Pascal Campion’s first cover for The New Yorker ran only a few weeks ago—a striking tableau of the city, shrouded in haze and dotted with light. His latest drawing zooms in a bit. Instead of the panoramic, we get a warm, intimate study of the encounters that give the city its life. Recently, we asked Campion about how he selects details and what in New York he might render next.
Your images are evocative, but the specific spaces, streets, or neighborhoods are hard to pin down. Do you take photos or notes when you travel?
I try not to show everything so it leaves room for the reader’s imagination. That’s also why I like evening or night scenes best: you can suggest more with shadows. I didn't use to take photos; with iPhones and digital cameras it's become so easy that I find myself taking more. That said, I usually only take photos of details: how light reflects in a puddle, the shine on the top of a car after the rain, things like that. The rest I just try to remember and re-create. I think that if I let my mind take over my memory, it will create something more interesting.
Does being an art director at an animation studio influence your illustration work?
Of course. As an art director, I meet many different artists who bring different views and possibilities to the projects I work on. I can't help but be influenced by them. Sometimes it's simple stuff, like a friend showing me how he uses a big, soft, round brush, which is something I had never done before.
Two of Campion's other sketches on the topic of love.
You work that job and you also start each day with a drawing. How do you balance work and personal life?
I’m pretty disciplined (most of the time), and having kids helps. I get them up and ready and get them to school. That schedule is a great structure for our family life—I can’t say, “Oh, I have a drawing to finish,” or “I have to jump on a call . . .” When I work from home, I tend to use the different parts of the day to work on different projects or different parts of the projects. That works well for me.
Before the kids, I would do much longer stretches of work and would get tired—physically and mentally—far more often. The other great thing about having an active family is that it helps me take a step back. I can get into my head and feel down if I work too much on something. With the kids barging in, I get pulled out of those head places pretty quickly!
In your next trip to New York, what neighborhood do you want to return to? Which new one do you want to discover?
All of them! I would love to walk all around Manhattan again, but I also want to spend time in the Upper East Side, the West Side, Queens, Brooklyn . . . I only know these by name and from the movies. So, for me, everything about New York is still intriguing and exotic.
What are your sources of inspiration in the art (or cartooning) world?
I used to say that everything was a source of inspiration, and it is, to a degree. But when I think more about it, I look at my library of books and I always go back to a few people. I’m a big fan of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers; I’m fascinated and in awe of Andrew Wyeth and his winter images; of Frederic Remington’s night-scene paintings; all of J. J. Sempé’s work is an inspiration. The list goes on.
See below for more covers about love:
“Beau and Eros,” by Art Spiegelman
“Perfect Storm,” by Tomer Hanuka
“Love," by Frank Viva