Monday, November 17, 2014

Four great books on sketching

This year has seen a surge in titles about sketching to match the growing interest worldwide in urban sketching and sketchbook journalling. And because books are my weakness, I think I've read most of them!

Here are my thoughts on four titles. If you love sketching and you love books, you might be interested in one (or all!) of these:

Urban Watercolor Sketching is a bit of a misnomer because it's not so much about urban sketching as about watercolour. I'm the kind of person whose eyes glaze over when I read theory so this title by illustrator Felix Scheinberger is a real stand-out for me. It has pretty much everything I ever wanted to know about watercolour techniques and colour theory in the most non-boring way possible. I would go so far as to say I couldn't put it down. If you're interested in using watercolour in a non-traditional (exciting!) way, then this is the book for you.


The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes is most definitely about urban sketching. It's the latest offering by the founder of the Urban Sketchers organisation, Gabriel Campanario, and is full of tips and tricks on drawing in the field. He covers composition, creating scale, depth and contrast, using line to good effect and injecting creativity into your work. He also writes briefly about the use of different media, accompanied by examples. I particularly like the smaller format - it's designed to look a bit like a Moleskine sketchbook and comes with an elastic closure (which fell off my copy pretty quickly) - but I like that it's small enough to throw in the bag on a sketch outing for a burst of inspiration on location. (I'm also looking forward to the companion title which will be published soon: People and Motion.)

Sketch by France Belleville-Van Stone is another book full of inspiration. Her particular angle is that she is completely self-taught (she is actually a French language teacher by profession). She makes daily drawing seem an achievable task. She even has a whole chapter titled: 'Drawing when time and resources are limited'. As a teacher and a mother, she is obviously busy (that's an understatement!), so the tips she gives to maintain a drawing habit come from experience. I particularly like what she has to say about the concept of talent: 'artistic talent is a shorthand for countless hours, months, and years spent drawing'. In other words, it's not something 'bestowed upon a lucky few' but something that comes from actually doing the work. This book is great for those just starting their sketching journey or for people wanting a bit of encouragement to keep up the drawing habit amid a busy life. It's also a treasure for fans of her blog Wagonized as it's full of her wonderful drawings.

The Urban Sketcher: techniques for seeing and drawing on location by Marc Taro Holmes is a book of tutorials designed to build your urban sketching skills through experience. It is the kind of book you need to work through - and as I've only just got my hands on this title I haven't done that yet - but it's jam-packed with tips, information, advice and exercises to improve your ability to sketch on location. It's divided into three sections by media: graphite, pen & ink and watercolour - I've dipped into each section and I'm excited by what I see. I'm a big fan of Marc Taro Holmes' work and I'm looking forward to diving into this book.