When you think of illustrations, you think of children’s books. You think editorials. You think of websites or advertisements. These decorative images have been around since the beginning of time and are everywhere you look. They appeal to your visual senses and give you a sense of joy.
You might think cityscape illustrations would be nothing but tall architectonic drawings. Or simply unending areas of urban landscapes. No whimsical details or fantasy creatures there. No wonderful stories to tell. But like any other form of art, a splash of color and a little imagination creates wonders!
Here are some cityscape illustrations to inspire you and get your creativity flowing.
Breakfast with a View
This watercolor piece by Annalise Batista is a typical cityscape view of Paris from a balcony. You know it is the city of love when the form of the Eiffel Tower is in view. The warm color palette speaks of sunny mornings and springtime. Although there are no outlines, each of the elements in the painting stands out. The watercolor adds a delicate quality to the overall painting, much like the atmosphere of Paris itself. If you look at the painting long enough, you feel like you are there, staring out at the Parisian skyline. Maybe even about to bite into a freshly baked croissant as the sun warms your body! Can you hear the jazz playing?
The Surreal Spectacle
Based in a post-apocalyptic urban setting, artist Camila Rodrigues captures the nothingness of the scene perfectly. The color palette of this digital art piece is as dark as its theme. It is a cold and almost hopeless feeling. The pathway of broken stones leads your eyes to the rest of the cityscape. The scene shows a once-thriving city now in shambles. Even part of the ground has broken away. There seem to be misshapen green lines falling out of the buildings, maybe representing otherworldly creatures. Sunshine fills the dusty atmosphere above, not as a sense of hope but as a sense of calamity.
Of Rainy Nights and Nostalgia
Alberto H. Fabregas, a retiree, now illustrating, describes himself as obsessed with rain and its derivatives. This oil painting by him shows a city drenched in rain. The street basks in the yellow glow of the windows from the buildings and the street lights. Although the hero of the piece isn’t the cityscape itself, the urban-ness of the night comes through. The central figure is a gentleman under an umbrella about to cross the road. You can feel the cold air against his jacket and the loneliness of the setting. The background shows the haziness that comes with the downpour. The cross-hatching and lines of the brush can be clearly made out. This gives the piece a lively feeling. It is a lovely sense of romantic nostalgia.
Simple, Elegant, and Victorian
London and its gloomy weather are embodied perfectly in this sketch by artist Victoria Borodinova. Through the earthy browns and yellows, she shows the Gothic brickwork of London’s Houses of Parliament. The bold black outlines bring out the architectural quality of the piece. It resembles an industrial setting with a lack of vehicles or human presence. The artist chose to leave the underlying pencil lines as is. She also does not fill the forms entirely with color but simply marks random places with the pastel-like texture. There is a hint of a reflection on the body of water below – the murky water of the River Thames. You feel the simplicity of the sketch and also the historic elegance of the city.
Black and White Alleyways
This black and white line art by Gordon Johnson takes you into the quieter alleyways of a cityscape. Even with a lack of color, the work stands out as astonishing. The dark shadows and the detailed brickwork of the buildings are rendered to perfection. The uneven and rough textures of the walls can be distinguished from the smoother stone ground. You know instantly that it is a residential area with a cobblestone pathway. He has also kept in mind the perspective, and the three-dimensionality, as the winding path vanishes around a corner. A dark silhouette of a person adds a human touch to the otherwise eerie place. All the illustration uses, are black lines and that is the beauty of it.
This is a graphic illustration of typical New-York-city-style skyscrapers against a night sky. Although the buildings are flat, they have a sense of perspective. The boxy-ness of these structures is carried on to the little rectangular windows as well. A hobbyist graphic designer, Aneta Esz has put a lot of effort into showing the details. You can feel the over-crowding and congested nature of the cityscape. A row of greenery lines the front of the piece, almost closing the city within its boundaries. Tiny yellow spots of light shine through the foliage, maybe representing street lights or headlights of vehicles. The colors are muted and tones of brown, which add to the nighttime feel of the setting. This is a busy city at its finest. A city that never sleeps even at night!
Whimsical Row Houses
Lukasz Siwy takes you back to the quaint little row houses of Amsterdam in this charming little illustration. It has a very whimsical and childlike quality to it. The outlines are bold and the color palette is minimal. It is both vertical and horizontal, imposing yet adorable. The building tops have an ornate quality to them. You can see this illustration accompanying a fictitious tale in a children’s book. The squiggly tree to the side and the little bicycle, add to the appeal of the piece. It is not about perfectly straight lines or coloring with the boxes. It is the spontaneity and irregularity that makes this work perfect.
A Quirky Reimagination
Freelance illustrator Natalia Lavrinenko illustrates the unmistakable exterior of the Notre Dame Cathedral in her quirky style. The bold outlining and minimal colors make the illustration simple. Much like its predecessor, this too does not have any perfect bounding lines. The central tower rises beyond the blue sky above. The water is merely a shapeless splotch below. This shapelessness reflects in the white blobs in the sky that represent clouds. It is very sketchy and organic in nature, especially with how the bushes are depicted. None of the outlines meet the other and the colors within are hurriedly added. The muted color palette gives it a soft look, making you almost want to hug it!
Paris in Vectors and Shapes
This editorial style vector illustration, by Memed Nurrohmad, shows the landmarks that define Paris. It’s a very flat and simple representation, apt for travel guides or brochures. All the elements fit onto a strip of land and are put into a circle within a larger square. The otherwise detailed forms of the trees and buildings are brought down to their basic shapes here. It is very precise, straight, and clean. Despite the flat portrayal and lack of light and shade, the layering of the shapes gives it a sense of depth. You could think of it like pieces of paper cut out and stacked one over the other like a collage. There is also a clever use of typography, through the form of the Eiffel Tower in the place of the letter ‘A’ below.
An Uber-Aerial City
Another vector illustration of a cityscape is shown in this unique layout by Javier Rodrigues. It is like the buildings are forced out of the face of the planet itself. The color palette is limited to mere reds and the details are omitted for the sake of simplicity. You can also notice the subtle use of gradients in the trees and central space. The buildings that emerge from the front show more details, while the ones in the back are solid shapes. It is like you are viewing the city from above, maybe even outer space. The entire central mass seems suspended in the red space.
You know when you see a great piece of artwork. It takes you through a journey- tells you a story. A popular 1916 advert said it best – ‘Illustration beats explanation’. What better way to engage people than through attractive illustrations! Cities are vibrant and bustling with life, its essence ready to be translated into art. Through the process, you get to know the place you are illustrating. You fall in love with the smallest of details. All you need to do is whip out some paper and a pencil, walk onto your balcony and sketch away. You might be a brush stroke away from creating a phenomenal illustration!