Check Out These Insanely Detailed Cityscapes, From NYC to Tokyo and Beyond

Pen-and-ink artist Benjamin Sack spends months drawing some of his intricate cityscapes, which capture the beauty of urban topography.

Image courtesy of Benjamin Sack Artist Benjamin Sack draws pen-and-ink cityscapes. This piece, "Hieroglpyh I," was inspired by New York, Paris and Istanbul.

As anyone who lives in a large city knows, it's easy to take the beauty of urban settings for granted. That's why we love the artwork of Benjamin Sack. His pen-and-ink cityscapes — some of which are inspired by cities like Paris, New York City and Tokyo — capture the splendor of urban topography: thickets of buildings, criss-crossing streets, traversing rivers. We asked Sack, who lives in Leesburg, Va., to talk about his art and inspiration.

Did you grow up in a large city?
I was born near Los Angeles and spent a few years in the area. However, for most of my life I've lived in the suburbs of D.C.

What compelled you to start drawing cityscapes?
I'm still trying to figure that one out myself. Most children, when they start drawing people, start with stick figures and from there their stick figures evolve into organic blobs of unnatural circles and spheres, gigantic heads and uneven limbs. My stick figures went in the other direction. For some reason I was inclined to draw people as cubes and in a very geometric manner. I suppose these people eventually turned into the buildings I draw now. Of course, I would be disrespectful of my childhood not to credit thousands of hours of playing with Legos as an influence, as well.

Do you always use real cities as models or inspiration for your art?
Sometimes I choose to use real cities as a model, especially when I was younger…. As a child I memorized hundreds of pictures and re-articulated them in ink. Since two, I've slowly been building an interior visual library of sand castles from postcards, bird's eye views of major cities from modern and medieval maps. To answer your question a little more succinctly, I sometimes refer back to images of cities for inspiration or for ideas, though a majority of my drawings now are done from imagination.


What elements of a cityscape do you find most appealing to draw? You certainly seem drawn to rivers and bridges.
I have a particular affinity for domes for some reason. If you take a moment, you'll see a couple hundred buildings featuring some number of domes. Perhaps it's the mind grasping for some sort of organic shape amidst the density of rigid lines and dots. Or perhaps I just like domes.

Are there any cities you'd like to draw that you haven't done yet?
Notwithstanding the ones I've drawn already that I'd love to revisit, Beijing, Vienna and Istanbul would be a treat.

Have you visited all the cities that you've drawn? I imagine it might help to know the city in person.
I haven't visited all of them, though I'm fortunate enough to say I've been to many.

How much time do you typically spend on one drawing?
It depends on the size. The smaller works take between one to five days. The larger works can take months.

How large are these pieces in person?
Some are small, around 8.5" x 11". Some are medium-sized, 24" x 24". And a few are quite large. A circular drawing I did was 12 feet in circumference and others were 3.5' x 9' and 4' x 6'.

Do you like looking at cities as you take off and land in an airplane?
This is one of my favorite things. As a matter of fact, I was on my way back from Israel many years ago, the sun was starting to set, we were 35,000 feet in the air. To my left was a coastline that could belong to only Italy. Having Google Earth in my head, I became really excited. The plane's path was going to take us right over the Venetian lagoon and thus Venice itself. I'd never been there. I joke that the real treat of visiting Israel was being able to see Venice for the first time during sunset with the backdrop of the Alps in the far distance. A different type of Holy Land, you could say.

Visit Sack's website to view more art. He is represented by the Hubert Gallery (NYC), Ghostprint Gallery (Richmond, Va.) and Robert Fontaine Gallery (Miami).
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