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.

New Book, New Blog!!

[Back and front of the new book, featuring the work of Klaus Meier-Pauken (Germany), Chih- Wei Lin (Taiwan), James Akers (USA), Paul Heaston (USA), Steven Reddy (USA), Shari Blaukopf (Canada), Eduardo Bajzek (Brazil), Ben Luk (Hong Kong)]

Welcome to the new blog!!!! With the release of the new book, #6 in the series, The Urban Sketching Handbook: 101 Sketching Tips, it seems a good time to move to WordPress… it should be easier to sign up to receive posts via email (and I hope everyone will sign up!!), it has a cleaner look, and you can find a list of workshops and much more info.

I’m so thrilled to share this new book!! It’s chock full of well over 101 tips, tricks, techniques, and “handy hacks” to help you up your sketching game. I love teaching and have done it for so long, I’ve figured out simple ways to explain complicated subjects…things like “think of stairs like a wedge of cheese”, or “towers are like wedding cakes”… in fact, Watercolor Artist magazine has featured nearly an entire chapter in their current edition, calling the book “awesome” and “a really good one”!

The concept for the book first started as a series of 10 blog posts featuring several “how-to tips” for those going to the Urban Sketchers symposium in Porto, which I did not attend (I went to AsiaLink in Taiwan instead). I kept waking up in the middle of the night, grabbing my phone, and adding more tips to the list. When I started getting up to about 150, I realized there might actually be a book here, so I contacted my editor, Mary Ann Hall. She saw the posts and said, yes, it looks like a book!! And so I embarked on attempting to edit down a list of about 250 tips…

101 Sketching Tips also features 47 amazing, and I mean amazing, sketchers from around the world. These are folks I hope you will follow on Instagram and Facebook, their info is in the back of the book. After teaching in Taiwan last year, I realized I wanted to include more Asian sketchers in addition to more folks that are new to the books in the series. So look for lots of new names, new talent, from places like India, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Honk Kong, South Korea, and Singapore…and Europe, Australia, North and South America too!

I hope everyone finds something new and eye-opening in this book, and maybe you’ll learn to see things in new ways. If you find the book in your local bookstore, please snap a photo and post it on Instagram, and tag me at @stephanieabower so that I see it. I would LOVE to see how far this book goes!!