New books on my shelf

Being at home more this year has given me the gift of time. More time to paint, more time to create videos, more time to work in my neglected garden, and the gift I appreciate the most — more time to read. And that means not just catching up on novels, but also having time to crack open new art books, as well as reread old ones. Today I’ll share of a few of my recent favourites, and coming soon, a post about the ones I go back to again and again.

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Techniques for Beginners by Suhita Shirodkar Don’t be deceived by the title of this book — Suhita’s book is not just for beginners. Sketchers of all levels will find ideas in here, and who doesn’t need inspiration these days?? Suhita’s blog was one of the first sites I discovered when I was new to urban sketching. In fact it was her market sketches — so filled with life and colour — that gave me the courage to go out and sketch in public. In this book you’ll find a wealth of ideas about where to begin when sketching objects, places and people (with great examples from sketchers all over the world), but most of all you’ll find Suhita’s endless enthusiasm for exploring the world around you (or right inside your own home!) with a pen and your sketchbook.

Other recent releases in this series which I am proud to be a part of:
The Urban Sketching Handbook: Drawing with a Tablet: Easy Techniques for Mastering Digital Drawing on Location by Uma Kelkar
The Urban Sketching Handbook: 101 Sketching Tips: Tricks, Techniques, and Handy Hacks for Sketching on the Go by Stephanie Bower
The Complete Urban Sketching Companion: Essential Concepts and Techniques from The Urban Sketching Handbooks–Architecture and Cityscapes, People and Motion, Working with Color by Shari Blaukopf, Stephanie Bower and Gabi Campanario

Finding Sanctuary: An Artist Explores the Nature of Mass Audubon by Barry Van Dusen I discovered Barry Van Dusen‘s work when he commented on my blog a while back, and as soon as I found his website I had to get in touch and order his book immediately so I could study his technique close-up. This is a hardcover you will want to keep around on your coffee table and enjoy slowly. At least that’s how I’ve been reading it. Barry spent four and half years as artist-in-residence at Mass Audubon’s 61 wildlife sanctuaries and nature centers, recording his observations through sketches, watercolours and blog posts. But this book is much more than a chronicle of what he observed on his many visits to the Audubon sites. You’ll find preparatory sketches for paintings, tips on observing flora and fauna, and plenty of insights into his painting process. And each watercolour is a masterclass in colour, composition and technique. A gem of a book.

The Nature Explorer’s Sketchbook by Jean Mackay I have been enjoying Jean Mackay’s blog for many years. If you don’t know her work by now, have a look. On her sketchbook pages and in her blog posts, you’ll find not only her keenly recorded nature sketches (birds, nests, eggs, feathers) but also elegant hand-lettered descriptions and titles, as well as tips and techniques for creating your own sketchbook pages. I was so excited to see the recent launch of Jean’s book The Nature Explorer’s Sketchbook. Geared for ages 10+, it invites kids to begin a lifelong journey of nature exploration with ideas, tips, and plenty of space to sketch. Perfect timing for the holidays, right?  

Capturer l’âme d’un lieu par la forme et la couleur à l’aquarelle by Marion Rivolier I received Marion Rivolier’s book in the mail a few weeks ago, and as soon as I had a look at it, I realized it was a labour of love. Do you know her work? If not, have a look. She paints in direct watercolour — no pen or pencil to start — and if you’ve ever tried that technique you’ll understand what a challenge that is and why I’m in awe of her bold on-location sketches. I’ve met her many times at Urban Sketchers symposia, taken a workshop with her in Chicago and still, her strong and colourful way of painting and the way she marries warm and cold dark colours with warm and cold light colours remains a mystery to me. I have to admit, this is going to be a slower read for me because it’s in French, but I’m looking forward to reading, learning and hopefully experimenting with her ideas.  

21 Comments on “New books on my shelf”

  1. Right back at you with thanks for including me! I’m glad that the gift of time has given you the opportunity to share your artwork and teaching with more people. I thought of you when mixing up gouache “to a creamy consistency” to paint my cake. Let’s keep at it!


  2. Patricia LEFROY says:

    Hi Shari! Great email! Please keep sending your art book recommendations to read these days!!! Cheers, pat. We see Montreal getting locked down again…BC is tightening up..

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leslie Blackwell says:

    Hello, Shari,
    How do I get a copy of Barry van Dusen’s book? I haven’t seen it at Chapters/Indigo or on
    Thanks for the excellent recommendations.


  4. Denise says:

    Hello Shari, thanks for the “heads up” regarding these art books. I have been following Jean MacKay for some time, so her book was on my holiday “wish list”. Looks like I need to add a few more to the list!


    • Hi Denise, I definitely have a weakness for art books and cookbooks. So my list is always long. I read novels from the library and on my iPad, but for obvious reasons, the art books need to be the physical versions. Hope all is well with you.


  5. Jane S says:

    Thanks SO much for this, Shari! I love getting your book recommendations!


  6. Barry Van Dusen says:

    Shari – MANY THANKS for featuring my book on your recent blog post! I was wondering why I opened my e-mails this morning to find multiple inquiries from Canada (and beyond), and then found your post! I hope I will be able to fulfill all these orders. Mass Audubon has sold out of their inventory, and my supply is dwindling fast, but the good news is that Mass Audubon is seriously considering a reprint, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

    I continue to find enjoyment and inspiration in your blog posts, and learn more from them all the time! Many Thanks for that!

    Best Regards, -Barry


    • Hi Barry, That’s funny. Sorry if I created a bit of chaos for you but I felt I really had to share your book but it is so, so good. I knew there were people out there who might enjoy it as much as I did. And great news about the reprint! Hopefully it will get into more hands!
      Best regards,


  7. mcammeehan says:

    Good timing, I can put those books on my wish list for my Santa to consider. 😉


  8. […] to start putting books on your holiday book list? Here are some recommendations from Shari Blaukopf. (Thank you Shari for including my book. I put a couple of books from this list on my […]


  9. Nice that you had time to explore new art books, the one upside to this awful pandemic.


  10. Bob Cosgrove says:

    Thanks for your post. I am always interested in what books artists draw inspiration from. A few years back I attended a workshop Barry Van Dusen ran for the Mass. Audubon Society and enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t have been aware of his book had you not mentioned it on your blog. I ordered it through him and he shipped out a copy immediately. I anticipated that I would enjoy it, but it really exceeded all my expectations. It’s a lovely book, and I particularly appreciate your drawing my attention to it.


  11. Marilyn Hansen says:

    Thank you so much for your “new books on my shelf” list. I love your workshops (which I plan to take more) and this list has given me some new books that I need. I especially like the Marion Riviolier of form and color and since I am a french speaker I am happy to purchase it.
    Many thanks for all of your inspiring work!


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