Urban sketching – the book

February 11, 2012

Why publish a hardcopy when there is an abundance of material on the website, www.urbansketchers.org? As with all hardcopy books, there’s both portability and immediacy: I’m not tied to a PC screen (and all the electrical paraphernalia and methodology associated with access) and it is very close to replicating the real-life artwork since it’s reproduced on paper. Producing a book lends a certain air of respectability to this new take on an old process; urban sketching may have formed the basis of J.M.W.Turner’s urban and landscape work two hundred years ago, for example, but contemporary urban sketching has the edginess of something still just that little bit outside the art canon. It’s by nature democratic and available to all, very often its gestural frantic quality resembles arte povera, lavori biro, folk art or outsider art; urban sketching doesn’t seem easily grasped and held by the fingers of the elite.

It goes beyond the material on the website in its ability to juxtapose material. Three sketches of the same building (e.g. Notre-Dame de Paris) done by three different sketchers for immediate comparison purposes, all lined up on the one page, isn’t possible online.

The book is big (22x26cm and 320 pages) and extremely comprehensive. It’s divided into three sections, the first explaining the concept of Urban Sketching, a very extensive second which is a global journey, city-by-city (the biggest cities get 6 or 8 pages each) and a final section devoted to sketching themes.

The range of approaches and matrial is extremely wide. Work by individual sketchers is scattered through the book; local hero, Liz Steel, has her work in five different spots. 

Urban Sketching has begun to blossom lately into a variety of media forms; there are now video clips on YouTube and short films, complementing photo galleries on Flickr and weblogs of individual sketchers. Notwithstanding having checked the Urban Sketching website myself on a daily basis for the best part of the last twelve months, this hardcopy version is heartily recommended as both a consolidation of website activity and an extension of it. Ideal for libraries.


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