In our first artist interview for the City Wallets series, we chat with James Gulliver Hancock, the artist who illustrated the Los Angeles wallet. Originally from Sydney, Australia, James is obsessed with cities and drawing, and is known for his whimsical, colorful and upbeat aesthetic. The avid traveler has been around the world, to places like Japan, China, Russia, Southeast Asia and Europe. He now splits his time between Brooklyn, New York and Sydney, Australia.
1. What was your inspiration for the Los Angeles city wallet?
When I live in different cities I get obsessed with different things, and in Los Angeles it’s the cars. I lived in Los Angeles for 4 years, and just couldn’t stop drawing cars. I love taking on an aspect of a place or an environment and exploring it obsessionally and seeing where it goes. I ended up producing this print as part of that process.
2. What is your most memorable experience in Los Angeles?
I am a massive Eames fan, so when I finally made it up to the Eames house in Santa Monica I was so excited. It’s such a little oasis, and such a beautiful example of ‘lived in’ modernism. The most magical scene unfolded when we were swinging on the swing in the garden and a huge deer walked past with massive antlers, it was like a ghost appearing and disappearing as we played, really magical.
3. Can you describe your artistic style and share how you got started as an illustrator?
My style varies quite a bit, but I guess the thing that binds it all together is the hand generated element and the naivety that that brings to the lines and mood. I love pen and pencil on paper and am constantly drawing everything around me. People are always taking my napkin drawings and framing them. It’s hilarious to go to a friends house and see our throw away drawings framed on their wall. I think this element of obsession is an important part of my work, and my success. The drive to constantly make and create is what gets my work seen.
4. How has traveling influenced your work?
Travelling is a big part of my work. Seeing different objects and how they are used by people. Seeing how different people and cultures see their world is a big part of inspiring me to create. I have travelled extensively since I was little kid, being half from the UK, half from Australia. I actually love working in different spaces, setting up makeshift studios on the road. I’ve done some of my favourite work waiting for trains or planes.
5. What fueled your obsession with cities?
I think I have a healthy love of nature, but cities really grab me. I’m not obsessed with every city, but I think it’s hard not to appreciate massive collections of people, organising themselves like ants and interacting every day. It’s amazing to think of all the different personalities in a city. I tend to do a lot of my making by myself, so it’s great to be able to walk down the street and see and wonder about people.
6. Which destination(s) is high on your travel list this year and why?
I’m coming back to Los Angeles this year and can’t wait. I’ll be spending a decent amount of time there. It’s actually quite similar to my home town sydney in some ways. But I love being around my inspiring confident American friends… and the cars!
7. What are some of your travel essentials?
All I need is pencil and paper.
8. What are some current themes that you are working with?
My obsession with obsession is never ending, it’s my main overarching theme, and by its nature it is infinite, so I guess I’m stuck drawing everything that ever existed for the rest of my life – fine by me