See The World One Sketch At A Time: The Art of Urban Sketching

Once upon a time there was a boy who live in Spain.  His name was Gabi.   One day, while walking home from a bullfight, he noticed a newspaper headline that read, “The Greatest Coffee in the World” and being a curious lad he wondered what could make coffee the ‘greatest.’

It’s unclear to this day what caused it to happen but Gabi became obsessed with understanding who created the greatest coffee and how they did it.  He soon discovered the answer to the who question.  It was a company called Starbucks, a name that reminded him of Moby Dick, not great coffee.  He found that Starbuck’s headquarters were in Seattle, Washington and, determined to follow this quest, he boarded a plane for Washington.

Upon arrival, and ever hopeful, Gabi went immediately to the nearest Starbucks to taste some of that ‘greatest coffee.’  And there he learned the secret.  You take plain old coffee,  let the consumer make many choices so they feel good about themselves, and you charge them four bucks for the ‘greatest coffee in the world.’


If I’m completely honest I don’t have a clue how Gabriel Campanario came to reside in Seattle, Washington but I’m a writer; I make stuff up.  What I do know is that Seattle is the better for it as Gabi writes a sketching column for the Seattle Times.

He’s touched the rest of us by creating around the concept of urban sketching – drawing on location in an urban setting.   The organization has chapters all around the world and explains itself by “See the world one sketch at a time.”

And Campanario’s new book,  The Art of Urban Sketching, brings this idea to print in an exciting and educational fashion.   You can find many of the sketches between its covers on the Internet if you surf around long enough.   The book, however, brings context to those sketches.  It does so in a variety of ways but principle among them are thoughts of the artists themselves.   Also, each of the sketches comes with a statement of what materials were used in their creation – vital statistics for those of us trying to achieve the high quality of the included sketches in our own.  It’s 320 pages are a bargain at its $17 street price.  Anyone who has even the slightest interest in sketching needs a copy of this book.

The book itself is divided into three sections.  The first section is an introduction to urban sketching, with discussions of what it is, what its challenges and rewards are, and what materials are most often used.  Some examples are provided but the points are not belabored.

The second section of the book is the majority content.  It takes you on vacation, or rather on lots of vacations.  Over 50 world cities are represented, each with artists and their sketches representing their special nature.

The eye-candy is amazing, of course, but much can be learned about art, artists, and cities from these chapters.  Best of all, you can curl up and let Gabi and his fellow artists take you places you’ve never been – maybe never heard of before.

The third and final section of the book talks about the various types of sketches done by urban sketchers.  We’re a strange lot as while we will sketch broad vistas and large spectacular buildings many of us are drawn to the more mundane.  We find it fun to turn lamp posts, streetlights, fire hydrants, or even a mailbox into art.

This is one book I can recommend unequivocally.  And it’s not that much more expensive than going to Starbucks (grin).



6 thoughts on “See The World One Sketch At A Time: The Art of Urban Sketching

  1. This is a great book review … it makes me want to get in the car and go to the bookstore to buy it!!! I’ve never been to Seattle but I have done a lot of sketching in Starbucks while living in Texas … now that I live in Sioux Falls, SD … I think I need to get back out there in the world and sketch in Starbucks as well as the assorted locally owned & operated coffee shops here … this is very inspiring to me since I have been feeling displaced after the move a year ago!!! Thank you!!!

  2. It really is, quite literally, an eye-opener to sketch in an urban environment. I can’t go anywhere, now, that isn’t interesting. I’ve been most struck by how the mundane becomes cool 🙂

  3. Thanks for the great review Larry! I love what you wrote and shared a link to it on the book’s Facebook page:

    RE: How I came to Seattle. I crossed the Atlantic in 1998 following a job at a newspaper in California. Later I moved with my wife to the Washington DC metro area, but after a while there we really missed the West Coast. When the paper here was looking for a newsroom artist, I didn’t let the opportunity pass. Coffee is better here too!

  4. Thanks so much for stopping by, Gabi. Your book is truly awesome and I’m getting a lot out of it. Did you notice yet that the title New York City is missing from that section of the book?

    Thanks also for providing the real story about your company to North America. Not quite as interesting as my little fable but fiction is generally more fun than real life 🙂

    Cheers — Larry

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