Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Urban Sketching doesn't happen in colouring books

I'm very disappointed in North Light Books.  I used to think they were a great publishing firm for artists. I always used to look out for their new publications and was delighted when I found out my book would be published by them.

The reason I'm disappointed is that North Light Books have put out a Call for Entries for urban sketchers to contribute pen and ink art for a COLOURING BOOK!

the beginning of the Call for Entries
(The referenced sketch is from a VERY different sort of book by Marc Taro Holmes - as you can see from the title
Make sure when signing a book contract that your sketches can NOT be used for colouring books!)
I'm not a fan of Colouring Books. I used to enjoy them when I was a small child. I can sort of see the meditative point of the mandala types ones. However they are essentially for people who like colour and colouring and they are very definitely NOT about drawing and sketching.

The thing is colouring books are selling in the millions.

They are the latest fad. They're keeping WH Smith's bottom line looking good right now.  If you put "drawing" into Amazon, and search for the featured books all you can see is colouring books.   Try it.

It's very, very depressing. People colour in a design and think they're drawing.

Let's be very clear. Colouring books do NOT teach anybody about how to draw or sketch.

It's therefore very sad that a movement like urban sketchers - which does place an enormously helpful emphasis on going 'on location' and 'drawing from observation' - using hand and eye - should in any way be associated with a Colouring Book - irrespective of whether or not they were asked (and I don't think they were).

I've written to Kristin Conlin, the Editor of North Light Books - in response to the invitation to contribute that was sent to me - and told her what I think of this latest 'wheeze'.

Here's some extracts
I take an extremely dim view of what North Light Books is doing with this sort of email.

. It's emphatically NOT about colouring books!

I want to emphasise that IMO your book  can in no way, shape or form can be associated with "urban sketching"!
I'll also be writing about this idea on my blog and the London Urban Sketchers Blog and will be emphasising to artists that

  • urban sketching is ALWAYS DONE ON LOCATION AND FROM OBSERVATION - and NEVER EVER by copying the work of other urban sketchers
  • Colouring books with pre-printed sketches do NOT help people to become better urban sketchers - quite the reverse. 
Sadly, I think urban sketchers who want to see their drawings in print will ignore the underlying philosophy of urban sketching and will grab the opportunity to send in their pen and ink drawings.

I'll be very sad if they do...

If anybody reading the email from Kristin Conlin feels tempted to do this, all I ask is that they reread the Urban Sketchers Manifesto first - and reflect on it.

Maybe North Light Books could do the same?
Our Manifesto

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online.
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.
This is another extract from my email.
If and when you publish this book, I shall make a point of reviewing it on my blog and on Amazon. I think you can by now guess what I will be saying! I would imagine rather a lot of other urban sketchers might do the same.
So the questions for all urban sketchers are:
  • Do you want to get out and about and use your hands and eyes to draw and remain true to urban sketching? 
  • Or do you want two free copies of a book - so you can sit at home and colour it in?
What's your view?