Derwent Art Prize Winner Paul Hiles on Drawing Cityscapes

Derwent Art Prize Winner Paul Hiles on Drawing Cityscapes

I am fascinated by the architecture and life of the city. The constantly changing light and shadow, the reflection on the Thames and shadows created by tall buildings… from quiet and contemplative parts of the city, to the bustling life of the West End. These elements inspire my work and drive me on to find more ways to communicate what I see and feel in these exciting environments.

I develop my ideas in a small sketchbook, adding notes and scribbles, I’m becoming more fascinated by stories, history, memories and experiences from childhood to present day events and people that have influenced or inspired me, my work is a reflection of what I continue to learn.

Top tips for drawing cityscapes

First gather lots of visual material such as photographs you have taken or images in magazines, books, the internet or other artists work. I sketch whenever I can; adding details, ideas with notes and observations in my sketchbook. Reference material is important.

Use drawings of different cityscapes for reference to see how the artist has tackled it and use different mediums to create different effects. This will get you thinking about composition, lighting, colour, tone etc. If something or someone inspires you, retain it. Paul Cezanne, David Bomberg, Frank Auerbach continue to inspire me.

Have a strong focal point.

I start with a simple layout at the top and work down, where larger shapes are in respect to the horizon line, buildings, vehicles, fixtures and people are visualized as simple shapes and forms. Know which lines are important. I don’t draw every line. Perspective lines are more important than those that describe little things like window trims and street signs.

I exaggerate the curve of the horizon in the distance with soft, less detailed buildings drawn with 2H and HB pencils; this helps to gently lead the eye to a distant focal point. I use softer, darker 3B to 9B pencils for the detail in the foreground, the deeper contracts of light and shade help to create a greater three dimensional feel and make the foreground stand out. This can help to enhance a greater sense of scale depth and drama in a cityscape.

I add the finishing touches and details once the basic layout is established.

Don’t be afraid to scrap or re draw a piece of work, do it again!


If you’ve been inspired by the tips above then take a look at our Art and Craft supplies to try your hand at home.

You can find out more about Paul Hiles on his website.