I got sent a copy of Marc Taro’s book The Urban Sketcher and I promised to write a few words about it. Marc has run his own site citizen sketcher and has been a prominent member of Urban Sketchers since its inception and has always been very generous with advice on painting and drawing techniques over on his site and in person as he runs regular workshops. He carefully runs through his own techniques on how to plan a drawing and the various stages through to completion.
One thing that did become apparent to me that I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners its aimed at people who have basic drawing skills and a degree of confidence in going outside to draw. Most of the projects are the ones Marc enjoys drawing, you can tell he loves big pictures that involve a broad panoramic vision filled with detail.
Lisbon- Marc Taro
An early drawing by me – 2006
I did this drawing in 2006 when I started to draw again. I still remember it vividly and drawing outside when you’re starting is a lot of different to how I draw now. For a start I’d usually only draw for about 20 minutes at the most as it takes time to learn how to keep your concentration going and I’d hit the edges of what I could do. At the time the most important thing to me was to keep that interest going making small steps and being comfortable with the marks I was making.
For those early drawings the mistakes and awkwardness of the lines have a small beauty in themselves and its the exploration and tiny steps that are important. When you’re starting I’d recommend not measuring and working in calculated steps but dive and just get used to making pictures and you’ll find yourself wanting to broaden your knowledge when the time is right. I think for someone starting to draw this is quite a lot to face and a huge task but for someone who has been drawing this book will certainly take your skills to a new level and I think that’s where this book shines.
There’s a good introduction to materials that you’ll need and thankfully doesn’t go into too much detail. I’m a huge fan of taking a small amount of equipment just enough that you’ll need and you’re good to go. It would be nice if if he talked a bit about the palette he uses as the paint kits you buy off the shelve generally come with basic colours that can be enhanced by buying a few select colours.
The book is split up into mostly drawing with a third dedicated to watercolour painting. The drawing section talks about drawing in various situations like still lives, architectural scenes and people. As well as this he goes through sight measuring, composition, shadow shapes all insightful techniques. One method which the whole book focusses on is his three pass technique or in his words Tea, Milk and Honey. I think when you’re starting out drawing you find yourself starting at a detail and work out from that point.
If you can learn to do the opposite of this and start with the big shapes and then work inwards you can end up with a much stronger picture. My art teacher used to say “Start with a shovel, finish with a needle!” Marc goes into this theory in the drawing section and expands on it further in the painting section.
I hope more people take in some of the ideas in this book, would love to see sketchers broaden their scope and think outside their sketchbooks to make some amazing paintings – level up!
The book should be available at your local book shops, it would be good to support them by ordering it in.
The Urban Sketcher by Marc Taro Holmes published by Northlight books
It’s worth checking out his site Citizen Sketcher for more info.