Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Architecture and Cityscapes

Gabi's latest book is designed to look like a
sketchbook -- complete with a Moleskine-like
elastic band. 
Gabi Campanario has another book out! The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes – Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location is the first in a series, so that means I can look forward to more volumes in the growing library of books on my favorite topic. (It was only a few years ago that a search for “urban sketching” on Amazon brought up very few titles . . . just now I counted 20!)

Unlike The Art of Urban Sketching, Gabi’s first book, which is a huge, coffee-table gallery of sketches from around the globe, Architecture and Cityscapes is a compact manual of key principles that are essential to fully expressing oneself when sketching on location. It’s an ideal companion piece to the Art of Urban Sketching’s inspirational eye candy.

The six principles – composition, scale, depth, contrast, line, creativity – are illustrated with Gabi’s sketch examples as well as those of many urban sketchers worldwide who exhibit a vast range of styles and media.

Each of the book’s sections presents direct and practical information as it relates to architectural and street sketching along with an example to illustrate each concept. For example, in the section on composition: apply the rule of thirds; use thumbnails to plan; choose interesting formats. Depth is one section that was especially useful to me: How do you show the three-dimensionality of a building on a flat piece of paper? Perspective is one obvious choice, and Gabi gives simple tips on learning to convey perspective accurately. But there are other ways to give depth to a sketch – putting an element in the foreground; silhouetting areas of a sketch that would otherwise detract from the subject; using tonal values.

The book’s sixth key, creativity, encourages the reader to push beyond simply rendering a building to finding one’s unique style. “Developing your own drawing style takes time. Be patient,” Gabi urges. “You risk not finding it if you give up too soon.” The last section is a slim gallery of works organized by media by artists well-known in the urban sketching community.

Gabi’s personal approach and attitude toward urban sketching and toward drawing as a form of personal expression are apparent throughout. “A line made with assertion, even if it’s in the wrong spot, is worth a thousand marks made with hesitation,” he says. He encourages sketchers to engage with interested bystanders who comment on your sketch. “Urban sketching is about immersing yourself in your city or the places you travel. You’ll miss out if you wear headphones or don’t welcome interaction.”

To a would-be urban sketcher who has never even touched a sketchbook, I might not recommend this as a first reference, as there’s no information about materials or practical suggestions (bring a hat and stool!) for on-site sketching. (To those folks, I might recommend James Hobbs’ Sketch Your World, which is a more comprehensive guide on how to become an urban sketcher.) For all the rest of us, though, Architecture and Cityscapes is a handy, compact volume small and thin enough to throw into our sketch bags. (It even has an elastic band to look like a Moleskine and a few blank pages inside to sketch on!)

(A shorter version of this review appears on Amazon.com.)


  1. Great review! You make me want to go out and get my hands on the book.

  2. Yes, excellent review. Thanks for writing it as I've not ordered this one yet.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...