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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.)

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