13 janeiro 2015

Book Review: The Urban Sketcher - by Marc Taro Holmes

The Urban Sketcher – by Marc Taro Holmes

I loved the way Marc Taro Holmes finishes the introduction of his book with this meaningful phrase “the city becomes your studio”, inviting people to go out on the streets and sketch on the spot - an “artistic adventure”, he says.
He emphasizes that sketching on location provides you “freshness, direct impression that can’t be matched”, as encouraging as this is for amateurs and experienced artists.
I’ve always been a fan of Marc’s work, and now I certainly know why, after reading (and studying) his book. It becomes clear to me that he has a perfect understanding of his own process of working, as he’s able to clearly talk about it, sometimes even using his own imaginative vocabulary.
It was inspiring to realize that he developed his skills through passionate practice, as he mentions all kind of subjects he worked on, such as a tattoo shop or a cemetery. 

His process seems to be shaped over precious insights as he experienced the world through drawing. He even shares his own mistakes, where you can learn a lot from.
The book is divided into three chapters:
  • Pencil;
  • Pen & Ink;
  • Watercolor.
Each of them starts with a handful guide of tools and follows with specific technique lessons. However, more important than these are the concepts Marc brings to us: "drawing outside-in", "shadow shapes", "gradient of interest", are some of them. You’ll also find great ideas and practical concerns in the “box of insights”. My favorite is “Don’t document – Design”, but I also liked the “Stretch Goals” boxes: “Go big! Beat the clock! Sketch people in motion!”
As you go through the lessons you will find statements to be written on the top of your sketchbook page, like this one: “Oddly, it’s the measuring that allows the sketch to look spontaneous”. I actually copied, word by word, dozens of things like this, which were suitable for me. 
He divides the process of drawing and painting into three passes, in terms of techniques (pencil – ink – brush) and approaches (scribble - calligraphic line - spot blacks).
He finishes explaining in details the process of creating watercolor paintings through his wonderful “Tea, Milk and Honey” process (in my opinion, there is no other way one can explain the dynamic of watercolor better).
I love the idea of working in layers of information in a drawing.
I specially appreciate the variety of lessons on how to sketch people, as I personally struggle in this area. He uses every sort of situations, from people standing (almost) still to people dancing in a street performance.
The book ends with a beautiful gallery of images for your amusement.
You can find dozens of his artwork on the internet. Go look at them - studying this book will be tempting.
Marc Taro Holmes

I'll follow this book review with some of the things which stood out for me while reading the book (well, there are many more!):

Don’t document – Design
Marc Holmes talks about the boundaries of accuracy in sketching on location. More than documenting what is front of you, it’s more important to tell the story behind your drawing – why you chose this subject, what is so interesting about it and so on. If you need to move, ignore or replace something that is disturbing you. “I try to do this in good faith, not altering a scene more than is necessary to tell the story as I experienced it.”

About line work:
“Avoid scratchy, searching, hesitant lines that come from repeating a stroke over itself multiple times”.
“A line should have expressive character that looks intentional, not stuttering, but speaking eloquently.”
“Avoid making completely sealed outlines around the forms – this will make your drawing look stiff and cartoony. Try to leave the shapes open. Use small gaps to suggest light.”

About watercolor:
“Where an ink drawing has drama and power, a painting in full color has the potential for many moods, and for more compelling, more sophisticated storytelling”.
"Watercolor is portable, transparent and fast drying – ideal for urban sketching."

Marc Taro Holmes
Em breve, a resenha do livro também em português!
Eduardo Bajzek

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