Friday, 3 April 2015

Book review: Sketch Your World by James Hobbs

Blog 13

This year, I will write a book report from time to time. Being an artist does not mean that you just have a given talent which lets you create beautiful art just by itself. Every artist wants to see progress. As with any other profession or ability you have to practice frequently and learn how to apply new techniques or materials to keep things interesting.

Last year, I decided that I wanted to draw more. I love painting but always taking your paints and boards along is not very practical. A camera is great but due to the lens distortion your photos do not necessarily give you an exact image of what you see. If you look at your photos you will also notice some colour differences between real object and photographed object.

As I am someone who is hardly ever sitting around not moving my hands, I was also looking for something to do while sitting on a bus or waiting for an appointment.

I usually take my camera when I am on a trip, or even for a walk with my dog. However, there are situations, when I would like to capture my interpretation of the people and things around me. For the longest time, I felt intimidated by the drawings of other artists who seemed so accomplished and able to draw so beautifully. Being a rather slow painter, I was afraid to just go out and try to capture the fast moving world around me.

Then I came across the book “sketch your world - essential techniques for drawing on location” by James Hobbs.

I was immediately hooked when I read in his introduction that the purpose of drawing is to “express yourself” and to “record your experiences” with “the simplest materials”. I always tell my students that even if they will never become a famous painter just by really observing the world around them, they will see things most people just overlook. Many people do not take the time to appreciate how the change in light changes the appearance of the elements of nature and creates certain moods. You can go to the same spot for many times and will produce a different painting every time. Monet and his water lilies are a great example for this experiment.

If you have ever gone on a plein air painting trip, you know that packing lightly is one of the most important rules if you want to be able to reach even areas which are off the main road. This was the big draw for me. I wanted to be able to take something with me which was light and easily transportable.

A sketch pad, pencil, eraser and sharpener are ideal. They fit in every little purse.

Hobbs’ advice that “there is no right way or wrong way to do things” and that you should find your own expression of what you see, gave me the confidence to get started. Sketching is not about what others see in your drawings but a way to express yourself in your own way, like creating your own shorthand. It is not about drawing what your camera can capture but your interpretation of what you see.

Hobbs gives a good overview of drawing tools, even mentioning digital tools before he takes the reader through the first section of “Getting Started”, discussing everything from dealing with on-lookers to locations for drawing. He talks about using what you see to put pieces together to create something new. As an artist you can always make changes to your composition, add or omit objects, join different views. Your options are endless.

Hobbs’ examples of sketches from other artists confirm that everyone has a unique style. Sketching is not like painting by numbers. It is like writing a journal: It is for keeping your very personal memories. Your sketching style will reflect your personality.

Hobbs gives lots of tips on how to draw in general as well as concentrating on certain subjects, like buildings, parks, people, and night time. I also like the information Hobbs gives with regard to social media, and joining drawing groups like the sketchcrawl.

So whether you think about getting into sketching, or want more information about ways to document the world around this is an excellent book.

To have a quick look at the book and its content please go to

Here is the information for the book again:
Sketch Your World - Essential Techniques For Drawing on Location
Author: James Hobbs
ISBN-13: 978-1-4403-3141-3.

Have you used this book as a resource? If so, what do you think? Do you have any other sketching resources you can recommend? It would be great if you would share them in a comment.

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