Part I, in Liverpool John Moores University
Part II, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow
Part III, University of Westminster in London.
Chris is an incredibly talented illustrator and practising architect. He has set up his own business Studio Dove where he sells prints of his beautiful architectural illustrations.
He has a fine pedigree, after graduating in 2014, he was shortlisted for a number of awards, which allowed him to lecture at the AIA in New York City about his drawings.
He was then selected to work as a lead illustrator for Scotland's entry to the coveted Venice Biennale, which was curated by Rem Koolhaas.
Most recently he has working alongside pen manufacturer uniball on a series of european cities illustrations some of which can be seen later in the article.
Chris could you start by giving us an insight into your background, where you have studied and what you are doing post-graduation?
I studied my Part I in Liverpool John Moores University, my Part II in the Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, and my Part III in University of Westminster in London. It’s be a serious case of moving around the UK!
Where do you think that your passion for illustration arisen from, and is there anybody who has had an influence on your illustrative style?
I was always inspired by the drawings of Peter Salter when I was studying, and still am today. His pen drawings are not only incredibly beautiful, but seriously analytical too. You can tell he’s trying to work things out as he’s drawing it. It’s something I’d really like to push in the next stages of my work.
I have always had a massive fascination for Peter Cook’s experimental drawings too. I was lucky enough to meet him wandering around Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Gallery when I was backpacking through Germany a few years ago. He took my sketchbook off me and had a serious look through it - I was terrified! (luckily he gave me a pat on the back afterwards though so hopefully it went okay!)
You have utilised your incredible illustrative skills to start your own business selling prints of your drawings worldwide, when did you decide to focus on your illustrations?
My small illustration studio essentially started after finishing my Part II. I ended up selling a couple of prints from my final project and was blown away really. I never really saw my drawings as any kind of business, they were more just something for me to illustrate my architectural ideas. After this I started a series of drawings of buildings, cities and they proved to be quite successful with a few people. I suppose after this I began to see there may be a little niche for me and my hobby of drawing to exist as a small business. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I suppose it’s anybodies dream to turn a hobby into a business!
You were selected lead illustrator for Scotland’s entry to the Venice Biennale which was curated by Rem Koolhaas, what was it like to be selected for such a prestigious event?
I was asked by a senior member of the academic staff at the Mac after I finished my Part II to join the team putting together a research project focussed around modernism and the city of Glasgow for that year. I was selected to work as an illustrator for the projects, drawing many of the tall modernist tower blocks that were built in Glasgow throughout the 60s and 70s, alongside my good friend and colleague Jamie Whelan, who has in incredibly ability for writing and illustrating ideas through diagrams. It was a great experience to be part of such an incredible arts event, and something I always vow to go back to every two years for!
A particular favourite of ours at The Architecture Student Blog is your Rooves series, what inspired you to draw from an aerial perspective for this collection of drawings?
The ‘Rooves’ series began after a residency in Venice as part of Scotland’s entry to the Venice Biennale in 2014. I became fascinated with the pattern of the streets, the canals, the dead ends, the tight streets opening into open expanses of public squares. I just wanted to draw it to study how it worked. It wasn’t really like any of the cities I’d been in recently such as New York and Glasgow, where there was a structured grid and rhythm to the city. This initial drawing looking at the rooftops, streets, squares and canals of Venice started a study into other European cities I’d visited and wanted to compare. Other drawings followed, working in a similar scale and style to develop a set, for Barcelona, Paris, Stockholm and Rome amongst others. I haven’t finished it yet, I’ve still got a few more to do!
Could you give our readers an insight into your process when producing your drawings?
The Rooves are a funny one actually. I actually go against my usual way of drawing, which I think has come from architectural school - in that you set up the entire drawing first and then work into the detail second. For the Rooves series, I just find it so much more enjoyable to work up each small block of the city to detail at a time, so you can see the drawing growing across the page. I think it gives the drawings a slightly looser and more human feel to them.
You have set up your business using your own talent and the power of social media, what advice could you offer other illustrators or architects who are looking to follow in your footsteps?
I feel like I’ve always been really lucky, and I’m always eternally grateful for the people who follow my work, the people who buy my work and the websites / blogs who share it online. Luck and opportunity is definitely always a factor in any of these things, but I believe you have to put yourself out there. You have to push yourself and get excited by your own work. I was always taught at the Mac to play to your strengths - don’t worry too much about what everyone else is doing, and just focus on your own work, and doing what you enjoy. I think people enjoy seeing an artist’s personality in the work, and if you focus on what you enjoy, this should be really clear.
As well as your illustrative work you are also a practicing architectural assistant at Jamie Fobert Architects how do you balance your work-life with your passion for illustration?
I’ve been working for the practice for three years now and really enjoy it. The calibre of projects and standard of work in the office is incredibly high, and it’s been a real honour to work on projects such as Tate St Ives and Kettle’s Yard. Work-life balance is a tricky one - I often work crazy hours to push my architectural work and my illustration projects. I’m also sitting my Part III exams at the moment, and so that has thrown an absolute spanner into the works too! I think the trick is to be fairly disciplined - give yourself time off, stick to deadlines and remember to enjoy it! The latter can be hard sometimes when you’re up against it or you’re tired, but I think the feeling of completing something is totally worth it. For me, seeing a building you’ve detailed over and over again be completed, or a drawing hung in someone’s living room the other side of the world is the best feeling for a young designer.
If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?
I think I touched on it earlier really, play to your strengths. Everyone has a different set of skills, and you shouldn’t get bogged down too much by what other people are doing or look to imitate the work of others. In architecture school I was a pretty average model maker, and my digital rendering skills are definitely nothing to write home (or to anyone) about, but my drawing was my strong point. My tutors Charlie Sutherland and Graeme Massie at the Mac encouraged me to finish my thesis project with a wall of hand drawings. I think it really helped me to understand that I should focus on my strengths and look to use them in order to push through my personality in my work. I would ask other architecture students what is your skill, and how do you want to take advantage of it.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?
For my illustration work you can always find the latest ramblings and projects on my instagram page (@chrisdove). You can also find my drawings on my website, which is about to be updated with some of the new work I’ve been working on for the past year.
For the work of Jamie Fobert Architects, the practice website is constantly updated with what we’re up to as a studio, and Jamie’s instagram page (@jamiefobert) always has a great collection of photographs from projects past and present along with his travels.