Moira Huntly’s Sketchbook Secrets

By | 30 August 10

Moira Huntly's Sketchbook SecretsMoira Huntly’s Sketchbook Secrets, by Moira Huntly, will inspire you to carry sketching supplies all the time.

It’s an especially good book to read when you’re planning a trip, and want to keep an illustrated travel journal while you’re on the road.

Or, if you’re participating in an all-day sketching marathon (like a “sketchcrawl”), you may refer to this book often, as you prepare for the day.

I’ve looked at a lot of books about keeping a sketchbook. Some are great.  Most show illustrations that make me say:

  • Umm, I’m not that good at sketching… not even close. (And, as a lifelong artist, that’s saying a lot.)
  • I don’t have hours to include those kinds of details.  Hello, I’ll be traveling! (Or waiting in the car for one of my kids.  Or going past the site in a bus and a cloud of dust.)
  • Okay, so I go home with a cool travel journal. Then it collects dust on my bookshelf.  Why bother?

Ms. Huntly deals with all of those issues.

Are you an intermediate artist, or a novice with some sketching experience? Ms. Huntly’s sketches range from really simple to oh-my-goodness.

Her simple ones are most like what I’ll include in my journals.  Even better, she shows how little detailing (or color) you can include for effects that will make you pause and say, “Wow… did I really draw that…?”

Though this book offers few how-to instructions, Ms. Huntly does simplify the whole “horizon line” issue of perspective: Whatever’s at eye level is your horizon.  Stuff above that slopes down to the horizon level; objects below that line will slope up.

So, the issue of details becomes a non-issue.  Whether you’re scribbling some lines and shapes in pencil as you fly past a cool site in a tour bus, or sitting at some wonderful cafe with hours on your hands, you can sketch what you see.

In addition, the author includes notes with many of her sketches. She describes the problems she encountered, the decisions she had to make, and what she found frustrating… and how she dealt with them.  In some cases, she shows sketches that didn’t really work, and she explains why.

She talks about things like the little boats in the foreground give a sense of scale to the towering skyscrapers in the background.  I hadn’t thought about that. (And frankly, I tend to be terrible at sketching boats, so I’d have left them out… except that I now see the point of including some.)

Finally, if you’ve wondered what to do with all those great sketches when you get home, Ms. Huntly shows many examples of paintings and colored drawings she created from her own sketches.

They’re juicy, evocative, and rich with emotions and splendor.  In many cases, she’s taken a mundane, everyday scene and turned it into something awe-inspiring.

So, if you’re a fine artist and you’d like an art journal that’s filled with great ideas for gallery work, I think this book will inspire you, to0.


  • Lots of pictures in a variety of techniques and materials, simple to advanced.
  • People, buildings and landscapes from several countries.  You’ll glean lots of ideas for great subjects, even in your hometown.
  • Awe-inspiring completed works, from detailed sketches to full-scale paintings.


  • After a list of materials and some basic tips, this is not a how-to book. If you want step-by-step drawing instructions, this isn’t the book for you.
  • No photos to compare what she was looking at to what she actually drew.  So, you’ll have to guess at how much she added, left out, and rearranged. (She explains some of that in the text with her sketches.)
  • A lot of the art is very professional.  If you “can’t draw a straight line,” this book may collect dust on your shelf until you’ve built your confidence… and your skills.


If you’re already someone who sketches, this is an ideal (and inspiring) book to own.  Before a trip, follow Ms. Huntly’s suggestions and inspiration to sketch around your hometown.  You’ll soon identify the techniques, materials, and subjects that you enjoy most.  You’re ready to create wonderful travel journals, and finished art inspired by them!

art books reviews rating - 3 stars

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