Gabriel Campanario’s “The Art of Urban Sketching”

February 10, 2012

See the post for complete details.

Last week my pre-ordered copy of The Art of Urban Sketching by Gabriel Campanario appeared in my mailbox. It was a delightful surprise because I'd forgotten it was coming out soon. I had great hopes of reading through it quickly and reporting immediately. Alas I am only on page 102. (There are 317 pages, and yes I have peeked ahead now and then.) It's deliciously slow going because I am stopping and savoring everything.

The book draws material from Gabi's Urban Sketchers Blog, and that site is still a wonderful and ever-growing source of inspiring urban sketches, but the book is fun because you can hold it, and savor the art and peer closely, pick it up in 30 seconds before going to a meeting… All the things I don't do on the computer. 

Gabi has made a great selection for his book and if you are a fan of the website I believe you will enjoy the book. If you aren't already familiar with the website I believe you'll enjoy this book as intensely as the discovery of a new indulgence.

Overall the book has an attractive design that showcases the work (which is the star after all) very well. There are a couple points in the book where the sidebar information seems to interrupt the flow for me and doesn't relate to the main featured artist's work on that page; then pages later that artist appears again. I understand the variety of constraints that occur when handling image-heavy books and this is a very small and infrequent dislocation.

(An example of what I mean happens on page 142-145 when the profile for Laura Frankstone begins on page 142, is faced with an unrelated sidebar box with work by other artists, and then on page 143 another piece of Frankstone's appears. I would have preferred to see her pages facing each other. That two boxes might then appear on facing pages would have been less distracting. On page 48 the artist Stéphane Kardos is quoted in the opening text but his work doesn't appear until pages 52 and 53. This type of jump jars the mind. They took me out of the luscious mood of enjoyment I was in and made my logical mind wonder where I was.)

Readers will enjoy the captions which include tips from the artists as well as "specs" on the sketches: size, paper, media, and in most cases, working time. It's fun to be told the media and size to get a sense of the work. It's great to see how some artists work quickly and deliberately and others spend an entire afternoon or even series of afternoons working on a piece. This type of information will be interesting to inexperienced urban sketchers who labor under an impression there is one right way to approach this endeavor. This book will disabuse them of this notion and free them up for their own experiments.

The book is a celebration of individual and idiosyncratic approaches to viewing the world. It is a lovely testament to the talents of the contributing artists at the same time that it provides a glimpse of urban life around the globe. If you like to sketch out in public, whether you capture buildings, people, fashion, cars, or whatever I really think you'll enjoy owning this book and dipping into it, savoring it a little bit at a time, or in big chunks. If you haven't started sketching out in public this book might encourage you to do so. I have to admit that books like this make me very happy because each sketch is a evidence that artists everywhere are using their eyes and capturing their lives on paper. It's wonderful that we get to see this work.


    • Frank Bettendorf
    • February 10, 2012

    Your observations are right on the money. I didn’t notice the out-of-sequence with Laura Frankstone so that’s one for Hawkeye. I love the book and am enjoying it in small chunks like a box of delicious chocolates trying to savor each line. What’s great is the vast difference in style and the interpretation of what a sketch is. An extremely valuable lesson. I ordered the book from the publishers because they deserve to be supported rather than Bezos. Frank

  1. Reply

    Frank there were some others I didn’t note in my review, but Laura’s was the most obvious to me because she’s one of the artist’s with whom I’ve actually corresponded and I enjoy her so much I immediately turned to look her and Kate Johnson up.

    I agree that the vast difference in style and interpretation is great fun to see. Also the focus people select! Frank, I didn’t put a link to amazon in post because I figure people will find the book wherever they want to find it.

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