Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: Sketching, by Alwyn Crawshaw

Sketching at Bryce Canyon (photo by Frank Koyama)
Finally – a watercolor book for the rest of us!
Despite the seemingly hundreds of books found on watercolor technique, very few even mention, let alone focus on, using watercolor as a sketching medium on location. Sure, there are plenty of books about plein air painting, but even those emphasize trying to duplicate the studio setup – a proper easel, stretching and mounting paper ahead of time, etc. – to produce a finished painting (the kind you frame and hang on a wall, hopefully in a gallery).
As an urban sketcher, I’ve been frustrated by these books. Of course, good technique is good technique, and I still learn about using watercolors from them. But what about watercolor sketches – the kind that are never meant to leave the sketchbook and instead have the sole purpose of visually documenting a few minutes of my day? Books on that use of watercolors are few and far between.
Happily, Sketching, by Alwyn Crawshaw, part of the Harper Collins 30 Minute Art series, is one of those books. Using nothing more than a pencil and a simple setup of watercolor paints, the author gives numerous examples of sketches – brief, fresh images mostly made on location in less than 30 minutes each (many in as few as 10). Every lesson emphasizes distilling and simplifying a scene, avoiding picky details and capturing the essence of what you see. He gives tips on how to sketch moving objects, animals and people, and even how to sketch when you, yourself, are in a moving vehicle.
Actual watercolor technique is covered perfunctorily in a few pages, so if you really want to improve your watercolor painting skills, pick up one of those hundreds of other books instead.
f I have any complaints, it’s the one that other reviews have mentioned: The book’s format is so small (6” x 7 ¾”) that some of the sketch reproductions are tiny. On the other hand, in almost all cases, the originals are no larger than 8 ½” x 11”, and fast sketches are, by definition, small, so perhaps the format is meant to mimic the size of work that most sketchers are making.
(This book review also appears on


  1. Nice review. Thank you for bringing this book to my (our) attention.

  2. I just ordered this on Amazon. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. I'm happy to hear that the review was helpful!

  4. Glad to see that you did a review and actually posted it on Amazon. Sounds like a good book. I love the photo of you sketching!!!


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