Pat Vale Comes to Discover New York City
When Pat Vale was invited back to Central Saint Martins to talk to the students there he reminded his teacher of something that the professor had said to him while he was studying at school. “Stop making pieces that your mother would want to put on the wall,” his teacher admonished. Pat does make beautiful images that anyone would want to put on the wall, and years later it was the same teacher that invited him to speak, so something worked.
Since he was a kid growing up in Bristol, Pat has created stark line drawings, mostly of architecture. It began when he was very young and his father brought back pictures and books from his monthly trips to the US. That lit a fire in Pat. “I would have all these references different from the way English architecture was. It was quite technically challenging,” says Pat. “It’s something over the years that I’ve always come back to. I do find it very therapeutic. I get lost in it.” Drawing at the scale and detail he does becomes a meditation, and when Pat plugs into these pieces, he totally plugs in until he’s traced an entire experience through the image.
Some of his most breathtaking work is huge panels of cityscapes that capture thousands of buildings, filled with millions of people. Since he’s an illustrator and not a photographer he cannot put everything in every image. Sure, he can try to fit every window from every floor, but not every brick, and the further into the distance the piece looks he can’t even get in every building. But that’s a part of the process. “When I draw these huge pieces of these cities I’m in awe of what I’m seeing. I’m studying it and then other people will as well, they’ll make up their own narrative,” Pat explains. “It’s as much about seeing as it is about drawing. There’s definitely an editing process that happens when I see something. You instinctively know what you need to do to tell the story of that building or person.” When we see space in real life there’s too much to take in so we edit out what isn’t crucial for our experience. Since Pat is communicating to us, he shows us what he is seeing, rather than trying to give a perfect photographic representation of the world. It’s through that process that the scape comes alive, like its own character, with its own message, and its own life.
One of the reasons that Pat chose to transplant to New York was that he has spent so much ink and paper studying the city. But now that he’s in the city, his work is actually shifting away from the architecture and becoming more human. “Actually drawing people and humans is something I’m doing a lot more since I moved here and it’s something I just didn’t do really unless I was asked to do it. I didn’t do it and now I just want to document everything,” he says. But he doesn’t approach it any differently from how he draws buildings. “It’s all drawing to me,” he says.