Carl Lavia Poster

Sketch a.k.a Carl Lavia is a London-based sketch artist. Predominantly working with ink on archival paper. His subject matter has always been cityscapes. He chooses to depict the city from an aerial viewpoint, capturing an intensely intricate and delicate expansiveness. His earlier cityscapes were generally fictive, though now he has taken a new direction and is currently engaged on a long-term project, the attempt: to sketch large-scale, all 69 cities within the UK.

Gift Shop was lucky to chat with Carl about this amazing project and his life as an artist:

Carl Lavin Museum

Photography Credit: Lorna Le Bredonchel

Hi, Carl lets start with you telling us a little about you and your work…

All kids like to draw, but I suppose what was unique in my case is that the subject was always cityscapes. This current project – sketching every single city within the UK, all 69! – is a pure passion project, it has grown out of a love for and the challenge of depicting the cities I have travelled to within this country and will give me the opportunity to travel to as i journey through this project.

Describe your average day.

My days are never the same! – currently, my project partner and I have been up to our eyeballs in getting the mounting completed on the Manchester artwork ready for display – there are always technical/practical challenges when working on large pieces. I’ve also just started mapping Edinburgh so my days are taken up with travelling and mapping the city while making preliminary sketches before I start on the main piece.

Carl Lavin 69 Cities

What jobs have you done/do other than being an artist?

I’ve done all sorts of jobs to fund my creativities. All of them were the type of job that didn’t need me to invest too much concentration so that I could be free mentally/emotionally to have enough energy to pour into creating. For instance, I worked for the post office in the sorting room, I’ve been an office cleaner! I’ve done market research, fundraising, security work… I was never looking for a promotion, as I always intended my creativity to be the main event!

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

It’s always a pure joy to be sent images of the framed prints on people’s walls, the fact that the artwork has tapped into people’s deep and powerful connection to places, to witness that is an ongoing love-affair for me.

Is the artistic life lonely?

Every single human being feels loneliness, but I don’t happen to think the state of loneliness itself is unhealthy, it’s like being hungry for something, there’s no better meal than the meal you eat when you are really hungry – but besides that, I am really fortunate that I have a creative project partner, without her shared focus on the matters at hand, it would all be way more difficult to manage this entire project.

Carl Lavin Getting City Inspiration

What research do you do?

I use aerial photography books, google maps, I spend hours walking the city streets, I keep up-to-date with the many building projects as they happen, as at times I like to include what will yet be built into the artwork.

How do you work and what media do you use?

My process is simple, pen on paper (specifically, a mix of technical inks and Bic pens on archival paper). As for media, my project partner is the one who has put together the website and she manages the fb/twitter accounts, I dip in each day with the goings on online as its the only way I get to communicate with those who are into the project.

Do you rage against the machine or use computers to create your artwork?

I don’t use computers to create the artwork, but I use social media to get the artwork out there, so I guess I rage WITH the machine!

Which other artists/designers/real-life situations inspire you?

I love the grandeur of Canaletto, but a constant companion Is music, maybe a bit of Bowie, The Beatles, Daft Punk, I listen as I walk the streets. I sketch in silence, but the preparation is fuelled by music. Architecture obviously inspires me, aerial footage via drones to music is really exhilarating!. Poetry, Photography, especially by Eggleston. The idea of accomplishing all 69 cities drives me too, being able to say I did all 69 is a massive propulsion forward.

What is your dream project?

Dream project, well, after I finish all 69 UK cities, I’ll work on the capital cities across the globe… sounds a bit like world domination, but no, I don’t want domination, I just want to keep striving.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best advice that I have been given? – I’m not really very good at remembering good advice, hopefully, I can simply demonstrate a decent way of being by just doing the things I’m passionate about.

Sketch the City

Can recommend any great blogs/campaigns/twitter accounts?

My recommendation for great blogs campaigns/twitter accounts – oops, I’m too busy to browse except when it comes to research at the moment!

Professionally, what’s your goal?

Professionally I would just like to keep doing what it is that I’m passionate about, i want to depict the cities of our world, starting with the country I was born in.

What superpower would you have and why?

What superpower would I like to have and why? – I like to be able to fly as it would make the mapping of the cities way easier! – would be way way cheaper on travel too


All photographs: Lorna Le Bredonchel