Happy Birthday, little book.

Saying this is a dream come true is an understatement. Four years ago yesterday, June 15, 2016, this little book was officially released.

This particular adventure started in 2015 when I saw Gabi Campanario at one of our Seattle Urban Sketchers meet ups. He was standing near me, and I thought to thank him for including my work in his books, the first two in the Handbook series. What an honor it was, I couldn’t believe it!!! Surprisingly, he looked at me and said, “What about you? You should write a book. Do you want me to put you in touch with my editor?” Literally picking my jaw off the floor, I mumbled, “Sure,” but the voice in my head was screaming, “WHAT did he just say????” Of course, the humble and generous Gabi was true to his word, and very shortly after, he connected me with his editor, Mary Ann Hall at Quarry Books/Quarto publishers.

Mary Ann said I should write up a short proposal with a description, stating how this book would be different from others on the market. Having bought every drawing book on perspective known to mankind, I knew that all the books were focused on studio perspective, that is, something like boxes on a table top — useless if you want to sit on a street and sketch. That was what my book would talk about, bridging the conceptual world of studio perspective with the “what the heck do I do when I want to sketch on location” world. I had been teaching perspective sketching in college for decades, but had just started teaching workshops in Seattle. I knew perspective in and out from my work as an architectural illustrator and my background as an architect. The proposal poured out of me in only a few minutes, and I sent it off. BOOM. It was approved, and before I could catch my breath, I was writing a book!

I knew what I wanted the book to say. I had come up with my own original concepts for teaching, things like “starting with the shape of the face or space”, or ignoring the term “horizon line” and instead using your “eye-level line” (it’s much more relevant to sketching on location.) I had never seen anyone else use these and other terms in the way I talked about them. The hard part was finding the sketches that would illustrate the teaching points. I combed the internet, looking at the work of my hero sketchers, friends, but also finding new folks I hadn’t seen in other books. It was a herculean task to coordinate it all. I’m so incredibly grateful that so many talented artists and architects from around the world were willing to share their work, for nothing but a copy from the publisher and an opportunity.

As I wrote the text, I laid everything out in InDesign for my own understanding, as I had to see how the parts would all go together…the right text with the right sketch, the diagrams in the right order, the right adjacencies and notes. We went through lots of rounds of edits, and I probably was too ambitious in trying to pack so much information into one small book. There was just too much I wanted to say!

Months later, it’s June 15, 2016 and I’m signing copies of the book at the Seattle-based Daniel Smith store. Such a surreal moment, I cannot tell you. I’ve since been sent photos of this book on sale at the Art Museum in Sydney Australia, the Tate Modern in London, the Uffizi in Florence (I went and found them there as well, snuck the copies into a corner, signed them, and put them back on the shelf), and even the Louvre bookstore in Paris, in French. Crazy. Blew my mind to see to see it on Amazon ranked next to the books by my hero authors that I had used in architecture school.

The title, Understanding Perspective, came from Mary Ann Hall, and it was perfect.

I picked the cover image for two reasons: one, everyone loves Paris! Two, it was done during the first few days of my time in Paris with the Gabriel Prize fellowship, so it means a lot to me personally. I hoped it would bring good luck!

The image on the back cover is by Gabi and is a view of the Seattle waterfront (our common home town) and the viaduct, that I knew would be gone a few years later. It’s my nod to thank him.

Let me also say that there is very little money in writing a book, even one that sells well. It’s much more about sharing knowledge and experience, sharing my perspective on perspective (yes, I did just write that), and creating something that will likely outlive me. Hopefully my children and grandchildren can look to it one day and feel proud. My dad had always told me I should write a book (I think he imagined a NYT bestseller 😉 and the opportunity to write this book came just after he passed away. I hope he is somewhere, smiling… as for me, I’m still living the dream and am grateful every day.

16 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, little book.

  1. Congratulations Stephanie and happy birthday book! This particular little book has been open on my desk for the past few days! I’m trying to work from photos. It’s so packed with good tips. I’m so glad you wrote it, and I know how little money there is in writing a book. Thank you!


  2. So glad you took on the task!
    This little book is one of my treasures (and it’s signed by the author!)
    I refer to it constantly and have it’s sister 101 Sketching Tips too.
    But neither of these equaled the thrill of spending a weekend sketching with you at Melbourne University.
    I respect your knowledge and talent and am proud to be able to call you my friend.


    1. Dear Pat, you are going to make me cry!!! Thank you so much. I’m so happy to share, I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl (apparently, at age 6 or so I rounded up the neighborhood kids into a “class” to “teach” them who knows what…) It was wonderful to meet you in Australia, wonderful also to see your life and growing family on IG…you are living the dream too.


  3. Hi Stephanie. I just bought six of the Urban Sketching series. I’m a convert. I’m looking forward to seeing what your next endeavors are.


  4. Stephanie, this book and your Craftsy video lessons reverberate in my head…I hear you explaining how to draw in perspective. Still working on doing it right, but it is a fun quest. Thanks for sharing your talent and expeerience


  5. Hello Stephanie. This gem of a book was the launching pad to my urban sketching at home, Calgary, Alberta, and when I travel. I purchased it in 2016 just before going on a cruise from Boston to Montreal. I packed and read that book everywhere on that trip, and as a result, I sketched my all time favorite sketch in Sydney, Nova Scotia. A sweet little scene with two houses and a laundry line in the back. Yours is the go to book when I need to refresh my knowledge on perspective. Thank you!!!!


  6. I’m reading your little book right now. Nicely done. I picked up 2 others at the same time; 101 Tips and Working with Color. I have not been to Civita but feel I have stood in your footsteps at many of the other sketch locations in Italy and France. Keep up the great work. I admire your energy.


    1. Ciao, Fred! Thank you for your lovely message, and thank you for picking up those books. I hope you like them! They are small, but packed with info. And I’m loving revisiting Civita in these posts, although it also makes me a little sad not to be there this year.

      I see you are an FAIA, my husband is as well! He is a partner at a firm here in Seattle called MITHUN.
      I’m always trying to figure out how to get more architects involved in sketching by hand. I hope the pendulum will swing back in that direction at some point. I am also trying to figure out a way to teach courses that can earn learning credits for architects via the AIA, but there are a few roadblocks that make it difficult for a single person office to make that work (mainly, the outrageous costs $$). Oh well.

      Thanks again for writing, let me know what you think of those books, and keep sketching!! Grazie!


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