If you look at Stefan Bleekrode’s drawings of Budapest, it’s impossible not to also imagine the artist squinting into a photograph of the cityscape and painstakingly recreating the streets and buildings in inky analog. But would you be surprised to learn that the artist relies on nothing but memory when rendering the intricate details of Budapest? Without this nugget of information, the drawings would still be amazing. Instead they are a unique wonder, like a trick produced by the slight of hand of a practiced magician.
Budapest is but one location of the series he calls Cityscapes, which also includes cites like Paris, New York, and London. In the Budapest drawings, we find such blue-chip locations as Keleti train station, Parliament, and Margaret Bridge, though he told us he is currently working on a new drawing of Budapest called Budapest at Night.
At age 30, Dutch artist Bleekrode has been training his memory and talent for drawing since he was a child, as he told odditycentral.com. “At the age of 10 I wanted to recapture my impressions of places in France and Belgium I’d visited during a holiday the previous summer. Where I lived there was very little that pleases the eye – just 1960’s housing estates and offices. By doing these small pencil drawings I could drift back to those sunny and inspiring places where the world was colorful and eager to be explored. I continue to do the Cityscape drawings for as long as I enjoy it or until I run out of ideas.”
We expect Budapest to imprint itself of people’s memories, but this surprised us. Bleekrode is entirely self taught, which makes the feat all the more amazing. Our curiosity peaked, we contacted the artist, who made himself available to answer a few questions in a recent interview with Flatpack Films.
FPF: What about Budapest appealed to you as an artist?
In terms of artistic appeal, I find Budapest a fascinating city because, unlike most other cities in Europe, it is truly impressive, beautiful and distinctly different. The wide Danube crossing through the city in a gentle curve defines Budapest's two sided appearance, hilly, historic and green on the Buda side and imposing, stellar and energetic on the Pest side. In between a number of beautiful bridges connects these two halves. In particular Pest stands out for me as one massive monument to the great economic and artistic revival of the 2nd half of the 19th century, nowhere this seems to be more visible and so well retained as in Budapest. The combination between delicate, shapely and so often original architecture and the strict geometry of the city's layout I find most appealing for my work.
FPF: How did you train your memory to draw such complicated scenes? Or do you just have a photographic memory?
By focusing so strongly on the visible world around us and using this collected bulk of information in my artwork, I am convinced this trained my memory and made it easier for me to see and retain more details than let's say ten years before. But I always preferred images over written stuff or sounds, as a child I loved looking at picture books but didn't care very much about novels or music. Later on however I realised I could use my 'pictoral' memory also to memorise place names or to learn languages with greater ease. Even Hungarian doesn't seem to daunting for me!
FPF: Have you ever gone back and compared your pictures to the actual view?
Certainly, but I never intend to make an exact replica of existing cities, much more it's a composite view, an amalgamation of many impressions to recreate as truthfully as possible what I enjoyed and how a felt a bout a certain place. But I'm working on a Budapest at Night picture and that one must be fairly realistic.
FPF: How did you find Budapest as a city, independent of your artistic endeavor?
Budapest very much seems to me like some kind of boomtown again, it's very energetic, much more so than many (better known) cities in western Europe. Which greatly surprises me every time I go there because it's the capital of a fairly small country nowadays. Other than that I find it very safe, functional and surprisingly liveable for a city of 2 million. And to me it feels relaxed as well, mainly because of the spa's I suppose. On the downside there's a lot of work that still needs to be done, some areas remain a bit grim but I'm convinced it will look great in the future as well.
To see more of the artist’s Cityscapes, have a look here.
We expect Budapest to imprint itself of people’s memories, but this surprised us. Bleekrode is entirely self taught, which makes the feat all the more amazing.
Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.