If you’re a sketcher you know something about the Urban Sketching Handbook series. These books look like a 6×9 Moleskine sketchbook, complete with the elastic band holding its covers together. There were five of them. Now there are six, the latest written by Shari Blaukopf and titled “Working with Color.”
If you’re a sketcher who uses watercolors, you probably also know that it would be great if you could spend time talking with Shari and asking her questions about watercolor. Most don’t get that opportunity, so she’s written Working with Color and owning a copy is the next best thing (grin).
I binge-read my copy, which means it took me three days to get through it. No, I don’t read that slowly but Shari’s book is written, as are the other Urban Sketching Handbooks, as a bunch of small sections full of guidance and tips. It seemed that each one had me doodling and pushing paint around, trying out the things she talks about. Not only did I have a ball, I learned a lot.
Like most books on watercolor, the early pages cover materials. This book emphasizes materials that facilitate sketching on location. I confess that I rarely get anything from such sections but it was interesting to see Shari’s palette choices.
Very quickly, however, Shari moves on to color mixing and color and value in general. Subjects covered include: mixing darks, mixing greens, shadow colors and a discussion of values. Each of these subjects are supported by sketches that illustrate each subject.
There is a section on limiting your color(s), from selectively choosing a single color to discussions of the use of a limited palette. This later subject was time-consuming for me as Shari suggests several triads and, of course, I had to try them all (grin).
There are a couple different sections on using color to express mood and atmosphere and I have to read them again as there is much to think about in these sections.
There’s also a large section on mixing and using neutrals. This is an area that is important to the watercolorist, but an area where I understand very little. Mixed into this section is the notion of using warm and cool grays in an urban setting and it all seems like its the core of what I should know. Wish I did. This book is helping quite a bit. I need to do a bunch more doodles and neutrals mixing though.
I do think that if you just read all the tips and look at the pictures, very little will change in your art. This is stuff that you have to do if you’re going to begin to incorporate the ideas and methods into your art. But heck, that’s the fun part and I can’t recommend Working with Color enough to anyone wanting to better understand how watercolors work and how they can be used in a sketching environment.