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What does stock landscape illustration say about the ways we perceive physical space, movement and migration?
Built upon Catrin Morgan's idea of the 'nomadic illustration', the project unites works by 14 illustrators to explore the less obvious possibilities of stock landscapes, — and imagines them as digital 'airports': non-places that connect us to particularities of individual experiences.

Project authors:
Ksenia Kopalova, Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva

Hilde Kramer, Tânia A. Cardoso, Mia Newton, Ilia Shatokhin, Sarah Nesti Willard, Maria Massimi, Irina Troitskaya, Guzel Garipova, Nadia Zhelieznova, Olesya Shchukina, Polina Zinziver, Nadine Dhiver
The paradox behind stock imagery is that aiming to be ultra-inclusive it becomes alienating. When it shows a place, we recognise it, but it is never 'familiar'.

If we imagine a physical equivalent of such imagery that would probably be what Marc Augé called a non-place: a transitional point, perfectly inclusive and perfectly unstable, like the space of an airport — a non-place that in the past two years has become a symbol of impossibility and impregnable barriers.
Above: an image by Macrovector,
distributed on under free license
How quick were the sketches?
Each step of the 5-step transition was drawn in no more than 15 minutes.
We suggest to embrace such impossibilities and reconsider the utopian ideas of creating an ideal universal space by getting back to the particularities and imperfections of personal experiences and visual languages.

During the Transitus symposium at Falmouth University and within subsequent work we have collected quick sketches by 13 illustrators in Armenia, Dubai, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, UAE and UK. Each author created a 5-step transition from a stock image above to an image of the window view.

This project aims to reconsider the stereotypes surrounding stock images and, instead of condemning them, see them as unlikely connection points that, like a digital airport, unite people from drastically different contexts — even if for a moment.

GATE 101

Hilde Kramer
Process: "Photo/Scanned image/Photoshop/analog pen drawing and just following an intuitive trail of thoughts."

GATE 102

Polina Zinziver
"My main medium is digital tools and 3D environments.
Although the view from my balcony in the forest near Dilijan is fundamentally far from an urban vector image, the methods of creating my illustration and the basic vector image are extremely similar : cold mathematical operations performed by the computer in microseconds while you are looking at the screen.
Then the transition from one to the other manifested itself almost straight off the ice: it is enough to draw the yellow vectors of direction of the houses, and we immediately get a hill, on the normals of which the 3D program draws a virtual forest."

GATE 103

Ilia Shatokhin
"I am interested in investigating the limits of our consciousness: a human being is not capable of perceiving the city in all its complexity at once: for instance, on the level of an individual story of a person living in that city. That is why we use general categories: city, building, window, human, and these, among other things, indicate how sharp our focus is."

GATE 104

Nadia Zhelieznova
"For this brief I went for the easiest and quickest solution. My window view is not much different from the stock landscape, and it was possible to achieve similarity just by adjusting the color a bit and using collage. I think collage is a working solution as it allows to maintain the convincingness of both images, but I decided to use only parts of the stock image and draw at least a bit.

Before completing the assignment I thought that my method would anyway depend on the task. If my window view was a neighbour's window, I would just use cropping, and if it was a sand storm behind the window, I would use some blurring filter."

GATE 105

Mia Newton
"I created this sequence using the Procreate app and an iPad, using the chalk pen within the app - because I only had 15 minutes for each image I decided to forgo colour after my first image (/the last image) which I then ended up playing into on the Stage 4 image, I think it really helps to highlight the nostalgic feeling, and to tie the story together. I started with my view outside, and then when coming up with my idea - I could just picture someone living in the Urban Life picture, in an apartment - and it went from there, with the idea of windows and images as a means to travel into and out of a person's life - whether it be past, present or future."

GATE 106

Tânia A. Cardoso
"I wasn't really sure if I understood the assignment perfectly due to my internet disconnection. So, in my process, I tried to follow the idea of the stock image as a non-place and how I could achieve that concept visually. So my process started by drawing from my window with a marker, watercolour and pencil. From there, while I redrew the same image from nr 5 to nr 1 using pencil and then photoshop to colour it, I tried to remove all aspects of the image that had some meaning to me to achieve some kind of uniformity and ambiguity at the same time."
GATE 107

Maria Massimi
"I drew the view of my window with a ballpoint pen and sketchy, jagged lines, I then drew the stock image with this same technique. For the steps in between, I drew zoomed out views where I just added more and more buildings to look more like the stock picture and add to the claustrophobic feeling that living in a city can sometimes occur."

GATE 108

Guzel Garipova
"In the stock image I noticed a house that was somewhat similar to a house behind my window in terms of how the windows looked, and how the light played on them. So I,
1) Zoomed in;
2) Left the details that I think are similar for both houses
3) Elongated the front part of the building and added the details that were missing on the stock image, but were present on the photo."
GATE 109

Irina Troitskaya

"The city surrounds us. We live inside of it, in the thick of it. The distance from the viewer to the city in the stock image is no less than a kilometer. I look at it from afar. This is a toy city, where not a single cafe is working, where the streets are empty and even the cars use remote control. Nobody opens the windows or uses the curtains, noone grows flowers on the windowsill and even does not litter, despite having zero trashbins. The signs prompt the city being English-speaking, but it may well go for any other country, especially if we imagine it to be the city center. The edges of the composition are 100% safe, if we switch to the purely artistic side of it. That is why the city looks like a miniture. It started on the left and ended on the right, we see it in its full."
"The reality is much more complex. It has its angles, perspective, unsteady rhythm, chaos.

An attempt to redraw the picture immediately resulted in making references to a real city unconsciously. Of course, this city is Moscow. I lived there for a long time and still love it. The churches crammed in between the skyscrapers are a usual thing in Moscow.

The place turned out to be wuite particular, even though I tried to draw the first sketch without particular references. It's the New Arbat ave combined with Nikitsky boulevard. Churches, offices, traffic, greenery and huge window displays."
The panorama format came in handy — it suits the city. When the sun is as low as in the stock image the real lighting would be significantly different. Long shadows, a lot of shadows. All the front sides of the buildings would be in shadows, as the sun is behind the buildings. The lighting in the city is very important. Just like in any illustration, in fact.

The city is too many things put together, but there's no use in trying to list them all in the image. If you draw every window it will look too monotonous and unnatural. You need to omit things to convey the atmosphere. It's much more important than the right number of windows in the houses. That's why the second image has perspective and even more shadows. And book-shaped houses.

The next steps are my window views in Berlin. It's a weird transformation, but such are the circumstances.
Any real city has its own personality. Even if one ignores the shop names, road signs and other text that help to identfy the city quickly, there is still plenty that remains.

In my case these are the yellow U-Bahn trains, shingled roofs, Douglas C-47 Skytrain airplane on the rooftop of the Deutsches Technikmuseum (it's not visible, but I know it's there!), and. of course, the inevitable pelargonium in the balconies. And graffiti. Everywhere: on the roofs, along the riverbank, on the trains, the chimneys. And a lot of the sky. Berlin is a low-rise city compared to Moscow, more like the center of Saint-Petersburg, and my windows are panoramic, and it's the 6th floor.

GATE 110

Olesya Shchukina
"While I was drawing my window view, I was thinking how close and bulky it is. Imagine a metro seat that is so narrow two people can hardly fit in, and then suddenly someone very big and wide occupies the seat beside you. You'd have to shrink down even more! But to be honest, I don't think I managed to convey how "overwhelming" this corpulent body is.

The stock image is smooth and boring. And also very detached and generic. In the first step of my transition I wanted to make it 'mine'. And turn the trees into characters, so that they can walk away and get out of the way. As for the next three steps, the buidings start to dance to get rid of the unnecessary parts and find my window view houses with their roof shingles somewhere in between. And then I inflated that huge wall behind the houses.

When I was making the fourth transitional drawing I thought, why didn't I draw my window view like that - so daringly - straight away? My first drawing became boring to me. As if it was only in this transition that I managed to capture its essence."
GATE 111

Ksenia Kopalova
"I made a photo of the stock image on my phone, then sent it back to my laptop, then made a photo of the laptop screen again, and again - to see how the vector perfection deteriorates, and noticed that the shapes first lose color and then gradually disappear, leaving a dark vignette. The grain and the appearing glitches resembled rain, and I thought the handdrawn forest could start growing from this darkness."

GATE 112
United Arab Emirates

Sarah Nesti Willard
"I live in Al Ain, a quite large city on the border between UAE and Oman. It is torrid hot, and it almost never rains. But I am used to it, now.
Funnily enough, when I looked for desert landscape, the only images I could find are these idyllic, frozen-in-time vector pictures of the 'Orient', with camels and Bedouins, sand, no roads, and women carrying water on their heads, as the picture I provided. This is nothing like how people live here! Women would not even carry their shopping, let alone water amphoras on their heads! And there are no camels in the middle of the city; those are found in camel farms only. In other words, I could not find a realistic picture of a desertic landscape online.

I live in a half-constructed compound: the back side of my villa has a beautiful artificial garden; the front side, however, is barren. I open the front door and there is a road, sand, garbage and a construction site, as you can see from the picture provided. The arrow on the left indicates a quite peculiar feature: a small oasis, with a water pond. I concentrated on this because, among all these construction sites, the water pond is an element of nature that Boy George (the local cat) and I cherish quite a bit. Some evenings I take a walk – and George follows- to the oasis; I feed him some Friskies and while he/she eats, I stick my feet into the water. It is a very relaxing moment for me and will be part of my most treasured memories."
GATE 113

Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva
"For me, the main focus is to analyse the transition between what I see in a dream and reality. The switch between the non-place of my subconscious and the actual location. The attempt to capture the transformations that happen during this switch."

GATE 114

Nadine Dhiver
"In the process I realised that it's interesting for me to note something familiar within the unfamiliar spaces, reinventing things, so I tried to take the 'building bricks' of the source image and see how they could be the building materials for my window view. Instead of the houses and taller buildings I've got palm trees, these literally form a jungle. Instead of the cars I've got cats. Unlike stock images, life has room for asymmetry, a random 'multiply' of a bush and a palm tree — one of them is literally wrapping around a palm tree. And, of course, the change of the seasons. The stock image shows some sort of a 'default summer', while life displays a multitude of tonal variations and a change in the blooming seasons. While I was drawing, the oranges started blossoming, while mimosa has almost faded away"
If you would like us to publish your version
of a transition from the stock landscape to your
window view, send us an email:

The cover illustration in this article: Ksenia Kopalova
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