O’Hare City

Point of view

Apparently, we’re not quite ready to move on just yet – and my last post on the Early Days At O’Hare brought in at least one response that’s worth a share.

(By the way, I’ve fixed the image links in that piece now, so you can actually read the magazine article.)

Phil Thompson is an artist and self-confessed travel geek living in Chicago.

His pen and ink drawings generally portray the Windy City’s architecture and history, however the particular illustration he brought to my attention is his rendition of a much more contemporary KORD.

‘Chicago Lakefront Currents West’ is a fantastic Phil Thompson portrayal of Chicago from above Lake Michigan. Phil also has a companion ‘Chicago Lakefront Currents East’, looking back the other way. © Cape Horn Illustration

Chicago illustrated

‘America’s favorite pastime’ illustrated. Phil has a complementary piece showing Ballparks of the South Side. © Cape Horn Illustration

Phil tends to focus on Chicago’s iconic buildings and location, but at a very human level. That ranges from beautiful studies of local home and downtown styles to profiles of Chicago ‘L’ train rolling stock and the city’s distinctive sports stadiums. Then – be still my heart – there are also illustrated maps and views of the city in its lakefront setting.

If I could draw aircraft like that, I wouldn’t be sat here pecking away at my iPad’s soft keyboard!

The mightiest landmark

Recently, Phil turned his attention to that other mighty Chicago landmark – O’Hare. It was inevitable really. Although it towers sideways rather than upwards, the airport is a giant feature of the city’s human and economic pulse.

Phil Thompson’s charming, disarming take on O’Hare International Airport. © Cape Horn Illustration

Let’s not forget that it sprawls over 7,627 acres and sees (under normal circumstances*) nearly a million aircraft movements a year. 919,704 for calendar year 2019 – or 2,520 per day. It also serviced a population of 83 million passengers during 2018, dwarfing the rest of the city in that regard.

Bringing O’Hare down to size

For all that, Phil Thompson has managed to bring the airport back to earth, as it were. He has illustrated it from an oblique bird’s eye view, using his favoured pen and ink. It’s a style that brings to mind those amazing elevated city views from pre-aviation history (feats of artistic imagination that have always amazed me).

KORD arrivals and departures, under a timeless flurry of Great Plains clouds and birds. © Cape Horn Illustration

His goal, in winding back the stylistic clock that way, was to make O’Hare look more like a little moated town in an illustrated edition of Don Quixote, rather than the American mid-West’s most  enormous transit machine.

The juxtaposition of a 21st Century transportation hub with the organic style of illuminated cartography brings the airport back into Phil’s trademark human realm.

I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

Say ‘Hi’ to Phil Thompson

Phil Thompson and Vince, from the Cape Horn website. © Cape Horn Illustration

Phil Thompson lives in the Ravenswood neighbourhood of Chicago with his wife Katie and dog Vincent. They profess a laudable dislike of big box stores and shopping malls, which I’m fully on board with.

The name Cape Horn is an homage to the sailors who braved that arduous southern ocean passage before the Panama Canal was opened. I hope creating illustrations isn’t quite that hard!

Anyway, you can see, read and also buy more at capehorn-illustration.com

Thanks Phil.


I say ‘under normal circumstances’ but, as I write this, things are far from normal. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic we are all living under some level of lockdown. I don’t no wish to add to all the clamour – but I most sincerely wish you good health and good fortune until things return to normal. 

KORD Statistics all via wikipedia

7 thoughts on “O’Hare City

  1. Such lovely drawings! The style reminds me very much of souvenir tins from yesteryear!

    One small thing David: As Kingsley Amis used to say frequently; “Anyone who uses the word Transportation should be sentenced to it! The word is Transport”!

    However, as you are already in “The Colonies”, you are forgiven!

    1. That’s a great quote although, yeah, where are you going to transport me to from here?? (I’m sure the South Australians will now rush to point out they were all free settlers…)

      In my defence, I used ‘transportation’ as an Americanism, to match the location and Phil’s own remarks about his work. My English travels. 🙂

  2. Well I’m glad you spelled “Defence” with “c” and not “s”! Your English travels, as does your excellent work, sir! I am currently “sentenced” to spending at least three weeks at home! (Been here before)! At least I can move around and do things this time!

    “Stay safe” as we currently say in the Mother country!

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s