REVIEW: Sharpie Art Workshop

Front cover of the book Sharpie Art Workshop

Books based around a branded product always give me the jitters, I don't like the idea of reading one giant advert and I certainly don't like the idea of purchasing a giant advert from a book shop. Therefore I approached Sharpie Art Workshop with some skepticism and if I'm honest the first few pages mentioned the word 'Sharpie' a few more times than I was comfortable with (although I am that person who always tries to weed out any hint of repetition because I think it sticks out like a sore thumb). Thankfully the author Timothy Goodman is a graphic designer/illustrator/art director and it is his enthusiasm for a tool that comes through rather than something that sounds like a sales pitch. 

The book is divided into three chapters, but with a really dynamic design and plenty of sub-headings, it is easy to miss where one ends and another begins, however there is some repeated and recognisable page layouts used throughout that create an interesting, fast paced flow.

Internal image from Sharpie Art Workshop showing work by Arthur Jones

Work by Arthur Jones

The first chapter ‘Materials, Tools, and Techniques’ begins by showing you a range of Sharpie Markers, there is an image of the actual marker, an example of a line and a scribble that the marker produces, as well as its name and a brief note on what it can be used for. This would be really useful, but a quick look at the U.K. based Sharpie website confirms that those in the book seem to be for the U.S. market, the U.K. range by comparison seems a bit more limited, focusing more on office based products rather than creative endeavours (highlighter anyone?). With that said, a quick look at Amazon shows that the U.S. products can be found via a few suppliers in this country.

We are also given a brief history and some facts about Sharpie, I'm not sure how much it adds to the rest of the book, but it is only short and is illustrated in a fun way. 

Goodman then takes us through some simple exercises, he says: 

"We will explore many different exercises that can inspire you to think differently about what a Sharpie can do for you. Some (exercises) are very accessible, some are a bit more ambitious, and some are just eye candy."

Inner image from Sharpie Art Workshop showing work by Carolyn Sewell
Work by Carolyn Sewell

He goes on to explain how creative people need to loosen up when they first begin to draw by doing mark-making exercises, and the book is full of similar little nuggets of creative gold advice. The book also introduces you to various artists which use Sharpie's professionally in their work; you are shown a photo of the individual, some images of their work, and given a brief summary about them. I found all the images of the work really interesting, as it demonstrated a demand commercially for this type of artwork, but I wished the summaries had a bit more depth, as they tended to read like a CV when they could have been more inspiring. 

For anyone already accustomed to doodling and being creative this book may be too simple. It has plenty of important suggestions such as play, experiment with scribbles and refine using tracing paper, but I think they are suited to a beginner with less experience in mark-making or a young teenager. 

There are subheadings throughout called 'create your own' where for each subject there is a series of questions and answers eg. What is a doodle? What Sharpie should I use? Where are you doing this? What are you going to doodle about? I found that some of the questions became a little repetitive, especially if the answers were 'any' and 'whatever you like' but occasionally something constructive was pointed out such as not to use Sharpie Paint Markers in a notebook because they will bleed into the paper.

Internal spread from Sharpie Art Workshop showing montage of mini canvases
Work by Timothy Goodman

The main suggestions in the book are sound, mark-making, patterns, playing with type and words and, my personal favourite, transforming objects by drawing on them. I just didn't feel like I was then inspired to stretch myself much further, I was left intrigued and curious but not wowed, and I like to have something to aspire to. I felt most motivated by the second half of the book, seeing a project Goodman had collaborated on with Jessica Walsh where they wrote words and quotes on objects was exciting and I also liked the idea of creating a giant montage of miniature doodled canvases, I thought the spread showing this was particularly effective.

Internal image from Sharpie Art Workshop showing a project by Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh
Work by Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh

As for the beautifully lettered padded envelopes by Erik Marinovich, I can only dream of receiving something so wonderful in the post.

Internal image from Sharpie Art Workshop showing work of Erik Marinovich
Work by Erik Marinovich

I think I've critiqued the Sharpie Art Workshop fairly heavily. It isn't a bad book at all, it's fun, accessible, and full of energy, there is plenty of inspiring work to see and lots of great starting points if you are thinking of beginning to illustrate with markers, but I felt it could have stretched some of those ideas further, I was left wanting more. However I've been drawing, painting, cutting, sticking, carving and shaping for a long time now, and I wouldn't ask which Sharpie to use, I'd instinctively use them all until I found one I liked. So this leaves me to believe that I'm not the right audience for this book. It would instead be better suited to someone new to doodling or a younger person, (I think my 13 year old niece would get more from it than I).

It may not be the perfect book for me personally, but I still find myself feeling mildly enthused and I'm tempted to go out and buy a brand new pack of markers!

Sharpie Art Workshop by Timothy Goodman
Published by Rockport
RRP: £14.99 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 1631590480
ISBN-13: 978-1631590481


Images courtesy of Rockport