How Do You Draw a Town?

February 06, 2020

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

Since 2007, work on Common Craft videos has been a constant. We publish about 10 original videos a year, which means that video production is an enduring part of our work. Like any job, it can get less exciting after so much time, but I’m always thankful that it’s my job. Instead of saying, “I have to do it.” I prefer to say, “I get to do it.” It’s a good job to have.

One of my favorite parts of the process is drawing the artwork that appears in the videos; what we call cut-outs. Now that we have a library of over 3,000 cut-outs, I don’t have to draw every image from scratch. But there are certain illustrations that can make a video more original and creative and taking the time to get them right is my happy place.

A forthcoming video tells the story of two towns. The concept of a town (or two in this case) is one that could be drawn in a number of ways. I could draw an old west style storefront or neighborhood with driveways and sidewalks. How does one draw multiple towns?

I like to think about Common Craft cut-outs as symbols rather than realistic interpretations. Symbols are more timeless and flexible. They have personality and style. Below is a town symbol that’s currently in our library:

The same style, but a city instead:

For the forthcoming video, the new town images are still in production. Below is a draft that hasn’t yet been colored. If you look closely, you can see color swatches on the buildings. These indicate how the illustration will be colored when it’s finalized and turned into vector art. You’ll also see I’m leaving an open area in front of the buildings so the space can be used to add houses or whatever is needed. I’ll share the finished version once production is complete.

If you’re curious about Common Craft cut-outs, you can search the library.

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Each week, I share a story from my life, which usually involves a recent move to an island, building a custom home, publishing books, and running a business. Learn more.

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