While scrolling through the photos tagged with @highlinenyc on Instagram last week, we came across a beautiful drawing of the Diller – von Furstenberg Sundeck created by artist and New York City native Nick Golebiewski. Wanting to know more about the drawing, we did some further research and discovered that Golebiewski was in the process of illustrating the High Line every day for a full week as part of his drawing-a-day project. This drawing-a-day project is part of Golebiewski's greater project, Nick's Lunchbox Service, where he captures New York City through pen and paper during his daily lunch breaks throughout the year. In an effort to learn more about the man behind the High Line illustrations, we sat down with Nick Golebiewski to discuss his work and artistic aspirations.
High Line: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did you get into art and what made you decide to pursue it as a career? Why did you decide to stay in New York City and establish yourself as an artist here?
Nick Golebiewski: I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and as a teenager, I listened nonstop to the band Sonic Youth. I loved their album covers, and I was impressed when I learned it was actually art by people like Gerhard Richter and Mike Kelley. Ultimately, I decided to study painting and earned a BFA Painting degree – that really launched me out to sea as an artist, and I've been learning and working ever since.
After college, I was part of an artist collective with other recent grads. We took over two buildings in Buffalo. One didn't have heat, water, or electricity. A friend mentioned a cheap apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, so I made the move to New York City. My rent was $333 dollars a month to share a railroad two-bedroom apartment with three people – I filmed a Super 8 about that first place, This is Where I Live. Twelve years later, I'm still here and still creating every day. New York City has so much inspiration to offer.
Tell us more about your current projects. What compelled you to begin, or where did you draw inspiration for Nick's Lunchbox Service?
Nick Golebiewski: In 2013, I started making an occasional drawing during my lunch break from my day job. I decided to create a Tumblr for the project, but I needed a name for the blog. Years earlier, when I worked at the Guggenheim Museum, coworkers were always jealous of my brown-bag lunches, so I started making extras for them on Wednesdays – and I stamped the paper bags Nick's Lunchbox Service. It felt like the perfect name for my lunchtime drawings, too.
I decided to turn my lunchtime sketches into a drawing-a-day project. My goal was to make one every day for a full year. I didn't miss a day – even during travel to Turkey and the birth of my daughter. It's been more than a year and a half now, and it's definitely a challenge.
I'm also working on series of city-scene gouache paintings that capture moments of life in Chinatown. These require true dedication, which is harder now with a 6-month-old baby girl, but I love every chance I get to pull out my brushes and paints.
High Line: What is a typical day for you when you go out to draw? Do you ever plan where you'll be going next for the week, or is it more of a spontaneous decision?
Nick Golebiewski: It's a mix of both. When it comes down to it, I'm always making a dash to fit in my drawing each day, whether it's a spontaneous spot or a location with more intention, like drawing Central Park for a week, or the High Line, or wanting to stop at the place where Andy Warhol lived. It helps if the sun is in a good position, too.
High Line: Why focus your craft on New York City of all places? What are some of your favorite places to capture in New York City?
Nick Golebiewski: As a New Yorker, I love depicting the city – it's a great subject, because it's always around me and it's never boring. In terms of favorite spots, I tend to gravitate towards historic districts. I sketch Greenwich Village frequently because it's where I live. Henderson Place on the Upper East Side was a discovery I never knew about before the project. And of course, I love drawing iconic places like Grand Central, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Central Park.
High Line: Why come to the High Line for your drawing-a-day project? While on the High Line for your drawing-a-day project, did you have a spot that you really enjoyed drawing?
Nick Golebiewski: The High Line is great for an artist because it offers so many viewpoints and a mix of nature and architecture. I love the views of the Hudson and the rusty rails – one week isn't long enough to see it all. I'm also a neighbor of the High Line, which helps.
Walking on the High Line daily was a joy. A favorite spot to draw was by the Visions in Pink Chinese astilbe flowers in the Chelsea Grasslands area with Frank Gehry's IAC Building behind. It was so nice to breathe in.
High Line: In 2014, you made one drawing every day, and you've continued this into 2015. How did you remain inspired (and not fatigued) throughout the year, and why did you decide to continue into this year?
Nick Golebiewski: This project is a daily practice, and that invariably becomes wrapped up in my day-to-day routine. When 2015 rolled around, I didn't want to stop. And why halt the momentum I'd already built? I'd love to do a book project with these photographs of drawings someday.
High Line: What do you think is the coolest recognition you've ever received for your work?
Nick Golebiewski: I was psyched when the Whitney Museum re-blogged my drawing of their building under construction in March 2014. It coincided with the exhibition of the Whitney Biennial that year, and it was the first time my sketch received so many likes and follows that my phone went out of control with notifications.
If you had to choose one place to draw for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
Luckily, New York City is the place I'd choose to draw for the rest of my life. Even if you drew every building, every street, it would all be different the next time you saw it – just look at the High Line!