Madison in Print

Madison in Print

It’s always interesting to hear—or, better yet, see—a non-Madisonian’s perspective of our city. And that’s exactly what Kim Sly provides with her “Madison, WI” print, the latest in a series of cityscapes from her Albie Designs. The Portland-based artist and designer was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work and what attracted her to the Madison skyline.

Tell me about yourself and Albie Designs.
Almost three years ago I decided it was time to follow my lifelong dream to work as an artist. So I left my long career as a corporate recruiter to start Albie Designs, a small shop that primarily focuses on art and design intended to be both fun and personal and enjoyed by all ages. While it was a huge risk for me both personally and professionally, I knew win or lose I would never regret it, and I haven’t so far. I started by selling my work at local trunk shows, and then ended up opening my Etsy shop, which turned out to be the best platform for selling my work. I try to keep a variety of work in the shop, including watercolor, acrylic and digital prints. However, because of their unexpected demand, the majority of my focus has been on creating new city prints. I hope to someday expand in to selling more of my paintings, even if it’s creating originals of my city designs.

What made you decide to feature cities in your prints?
It’s a long story, but the short answer is many years ago I had good friend move to New York City and wanted me to make her a “We’ve Moved” card. So I drew the NYC print (with yellow cab) that you see in my shop. Fast forward to three years ago when I started Albie Designs, and that same friend suggested I turn her move card in to a city series. I started with NYC, of course, and I had also done a Portland card for another friend, so I used that illustration for my second city print. After that I just started adding cities that I knew and love.

How do you approach each city and capture its essence? 
It’s most important to me to let the personality of each city act as the foundation for my prints; thus it takes me months to complete a city. I do not just look at a picture and draw it. I take hundreds of images, and source as much information as possible (including maps and local blogs) to help create a scape that is familiar but not typical. I want each print to incorporate as many of the city’s landmarks, critical architecture and surrounding nature as possible. In fact, in most cases it’s equally important that nature’s skyline is as much a part of the design as the architecture. At the end of the day, though, wrapped up in the many hours of research, sketching, drawing, frustration and breakthrough moments, I hope that I create a piece that is endeared by those who love the city.

Why did you add a Madison print to your collection?
I added Madison because it was the most requested. I have a long list of cities that are frequently requested, and that’s how I decide which city to do next.

What was your process in researching Madison? Did anything stand out or surprise you about the city?
As I mentioned earlier, it typically starts with looking at hundreds of images of the city, and then I use maps and local sites to gather as much info about the city as I can. I don’t know if anything really surprised me, but I will say I was captivated by much of your city’s prominent architecture. In fact, the reason why I chose the perspective I did is because I fell in love with the Monona Terrace building by Frank Lloyd Wright. I love how it proudly sits on the waterfront welcoming incoming boaters, but behind it you can clearly see your historic capitol building.

Do you have any desire or plans to visit Madison now that you’ve created this print?
I would love to! At some point in the future, I actually would love to take a trip to see many of the cities I’ve drawn. Hopefully someday!

What’s next for you?
Cincinnati is next up on the list. I’ve already started and hopefully will finish in the next month.

For more information on Albie Designs, visit