"Dare to Sketch"

I’m preparing for a long summer trip that will take my family out of the country. As part of our travel plans, I plan to sketch on location with my children. This means carrying a sketch journal, pencil, pen and watercolor in our backpacks. Part of my inspiration for doing this comes from the Urban Sketchers movement. You can read about it at www.urbansketchers.org.

I’m practicing and relearning my drawing skills, reviewing various online sketching websites and doing a survey of sketching books. (I’m a librarian, I can’t help but do some research.)

There are a lot of technically brilliant books filled with fantastic drawings by talented illustrators. It can seem a little intimidating. But one of my favorites is the recently-published “Dare to Sketch: A Guide to Drawing On the Go.” Felix Scheinberger’s book is an original, entertaining and non-threatening introduction to sketching, filled with lively and energetic sketches from his own books. If you have any doubts about your own ability, Scheinberger will convince you that you can and should give sketching a try.

He says the digital world narrows our work and our lives. Immersed in digital technology and computers, we lose contact with the real world. The sketchbook, he argues, is a counterbalance, a way to connect with the outer world and broaden ourselves. “The obvious subjectivity and intimacy of drawn pictures makes the medium paradoxically more ‘real’ than photographs or googled images,” he writes.

Devoting time to a quick sketch of a building, a person or a landscape helps you connect and remember the scene. In my own attempts at a sketchbook, I have found this true. I can remember the weather, the smells, and visualize the scene in my mind better than if I had snapped a photograph.

Other books on sketching point this out too. What sets “Dare to Sketch” apart is Scheinberger’s commitment to making sketching fun, creative and rewarding. How do I begin a sketchbook when I’m sure my first drawing won’t turn out? Scheinberger says to purposefully begin with a bad sketch. Loosen up and try things. He’s not afraid to share his sketches that didn’t work out.

He goes over all the basics of sketching – journal selection, drawing tools, perspective and dozens of other tips and techniques to make your sketching more interesting, vibrant and personal. He wants a sketchbook that is personal and intimate. In his mind, a sketchbook is a type of journal.

“The purpose of a journal is always to develop yourself and your opinions,” he writes. Here he echoes Julia Cameron’s bestselling classic, “The Artist’s Way.” In her book, she walks us through a steady diet of daily Morning Pages as a way to get to know ourselves and break out of the mundane ruts that can take over our lives. “Dare to draw” speaks a slightly different language, but with a similar aim: self-development and self-expression as a way to connect with the world.

I love Scheinberger’s encouraging approach to sketch journals. “Dare to Sketch” is a worthy and meaningful addition to the literature on sketching.