Friday, 13 February 2015

Book review - Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes by Gabriel Campanario

The author, Gabriel Campanario, is a staff artist at The Seattle Times and the founder of

If you don’t already follow the Urban Sketchers Blog, go there (after you’ve finished reading this post, of course) and add this blog to your RSS feeds. The blog hosts a vibrant community of urban sketchers, which are also featured in the book.

Just browsing the book and looking at sketches by various artists, with different styles and techniques, makes already this book special.

The author, in the introduction, set-out his goal:

“In this handbook, I lay out keys to help make your experience of drawing architecture and city spaces fun and rewarding. These keyscomposition, depth, scale, contrast, line, and creativity — are my own gold standards. I put a premium on composition and getting proportions right.”

And the book delivers on this promise.

The style is pleasant and very clear. Here is, as an example, a good quote on composition:

“A well-composed scene has a sense of balance and completeness. Every piece seems to fall in the right place. Move one and the harmony gets lost.”

The tips are down-to-earth and always practical.  Gabriel Campanario has a good way to deal with busy cityscapes where finding the horizon is difficult: “Forget the word horizon and just identify your eye level the line where your eyes rest when you look perfectly straight ahead.”

I also liked his take on adding people to your sketch:

“Add people to create a sense of scale. The height of a person is something everyone can relate to. Add at least one passerby to every sketch. Without that individual, it may too hard to know how big the setting really is.”

The verdict

This book is a quick read, but has a lot of substance. The author gives you practical advice in a concise way.

Beginners will have everything they need to get started and more experienced sketcher will still enjoy this well written and beautifully illustrated book. The collection of different styles will renew your appetite for urban sketching and may stir you in new directions.

Another feature that will delight practicing artists is that, for each sketch, the author specifies the titles and dimensions, but also lists the material the artist used and approximate time spent on the sketch.

The list of material is informative if you want to try new ways to sketch. For instance, the author uses a Lamy Safary fountain pen (Lamy Safari Fountain Pen - Charcoal - Fine) loaded with Noodler’s black ink (some of Noodler’s inks are waterproof, so you can paint over watercolour washes without any problem - for instance the Noodler's Black Waterproof Fountain Pen Ink - Bulletproof,3 ounce). I will give it a go.

The Book

If you are in the US (Amazon affiliate link):

If you are in the United Kingdom (Amazon affiliate link):