Friday, 9 May 2014

Sketch Your World

For my dad it was always cigars before he gave them up. Then stem gingers became the default present for birthdays and Christmases. Happily for me – since I started drawing last year – the latest sketching book comes my way on these occasions. I just have to drop a hint as to which one and my partner and children are happy to oblige. Problem solved.

James Hobbs’ Sketch Your World was on my wish list for my latest birthday and, some months later, it still has prime spot on my bedside table. I am still unearthing nuggets of creative wisdom.

Like our very own Simone and Caroline, James is a correspondent on the Urban Sketching main site where he’s described as a freelance journalist and artist. He’s a former editor of Artists & Illustrators Magazine and has been shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize.

I’ve admired his work for some time. One evening some months ago I even took my Sharpie marker and tried unsuccessfully to emulate his distinctive style. Not even close, but that’s how you learn, right?

James’ book works on so many levels: there’s basic stuff about pens and sketchbooks, as well as profiles from a range of contributors all with words of wisdom and encouragement. James writes about everything from learning to look, to how to make your own sketchbook; there’s chapters on architecture and reportage, people and nature.

As you might expect from someone who combines ‘new’ technology with his hand-drawn sketches, there’s a section on digital tools. ‘Drawing’ on the phone or tablet is not for me just yet. So much of my professional time is in front of a screen I really don’t want to spend precious leisure time doing the same. Besides, I’m enjoying the very basics of making marks on paper. Maybe it’s a bit like the Kindle versus the smell-and-the-feel of-a-real-book debate.

Increasingly relevant to me is when James talks about time. ‘How long have you got?’ he asks. And it’s so true. I think a lot of people use a lack of time as their excuse for not drawing. And yet it is easy enough to find five or ten minutes even on the busiest of days. I have a couple of books on the go: a small one for the ‘quickie’ on the bus or train and a larger version for the more considered attempt. Actually I’ve lately taken to dividing a page in the larger book into smaller squares which does the trick too.

One of the contributors, university lecturer, Steve Wilkin talks about keeping up with his drawing by sketching his fellow train passengers on his daily commute: “In all the years I’ve been doing it, nobody has ever come over and asked me to stop,” he says. That’s good to know. His portraits are wonderful and Steve offers encouragement and advises us all to just keep doing it... we will improve. That’s good to know, too!

This book hits the spot again and again for me. It inspires you to keep going, keep looking, try new techniques and it sets you off investigating established sketchers. Better than stem gingers any day.

Sketch Your World by James Hobbs

View on Amazon here and buy online here.