Book Review: Urban Watercolor Sketching

Urban Watercolor Sketching coverThe complete title of the North American edition of this book is Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by Felix Scheinberger.  And if the recent flood of books about urban sketching and art journaling isn’t an indication that what we do has hit the mainstream, the title of this book most certainly let’s us know that “urban sketching” has become a marketing tool, like ‘new and improved.’

Why do I say that?  Because the only place that urban sketching is mentioned in this book is on the cover.  The author never references either urban sketching or storytelling.  Mr. Scheinberger wrote a book that would be better titled “Watercolor Sketching: The Effective Use of Watercolor in Sketching.”  And lest you think I’m faulting the author, the book was written in German and the original title translates to Watercolor for Illustrators (I think).  It ain’t his fault.  The sad thing is that I suspect the book would appeal to a wider audience if they’d put that on the cover rather than tried to fool people into thinking it an urban sketching book.

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The book does a segment on each of the primaries and their compliments.

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There are sections on how to use glazes.

Enough with the grousing over publisher folly.  This is a REALLY GOOD BOOK!  Felix Scheinberger is an illustrator of children’s books and his loose style, with both pen and watercolor are wonderful to behold.  The emphasis of the book is on color and its use.  It’s not a step-wise approach to watercolor techniques, but more of a mental toolkit for how to view and use watercolors.

In addition to discussions of color itself, Scheinberger talks about making decisions about color combination, using color sparingly, creating harmonies, atmosphere, and composition.  His discussion of materials assumes the use of single sheet or blocks of watercolor paper so brush talk revolves around that sort of presentation rather than small sketchbooks.  There is no discussion of pencil/pen, which allows him more space to discuss color philosophy and decisions.

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Color harmony is an important theme in this book

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The other main theme of the book is how to loosen up the use of watercolors and use it sparingly.

The name of this book may be way off base but if you’re an urban sketcher you’ll still find much that will float your boat.  Scheinberger’s style is very loose but he turns his art towards urban landscapes quite often so his advice applies to these subjects.  I never sketch outside of a sketchbook and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.