Steve McDonald is an artist and lifelong traveler who has lived in cities and countries all over the world. His large-format, photo-based, detailed drawings of cities are collected in the new adult coloring book Fantastic Cities, coming this August.
I’ve always loved drawing buildings. When I was young, I even had aspirations of becoming an architect, but ended up as an illustrator instead. When creating a piece of art, the most appealing part for me has always been the line work. Even when I’m working on a painting, the part I enjoy most is always the initial drawing. I really love lines, and I think that shows in the finished work.
I have my daughters to thank for how Fantastic Cities came together as a coloring book. After creating artwork focusing on individual and small groups of buildings, I started to veer toward larger groups and then aerial views of cities. My daughters saw this work and told me that they thought it would be fun to color in the lines themselves (whereas I might normally keep going past the line-work stage to color it myself).
I realized that it might be a perfect vehicle to share my work more widely, with people who might not otherwise see my paintings, for instance. I also really like that people everywhere could become a part of the creative process. That’s very exciting and fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing how people might choose to color the images in.
In my city drawings I always try to accentuate the characteristics that make a city unique. For example, the organized chaos of a favela in Brazil, the towering majesty of a skyscraper in New York, or the historic façades of Parisian row houses. I try to capture something that illustrates something unique about that place.
I love to draw on-site with pencils or ink and I always try to take a lot of photographs. (For sites I haven’t visited, I’ve been fortunate to work from the material of many noted photographers.) I take these back with me to my studio, and it’s there that I really create the compositions using a range of analog and digital means, including ink on paper, stylus work on a tablet, and wall projection. The size of the original work really depends on the composition and detail of the image. Sometimes they are quite large. 24 inches square is the smallest I work while sometimes they are as big as 6 feet square ! Even if I’m drawing with the tablet I like to do the drawings bigger than I need to. This allows me to really get into some of the detail required on some of them.
I know that lots of people find coloring to be meditative and relaxing. What do I do when I want to unwind? I draw! I also love nature and travelling. By that, I mean living in nature and travelling to cities. I’ve been a lifelong traveler ever since my family moved to the Middle East in 1979. I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia, Italy, India and Indonesia, visited dozens of countries, and spent the better part of twenty years travelling and painting my native Canada coast to coast by bus, car, helicopter, canoe, by ship and on foot. My wife and kids and I just spent two years in Bali, where my daughter and I learned how to surf, and we really enjoy it.
Among my favorite illustrations for the book are the Rocinha Favela in Rio (there’s an organized craziness to it that is immensely appealing to me), the Amsterdam street corner, because I love drawing that city, and the super-dense San Francisco drawing from above, which was kind of nuts and definitely the biggest challenge in the book. I can’t wait to see how they get colored in.
Can’t wait until August to start coloring? Download and print a page from Fantastic Cities.
Latest posts by Steve McDonald (see all)
- Coloring in Fantastic Collections—Illustrator Steve McDonald Shares His Inspirations - July 26, 2016
- Coloring Fantastic Structures from All Around the World - March 14, 2016
- Fantastic Cities - July 17, 2015
Let’s Make More Diverse BooksJuly 7th, 2017
Introducing Specs the Book Bike: Chronicle Books on WheelsJune 27th, 2017
Chronicle Books in Infographic FormJune 20th, 2017
The First Book We Ever PublishedJune 16th, 2017