Drawn on the Way. Sarah Nisbett. The Quarto Group. 2021. 128pp. $22.99
Editor’s Note: This book is ready for pre-order purchases. Available in the US as of 12/21/21.
Sarah Nisbett had an idea on how to cope with the subway ride to work: sketch the world around her! This simple act of expression has opened up a whole new world for her and now it can do the same for you. Nisbett’s explorations in sketching have led to her first how-to book. There are numerous books on how to do just about anything and that’s just how it should be. We all love them and we take from each whatever we need. In the case of Nisbett’s book, you really feel like you’ve got a friend who is hanging out with you and will get you to pursue that dream of drawing you’ve been meaning to get around to. What’s kept you? Fear of failure? With this book, there’s absolutely no pressure. It’s a very comforting approach with real world workshop exercises you can do anytime and anywhere, even on a subway ride to work!
Nisbett’s approach is compelling because she makes no claims to being an expert. In fact, in so many words, she might say she’s only a certain number of steps ahead of a reader at a beginner’s level. That’s not true but I could see her offering that up, as if wading into a pool and telling friends the water is fine. Maybe that’s the best metaphor I can offer. But Nisbett is an expert in the sense that she’s naturally, over the years, developed her own simple and straightforward methods that work for her–and can certainly work for you if you’re new and are ready to dive in. I should also make clear that, if you are an experienced artist, this book is also for you given its theme of creating quick drawings on the fly.
I think the magic to this book owes a lot to its conversational framework. This is an easygoing step-by-step process. The book begins, like any good conversation, by setting up the parameters: the tools you’ll need; the mindset to get into; learning the basics; and a bunch of wonderfully quirky specifics. Here’s a perfect example: Nisbett guides the reader into a whole new way to look at still lifes: talk to your still life and get to know it! Yes, why not? Objects have feelings. And, in fact, objects do have feelings. Every space, and every thing, we interact with has an energy. And, believe it or not, that energy will reveal itself in your drawings. This is a wonderful concept to nurture no matter what your skill level.
So, it’s great that such an accessible book is out there just waiting for aspiring artists. And, as I’ve said before, it’s more than okay for folks to call themselves artists. You know, once those training wheels come off, people usually don’t have a problem calling themselves cyclists, at least on some level. Maybe you don’t have any plans to enter the Tour de France but you still ride a bike. You can definitely be an artist. People hunger to be creative more than not. So, that’s where books like this come in. Yes, the water is just fine. Take a leap of faith and jump right in!