Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: Now where was I? by Steven Reddy

This week I received in the mail my eagerly anticipated copy of Steven Reddy's sketchbook memoir Now Where Was I?

I first encountered Reddy through Danny Gregory's An Illustrated Journey and was taken with the amazing quality of his sketches (they're hardly 'sketches' - they're complete, detailed and very accomplished drawings on location) and I was also interested in the fact that he had spent time as an expat teaching English in China.

He drew the whole time he was there (many of these incredible drawings appear in this new book) which made me lament the fact I took no drawings home from my own expat experience of teaching English in Japan. But alas, that was ten years ago and before I'd started keeping a sketchbook journal. (But still.)

What I like best about this collection is that it not only collates work from the many, many sketchbooks Reddy has kept over the years, but includes text alongside the images which might variously describe the circumstance of the drawing, place it in context, or locate it in a particular phase of his life. It's this narrative element which had me glued to the book, snatching time throughout my day to sit down and read just a little bit more. I finished it in several sittings this week.

It doesn't have to be read in this way though, but can be leafed through like a coffee table book. The images sometimes imply a narrative in themselves and you just have to let the book fall open at any page to be inspired by the possibilities of sketchbook journaling. (He's annotated the drawings with the media used and dimensions for those interested in that.) Reddy has also included very early work - comic-style pages, life drawing and studio paintings, giving an idea of the breadth of his skills, as well as the way his work has developed over time.

My favourite sections were those on Urban Sketching (of course) and his China experience. I loved the drawings he made during his career as a Seattle Public School teacher and a series of drawings he made in clutter-filled vintage stores. (I've often thought of drawing in these places but have always been too shy to ask. Maybe I will one day!) I also loved his 'downsizing' sketches - the drawings he did when he was giving his stuff away to go and live in China. (Very inspiring as I'm working on a similar series of drawings of my kids' things). 

Last year Reddy ran a Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund the publishing of this book and I was lucky enough to be one of the first 50 supporters, therefore receiving a nice little discount on the title. Holding it my hands now, I can say it's well worth the full price.

It's so big! It's jam-packed full of drawings which I know I'll return to again and again for inspiration. It's designed beautifully and the production is of very high quality (amazingly good - and it's self-published!). If you love urban sketching, sketchbook journaling or just peeking inside the sketchbooks of others, then I think you'll love this book too.

You can still get a copy here.