Marc Taro Holmes’ “The Urban Sketcher—Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location”

October 17, 2014

It's lunch time and but instead of taking my break I'm writing to you about this new book by Marc Taro HolmesThe Urban Sketcher:Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location. (He recommends buying the book from Amazon for the best price, in his blog post about the book publication.You can see the book cover in his post.)

The UPS driver just dropped it off. I had it on pre-order at Amazon and had forgotten all about it.

I haven't even read it all yet, but I know it will be one of my favorite books.

You may be familiar with Marc Taro Holmes' posts on He paints the most incredible scenes with watercolor. And then he writes detailed posts explaining his approach. He writes clearly, directly, and transparently. You understand immediately what he is getting at.

He writes like that in his new book too, with page after page of thorough explanations on how to approach different subject matter while sketching. He gives you options—whether you are new to sketching or have been at it for ages.

Beginning artists need not be intimidated because it is by breaking things down into a process that you'll see how an approach is achieved, an end result arrived at. Sure you'll have to practice and practice, but that's part of the fun of drawing. Do not be intimidated. This might be the most important and useful book you will ever buy.

While he deals with working in graphite and also pen and ink, his section on watercolor is worth the price of the book by itself.

The world can be a visually confusing mess and his techniques will help you focus and improve your technique. It's really about thinking with an artist's eye and brain and he nudges you to that with his explanations and tips.

The only thing I do not like about this book—and I really hate this about the book—is the light woven texture print that North Light saw fit to put on EVERY PAGE (except the chapter openers). The result of this very indistinct and light background texture is to muddy the pages and distract from text and art. This is a disservice to the artist-author and to the readers. I hope when they reprint this book (which I'm sure they will have to because it will sell out) they eliminate that more than annoying design "feature." I didn't have my glasses on when I went to the door to get the package. When I opened the book and started flipping through, my heart sank. My eyes, tired from a morning of work, momentarily convinced me that I had a defectively printed book that's how smudged and distracting it is. Then my eyes just confirmed it was a very bad move on the publisher's part.

Despite that design gaffe you still need this book.


    • Julana
    • October 17, 2014

    Thank you for the review. Really liked his tea, milk, honey directions.

    • Suzanne
    • October 20, 2014

    I know what you mean about the background design. More annoying are magazines that put text in very light colors…a lot of Stampington & Co books do this…so light you can hardly see what they say. Not every reader has perfect vision and I wish they’d skip what they think is artistic design in favor of legibility. I want to be able to read the damn thing without a magnifying glass.

  1. Reply

    Call me silly but I think a book’s design should showcase the author’s artwork and make appealing and readable the text.

  2. Reply

    I received my copy a few days ago and only had a brief look through it. I must admit I didn’t notice the background design, maybe because it was evening, and not that much light. What annoyed me, though, were the many errors in the text, syntax etc. Maybe they should have used the money they spent on the extra background design to pay a proof reader instead. Unfortunately, it seems that most books these days aren’t really proof-read anymore at all. Content-wise though, it looks terrific, and I’m looking forward to spend more time with this book.

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