Veronica Lawlor is an artist who draws to document what she sees. When everyone carries a camera 24/7, why bother drawing?
The new 1.5-micron pixel iphone is, according to Apple, “the world’s most popular camera.” Has the iphone replaced pen and ink and human hand? It is worth recalling Robert McCloskey’s observation, “Hands do play a part in drawing, but it’s an automatic part like shuffling cards or knitting. Drawing is most of all a way of seeing and thinking.”
Veronica Lawlor proves hand-drawn journalism is not a throwback to simpler times. Like craft brewing, observational drawing is in the midst of a remarkable renaissance. And Veronica Lawlor is at the vanguard of the movement.
A working illustrator, she is a professor at both Parsons and Pratt. Her original drawings can be seen through March 28 at Scranton’s AFA Gallery. I have the honor of sharing the gallery with her and Chris Spollen, who I wrote about last week. Veronica emailed me answers to questions I posed about her work.
KMc: Veronica, where are you from?
V.L: I was born in Manhattan, and spent my early childhood in the Bronx. I have lived in four of the five NYC boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. From about 1998 to 2006 I lived within walking distance of the Manhattan hospital that I was born in. I always liked that it was so provincial, in the middle of such a large city.
KMc: Where did you study?
V.L: Parsons School of Design, in the eighties, and after graduation at the Passalacqua School of Drawing and Illustration, with my mentor, the late David J. Passalacqua. He used to take us to Disney World in Orlando, and sit us down at the entrance gates to draw all the tourists as they came in. He called it the Gates of Hell! (Almost felt like it, since this was usually happening in August.) The illustrator Margaret Hurst and I have continued this tradition with our own school, Dalvero Academy. More recently, I received a Master in Media Arts from the New School.
KMc: I am fascinated that you drew in Lower Manhattan on 9/11/2001. How did that come about?
V.L: On September 11, 2001, I was heading downtown to meet a friend. When I got off the train at Union Square, in downtown Manhattan, there was bedlam on the streets, and the World Trade Center was burning. I had a sketchbook in my backpack and a few pencils, and my first instinct was to draw what was going on.
I kept drawing and walking, further downtown, as the towers fell, until the police stopped me, somewhere in TriBeCa. I continued to draw the events of the next month around the city. Unfortunately a dear friend of mine lost her husband, a firefighter, on 9/11, and she asked me to draw his funeral as well. These drawings are in a book, called September 11, 2001: Words and Pictures. You can see a few of the drawings here.
The drawings were exhibited at the New York City Fire Museum in 2006, and I was very touched by how many big, burly firemen came up to me with tears in their eyes, and told me how the drawings brought them right back to that day.
KMc: What can you tell us about the Urban Sketchers and upcoming projects?
V.L: I am working now on a book for Quarry called: The Urban Sketching Handbook: Reportage and Documentary Drawing, coming out soon. It’s full of examples of on location illustrations by me and many other artists involved with urban sketching – drawing on location. USk is an international organization of people who draw their home cities or travels, and post online in international and regional blogs. I am giving a workshop at the Urban Sketchers annual Symposium in Singapore in July, very excited about that! Learn more about Urban Sketchers here.
KMc: You still do corporate work, like the Brooks Brothers campaign?
V.L. Yes. I’ve just completed a reportage campaign for JP Morgan Chase that will be in branches around the country this spring.
KMc: What is Studio 1482?
V.L: I am the president of Studio 1482, an illustration collective based in New York City. Our website is www.studio1482.com. There are seven illustrators in the group. We all met in school and enjoy sharing our work and our experiences in the business.
Veronica Lawlor’s portfolio can be found here. Even if you can’t get to her show in Scranton, or join her Singapore urban sketch workshop, her way of seeing might inspire you to sharpen your pencils.