When 3DTotal offered the Illustrator’s Lounge an opportunity to review their Sketch Workshop series I jumped at the chance. I first heard about it through their exceedingly successful Kickstarter campaign. My intrigued was peaked, how would they tackle explaining some rather complex and layered subject matters to a novice?
Expecting to receive one or two of the workbooks, when I opened the parcel to find the entire Sketch Workshop bundle, there was a genuine gasp of joy. It included the leather-style folder, all five workbooks, and a set of drawl-inducing drawing tools, including five Koh-I-Noor graphite pencils. It is a very attractive set, which I sat staring at for a while, before it suddenly dawned on me that I may need some help if I planned on doing a review of this set any justice.
I decided to recruit the help of my 8-year-old cousin, (appropriately named) Arty. Definitely younger than the demographic that these workbooks are aimed for, but I was interested to see how accessible the tutorials are. I know that Arty already has an interest in illustration and has an attention span that could rival mine. So I knew it would not be too laborious to ask him to sit down for an hour or so and work through some of the pages with me.
I thought that Robot & Spaceships and Creatures workbooks would be best, as I know that Arty has a love of cars, and as you can’t really draw “creatures” wrong, can you? When I arrived workbooks in hand and told Arty that today we will be drawing together, he got really excited. When I pulled out the stationary he got even more excited, which is an indication of a future artist if there ever was one.
Given the choice of the two workbooks, Arty decided to go for Creatures. So I opened it up to a tutorial which looked the simplest. I showed him the page and explained what we would be drawing, then I read all the instructions to him, to which he responded “Wow, that’s hard”. I laughed and then tried to simplify the instructions a bit for him. He chose his pencils and got started.
Interestingly I had already given the Anatomy workbook a go a few days earlier, and my initial reaction was very similar to Arty’s. I am a competent illustrator and there was not anything in the Anatomy workbook that I would particularly struggle drawing, but yet I found some of the tutorials intimidating. A combination of a beautifully rendered sketch accompanied with instructions that neglected to explain the basics just threw me off. All workbooks have multiple tutors, so this scenario is not case for all tasks, but it is a common theme across the workbooks.
An example that came up when drawing with Arty was that he did not understanding the 3D aspect of the jaw and stuck to drawing the front row of teeth. I sketched a cylinder to help explain how he should think of a jaw and he quickly understood adapted his drawing to show back teeth. After an hour of drawing, Arty had filled a couple pages of A4 paper with a few pretty impressive creature teeth and dinosaur eyes. That was sadly as far as his attention span went. He then proceeded to shape the putty rubber into a rocket and throw it around the room. However, working alongside Arty’s helped me better gauge whom these workbooks are best suited to.
It is sadly a tad advanced for an 8-year-old (specifically Arty). I felt the tutorials were a bit too specific for my own needs, but I will probably give Robots & Spaceships and Cityscapes another go, as I have always found this area of technical drawing difficult. So ruling out the novice and the seasoned illustrator (ahem) I would say that these books best suit intermediate artist, those who have a good grasps of the basics, understand construction well, and have just starting to push their art into a direction.
Which brings me to the strength of the Sketch Workshop. It does a great job of encouraging the artist to really think. If you are drawing a creature, is it dangerous? If so where will their jaw hinge? If it is a robot, what fuel does it use? After you have really thought about the physicality of the drawing you are asked to consider lighting, so that you can render your drawing as realistic as possible too. These are definitely areas which can get left behind when learning to draw, so there is obvious merit in their approach.
All in all, if I had the Sketch Workshop when I was in Secondary School it would likely be one of my most prized possessions. It is beautifully presented and impossible not to get excited about. I will surely be wrapping the bundle up and gifting it to Arty for Christmas, and just like a Christmas jumper, hope he grows into it.
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