For the amateur artist, working from real life may provide a significant challenge. With so many changing variables in a real life situation, working from a photograph seems far less stressful. In her latest book, however, Cathy Johnson not only makes “on the spot” sketching seem possible for the average artist, but strongly preferable.
In Artist’s Sketchbook, Johnson addresses technical aspects of sketching from real life, including supply considerations and issues unique to a variety of different environs. She also provides exercises and informative step-by-step demonstrations throughout the book. Nevertheless, her approach to “on the spot” art is what makes this book so valuable. Johnson explains that working from real life provides a depth and freshness to the end result, which may not be possible with a photograph. This result is unsurprising, as Johnson recommends seeking subjects that speak to the artist’s heart and bringing a deep, abiding curiosity to object or locale. For readers, sketching from real life becomes not a formidable challenge, but a creative opportunity for capturing the beauty of our everyday lives. Those artists who think sketching from real life beyond their ability may suddenly find themselves grabbing their sketch kit and heading for the door.
(Reviewed for Manhattan Book Review.)