If you’ve ever felt moved to keep a sketchbook while traveling, or if you’ve ever wanted to sketch the view of a favorite park in your own home town, but you just haven’t gotten out the door yet, James Hobbs has written a book for you: Sketch Your World – Essential Techniques for Drawing on Location.
More than any other book I’ve read on the topic of sketching on location (and I’ve tried to seek out and read them all), this is one I’d recommend to someone who has never drawn before but is motivated by the desire to capture one’s world on paper. Although it offers some tips and techniques on the basics of drawing (perspective, composition, tone), this book’s emphasis is not on “how to draw” but on embracing the spirit of urban sketching and running with it – wherever that run may lead you.
Many times when I’ve seen books that contain nothing but elegant, refined and dazzling examples by architects or professional painters, I’m inspired by their work but at the same time intimidated. By contrast, Hobbs’ book offers a wide range of examples of sketching styles from more than 60 urban sketchers. Rather than discouraging the beginner, these examples give the impression that everyone’s style is unique, and any style is appropriate for urban sketching. “One of the great things about a sketchbook is that it is yours and yours alone,” Hobbs says. “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about what you do, and there is no need to please anyone but yourself.”
In addition to chapters on materials and the mechanics of sketching in the field, Hobbs includes sections on ways to approach specific subject matter, such as architecture, people, travel and reportage sketching. One chapter focuses on digital tools, such as using a tablet, and another provides information on joining sketching communities, either online or locally. Throughout these chapters, featured artists like Gabriel Campanario, Miguel Herranz, Marina Grechanik and others discuss how they approach their subject matter specialty.
Hobbs’ overriding attitude is that urban sketching is about self-expression. “A sketchbook is an intimate, personal space in which to express yourself, to explore your surroundings, and record your experiences using the simplest materials,” he says. “The goal is to find our own way of working and our own voice, rather than mimicking someone else’s.” Instead of: “I’ll never be able to draw like that,” Sketch Your World makes me say: “I’m heading out the door with my sketchbook – now.”
(This book review also appears on Amazon.com.)