Book Review: Freehand Drawing & Discovery

Why am I reviewing a book on drawing? Because a happy journal is one with some drawings and sketches in it, and I’m happiest with my journaling when I draw a bit. I love Urban Sketchers and the drawings people make there are amazing, but don’t invest the time in making their level of drawings. Instead I want to try capture enough to relive my time in a place without the drawing being the focus of the visit. I’m finding that is a tough objective to reach, but I found a book that helps.

Freehand Drawing & Discovery, by James Richards is an expensive book, but it is worth it.

It’s a book written for architects. The title says it covers “Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers.” It’s aimed at urban planners, architects and other folks who have to make sketches to show other people their designs. Those sketches have be efficient to create and attractive enough to sell the concept. Fortunately those are also my needs when I have as long as it takes my slowest kid to eat a cheeseburger to draw what I see out the restaurant window.

When I sit down to try to capture the scene, and the feeling, but not necessarily every detail. How do I decide how much detail to capture? This book provides a bit of framework for that.IMG_2279

While it won’t teach basic drawing, it serves a rare purpose amongst drawing books. Most books on drawing work to either teach technique, like You can Draw in 30 days or how to see, like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain they both want to replace the symbols we tend to draw as children (like the football shaped eye) with what we’re really seeing.

Freehand Drawing and Discovery worth of works to reverse this a bit. It shows a lot of neat ways to make simplified drawings of things that we’d like to include, but don’t need to include accurately – like people in crowds, trees, vehicles, etc. Those details really enrich the drawing, but take a very long time if drawn accurately.

There are three major sections. Learning a Language shows the various elements and techniques. This section breaks things down – like what what to draw first, how to handle perspective, and things like that. It also covers the use of color in a simple way.

Urban Skething focuses specifically on drawing urban scenes. Gabriele Campanario, author of The Art of Urban Sketching This section includes more work by others, and also subjects like “working quickly”, more on color, and editing – i.e. deciding what to include in the drawing.IMG_2278

Concept Sketching focuses converting a concept into a convincing drawing, but also includes digital sketching techniques like using a tablet. I’m not sure why digital techniques are included here, but it’s where they ended up. This section was the least relevant to me, as it’s where the most architect-specific material is. Such as using a photograph of an existing intersection as the foundation for a sketch of proposed changes. It’s still interesting, just not as actionable as the rest of the book.

Overall the book is very actionable and comes with access to online videos that are instructive.

The down side is the cost. The book is printed, bound, and marketed as a textbook and is priced accordingly at nearly $60. I had this book on my Amazon wish list for a long time before I bought it, but I’m glad that I have it. I went through it quickly at first and tried some of what I learned, and later I will go through it again to pick up some more. It is a reference book, so the cost of deferred a bit in that I will be pulling it off the shelf and enjoying it many times.

You can see the book here: Freehand Drawing and Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers (An affiliate link – if you decide to buy this book, you’ll help support my work here by using that link.)

Pen Review: Monteverde One Touch Stylus

Ron at Pen Chalet asked me to review a pen, and I chose the Monteverde One Touch Stylus. I’m into ballpoint these days, I like click pens because they’re so easy to deploy. They also give me a good outlet for fidgeting by letting me click them repeatedly.

The pen arrived quickly in fine condition and upon opening the box I was greeted by a pen quite a bit fatter than I was expecting. This pen is pretty girthy compared to an Ecridor, Jotter or Fisher AG-7.

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The click mechanism is fairly smooth, reasonably quiet, and seems to be positive. The pen has a fair bit of reveal – about an inch – with the clicker having a shape that makes for very easy pen extraction from whatever pocket or sleeve you put it in. This is good especially because the pen is fat is likely to be a snug fit in sleeves.

The clip has a big ball on the end so it should be easy to get it over most pocket hems. The clip has enough clearance for a suit-coat pocket for sure, probaby enough for most winter coat pockets. It grabbed a shirt pocket hem just fine.

The Monteverde Soft Touch refill is black, and in extra broad. In actual practice it’s not that broad unless you press fairly firmly but it is a very smooth and easy rolling experience.

To replace the refill you have to unscrew the cone of the pen, and there you see an exposed spring. The spring is retained by a bit of friction and it didn’t fall out for me, but I get a bit worried about changing cartridges in places where it’s not easy to retrieve any pieces that go missing, like when sitting on an airplane in coach. The cone is also small and can’t be put down in a way where it doesn’t roll. These are pretty minor complaints.

I ordered the pen in carbon fiber finish, with a yellow accent on the clip. The yellow is more like gold – it’s just not bright enough in my opinion. The carbon fiber looks good, although I can’t be certain if it’s really carbon fiber or some kind of effect. There is a seam in the weave that runs the length of the pen that suggests it’s not a printed wrap but the real deal. It shimmers when the pen is rotated, something my CF Namiki Vanishing point does not do. The finish on the body is matte while the furniture is gloss. This is the right combination for a pen that should look manly without looking tactical.

Last but not least is the stylus. On the clicker is a small rubber hemisphere that can be used on touch screens. It worked fine on my iOS devices, and it was part of the reason I chose this pen. I do a lot of writing on my iPad these days, and some of the controls in Ulysses are small. I’d also like to keep the screen cleaner. Time will tell if this a feature I use or not.

Overall I like the pen. It’s more than fancy enough for the office, takes parker-style refills, and feels good in the hand. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble taking it with me since it’s about the same price as an AG-7 and the shape makes it easier to grab out of the pen sleeves in most of my bags.

Monteverde One Touch Stylus at Pen Chalet.

Disclosure: The pen was provided at no cost to me. The words and opinions are my own.