New York City – Oct 2015

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Jessica May Underwood reflects on her recent trip to New York…

A meticulously-planned, regimented tour of creative agencies, publications and fashion houses over two weeks, with as little sleeping to be done as possible. Staying in the East Village I took my first half day to collect my thoughts and work on the final version of my portfolio over strong coffee and a little whiskey with dinner at St. Dymphnas on East 7th St. A good place to decompress and to absorb a little of the electricity, familiarity and good friends I found around me.

My meetings took me uptown, downtown and back and forth – sometimes three, four, five times a day. Meeting with creatives at such a fast pace is always a pleasure, and the dialogue and ideas generated are the key to successful collaboration.

It is always a very interesting meeting with Vogue – this was a great opportunity to showcase some of my newest figurative fashion work, and to catch up with the Creative Director on issue content, direction and future projects. The offices now located at World Trade Center are a hub of elegant workings, hallways of beautifully-curated photographs, rich furniture, and racks of some of the most beautiful garments, contemporary and archival, that I have ever seen.

Afterwards I stopped at the best bookshop in Soho – McNally Jackson – and saw, for the first time, my UK Editorial illustration in Harper’s Bazaar. A real honour to be credited in such a brilliant publication, and a good feeling to see it on magazine stands in New York.

With such a full schedule I wanted to ensure I made it to my favourite places. I spent an afternoon at the Met, wandering the halls with a friend I had just taken a meeting with at Oscar De La Renta. The Chinese textiles exhibition had just come to a close, so we took in the Art Nouveau furniture, classical sculpture and Moroccan tiled rooms, visions too beautiful for our eyes, the fountains and gilded carvings impossible to exaggerate in memory or conversation.

I ran to the drawing rooms just as the museum was closing and saw a room dedicated to ‘The Human Expression’. Mostly etchings, some very famous, some found and undated, and a particular favourite of mine – a lithograph by the late Mariano Fortuny.

With a little light left I situated myself at the edge of Central Park and worked into some location drawings, people and places, small sketches to remind me of the real feeling of the place. It’s a little like writing, as each drawing has a small narrative. I usually take these pieces and work them into etchings when I am back in the studio.  They act as research and practice for technique, and capturing movement. The foundations of my line-making as an artist.

It is always a favourite evening of mine to walk back down Park Avenue from the 72nds or thereabouts… the architecture and grandeur is infinitely inspiring.  I took myself back to my desk that night and worked into my drawings, taking myself to get some sleep before early morning arrived – and the remainder of my schedule resumed early the next day.

After two weeks of beautiful New York narrative, I left immeasurably inspired, enchanted and educated by one of the world’s most wonderful cities.

(The two sketches shown here are a pencil study drawn in Central Park and Margo Ducharme.)