Illustrating the London Skyline

BY Taylor Rebhan

“I love drawing ornate architecture,” says London-based artist Robin Mackney. “When I started to draw architecture on location, I realized it became a form of meditation.” This month, Robin debuted his first solo exhibition featuring the Skyline Series. We followed him around downtown London as he biked to some of his favorite buildings and sketched them to life in one of our Shinola Sketch Books


Robin riding a Men’s Runwell Bicycle, while wearing a Men’s Canfield Chrono 43mm in front of our London store

Describe your work’s aesthetic.

Architecture is my main inspiration. I love the relationship that each building has with the other, be it through its contrasting history or aesthetic. The nature of being sat amongst this often lends itself to the simple tools of a black pen and a sketchbook; purely for ease, but also for the ability to be clinical with simple lines.

How did you first become interested in illustration?

My work with illustration naturally stemmed from a desire to create. As young as I can remember, I’d be playing with Legos, drawing and coloring. From coloring in newspapers to drawing grand plans on them, I’ve always felt most comfortable with a pen in my hand for the purpose of drawing rather than writing. 

When I started to draw architecture on location, I realized it became a form of meditation. It’s an incredible experience to be amongst so many people, but to be able to completely switch off from the world. 


Robin riding a Men’s Runwell Bicycle and wearing a Men’s Canfield Chrono 43mm in front of the Big Ben.

What inspires you to create and where do you feel most inspired?

The built environment inspires me to create. I love being in the city amongst gigantic architecture or little, small residential spots listening to the world around me and witnessing how young people, old people, lovers and friends, how they use the space and how they move amongst it. It’s incredible to think that we simply inhabit these structures — that they outlive us. These structures see so much and hold so much energy. 


Robin wears a Men’s Canfield Chrono 43mm, while sketching downtown London in a Shinola Sketch Book.

How does it feel to have your Skyline series be your first solo exhibition?

The ongoing skyline series currently consists of Rome, London, New York, Cambridge, Brighton and Edinburgh. One would assume that a Detroit skyline should be imminent, and Paris is certainly on the ever-evolving list.

To have my first solo exhibition at Ruffians in London feels incredible. When I started the skyline series, I always envisioned them framed and hung on exposed brickwork. Ruffians really brought that to life for me. Having my work hung in one of the greatest capital cities of the world is something so special. I’m indebted to them for that. 



Robin wears a Men’s Canfield Chrono 43mm, while using a Shinola Sketch Book to illustrate the Millenium Bridge and The Tate Modern.

How long does it typically take you to complete a skyline? 

These more detailed works can range from 25 to 50 hours. It’s painstaking, but I live a pretty hectic life and it’s beautiful to just have that moment with the work and switch off to whats going on around me.

What is one building you plan to draw someday that you have yet to draw? 

I’d love to say I plan on drawing every building, but I guess drawing architecture is much like portraits of people, it’s an endless task. Cities are evolving and architecture is constantly being produced. I love drawing ornate architecture, so something like Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow would be the ultimate nemesis. One of those a year is enough. Sagrada Familia in Barcelona being one of my favorites.


Robin wears a Men’s Canfield Chrono 43mm, while using a Shinola Sketch Book to illustrate the city, including: The Walkie Talkie, The Gherkin and The Shard.

If there was one place that people should visit who’ve never been to London before, where would you recommend?

I’d suggest something really obvious like the Shard. As Londoners, until this building came along we could never really get up that high. To be amongst the clouds looking down over London is really something special. To see the intricate travel networks, tight streets, the River Thames and all the iconic architecture is incredible. Not far from that, there’s Borough food market, which is a complete experience in itself. 


Robin wears a Men’s Canfield Chrono 43mm, while sketching St. Pauls Cathedral.

Anything else you would like to say about your collaboration with Shinola?

I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with Shinola. It’s one of those collabs that just seemed to make sense. The brand’s story through Detroit and the craftsmanship invested in the brand is hopefully reflected in the way I work — taking levels of architecture back to its basic and initial illustrations. The black and white nature of my work sits really nicely with the watches too. All I ever want to do is get on a bike with my pens and sketchbook, and spend the day drawing beautiful things.

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