I liked to just sit in one spot and draw what I observed, and I guess this is where my interest in the “urban environment” started. Bristol, where I grew up, had a fantastic old dock, so it was a great place for me to be inspired. I mentioned earlier that my dad used to travel to the states a lot for business. The pictures of American cities that he came back with kind of turbo-charged this interest, and I would make bigger and bigger drawings. We didn't have that kind of architecture in the UK then.
How did sketching become your preferred medium? Why is this your favorite medium over others?
For years and years, I was obsessed with line work, and nothing else really bothered me too much. It is only recently that I am starting to think about moving across to the painting world. I am very excited to see where this takes me.
What is the "new dimension" that you add to these LA cityscapes, and how do you develop this?
With the new piece “Catching Worm,” I am working on a huge scale, which is new for me. I have also incorporated colour and paint into this piece, working on layers to try and reflect what I feel about the view whilst still trying to keep things loose and energetic. It is a case of trial and error, trusting your judgement and not being afraid to make a mistake. The great thing about painting on birch board versus paper is that you can re-work sections easily if you want. I have done this a lot with this piece, but I haven't learnt so much doing it, which I can bring forward to the next piece.
What are dominant LA characteristics, and how did you incorporate them into your cityscape?
What I have loved about the work that I have made for ROW DTLA is that they are so far from being cliché LA pieces. I am investigating an area of the city that is industrial. It is a working busy area and the opposite to Hollywood, Beverly Hills or the beach. We see the Produce Market, something that has been functioning on that site for a century, and the trade that comes from that. People grafting. It is real.
Next time you are in DTLA, don’t forget to visit ROW and experience Vale’s work on display until September 30th.