Veronica Lawlor’s Way of Seeing

Gate of Heavenly Peace, Beijing, ink on paper, ©  Veronica Lawlor, 2015
Gate of Heavenly Peace, Beijing, ink on paper, © Veronica Lawlor, 2015

Veronica Lawlor is an artist who draws to document what she sees. When everyone carries a camera 24/7, why bother drawing?

Viewing Lawlor's drawing of Stp Peter's Square Rome, at AFA Gallery, Scranton.
Lawlor’s pen and ink drawing of St. Peter’s Square, Rome, at AFA Gallery, Scranton.

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.”

Panoramic drawing of St Peter's Square, Rome. © Veronica Lawlor
Panoramic drawing of St Peter’s Square, Rome. © Veronica Lawlor

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.

Veronica Lawlor, with Chris Spollen and Kevin McCloskey, AFA Gallery Scranton.
Veronica Lawlor, center, with Chris Spollen, Kevin McCloskey, AFA Gallery, Scranton.

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.

Times Square urban sketches for Canson Paper © Veronica Lawlor.
Times Square urban sketches for Canson Paper © Veronica Lawlor.

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.

More Times Square Tourists, detail © Veronica Lawlor
More Times Square Tourists, detail © Veronica Lawlor

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.

Tour de France ©2006 Veronica Lawlor
Tour de France ©2006 Veronica Lawlor

KMc: I am fascinated that you drew in Lower Manhattan on 9/11/2001. How did that come about?

From the book, "Sept. 11, 2001:Words and Pictures" © Veronica Lawlor
From the book, Sept. 11, 2001:Words and Pictures  © Veronica Lawlor

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.

Police Barricades 0n 9/11/2001.© Veronica Lawlor
Police Barricades 0n 9/11/2001.© Veronica Lawlor

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.

Venetian Vendor, St. Mark's Square, Venice © Veronica Lawlor
Venetian Vendor, St. Mark’s Square, Venice © Veronica Lawlor

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.

Brooklyn Bridge, detail, for Brooks Brothers, © Veronica Lawlor
Brooklyn Bridge, detail, for Brooks Brothers, © Veronica Lawlor

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.

Gallo Wine Label © 2015 Veronica Lawlor.
Gallo Wine Label © 2015 Veronica Lawlor.

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 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.



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