Meet the instructor: Marc Taro Holmes (Montreal)

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Canadian artist Marc Taro Holmes has more than a decade of experience as a concept artist in the entertainment industry, where he’s worked mainly in video games and film, designing characters, creatures and environments for projects like Halo Wars and Lord of the Rings Online.

Marc, 43, was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and now resides in Montreal, Quebec, where he is making a transition to working for himself, rather than for entertainment companies. “It's all a work in progress,” he says. “If it works out, I will be an urban sketcher full time!”

Marc will teach the workshop Cityscapes along with Lisbon architect and urban sketcher Filipe Leal de Faria. Here’s our Q&A with Marc:

When did you start drawing on location?

In the past, (say, 10 years ago) I used to draw constantly when on holiday. We would choose places to go, based on what was good drawing subjects. Three or four years ago I started doing Worldwide Sketchcrawls with Enrico Casarosa in San Francisco (A well known drawing event right?) He made me realize that I could be doing this whenever I wanted! It didn't need to be a 'special' trip somewhere.

Tell us of a memorable sketching experience you’ve had during your trips.

One time I was drawing a rustic village in western China and we ran into a gang of ancient old guys hanging out at a barbershop. They wanted to see my sketchbook - and then one fellow pulled out his own! Turns out he was the town art teacher - he was of course, much better than me at the time. We didn't share a language, but we spent an afternoon at his studio looking through his sketchbooks and paintings. He sold us a painting, but he wouldn't part with a sketchbook.

What’s your advice for beginner sketchers?

Just scribble a lot on cheap paper. Don't worry about finishing the drawings, or how good they are, or what they look like. Just work as fast as possible, treat it like play and like a way of being a tourist in your own home. You'll see all kinds of fun things you didn't realize were part of your town. If you could somehow do this for six months without ever seriously looking at the drawings (and without stopping!) you'll suddenly discover you can draw quite well.

What’s your drawing schedule like?

Well, I draw every day for at least four hours, often more. But that's commercial work - so I don't get to choose the subject matter. So, I draw for myself whenever I can. That's why I do a lot of urban sketching at night I guess!

What are your plans for the Cityscapes workshop?

I'm going to rely on demonstration. I'm not a great theoretician about art. I think it's a physical skill like a sport, and thus is best learned by doing. So I'm going to work quite a bit larger than my usual size, so people can be sitting with me doing their own thing, and just look over my shoulder and see what I'm doing at the same time. I'll try to describe what I'm doing each step, (perhaps you'll help out by asking questions!). I hope by drawing the same subject side by side, we can compare what we're doing and learn from each other. I usually do watercolor, so I'll certainly show my three-and-a-half-step process (drawing, light wash, rich wash, and opaque touchup.) I'll try to make time to do the same view as a drawing, and as a painting, so people can see both ways I go at subjects. If you want, I can give some critiques of your work - but that's entirely up to you.

What things do you like to draw?

I'm a huge fan of historical subjects - so Lisbon is going to be a great trip!. I love old buildings with sculptural elements. It combines my figure drawing with the environment - so it's the best of both worlds. When drawing people, I usually don't simply sketch citizens - I tend to look for performers, athletes, or something out of the ordinary. I'm a big fan of dancers, martial artists, renaissance fairs, that sort of thing.

What are your primary sketching tools?

Ballpoint pen, Brushpen and 100 lb coated paper in loose sheets for drawing. Pencil, watercolor and watercolor blocks for painting.

What other things do you like to do besides sketching?

I try not to do anything other than art. I think we only have time to be good at one thing in life. Sure, I enjoy reading and playing video games for relaxation. But I mainly just do different kinds of art!. For instance, I'm learning 'academic' oil painting, which is very much opposite to sketching. We work on paintings measured in days instead of minutes.

Follow Marc’s work at and Urban Sketchers.



Doing the final packing now - looking forward to meeting everyone :)
yes, velhadaleia! We are going to Sintra for sure! We have a few days after the workshop, so I think we can really get a good look around there.

Hi Marc!
I looked at your blog again and I guess you would enjoy to sketch Sintra. It is 40 minutes from Lisbon by train and has a lot of romantic and eclectic architecture surrounded by nature. you can see a few pictures here:

looking forward to meet you and seeing you sketch

Interesting read. I like your answer to the question about what you like to do besides art: "I try not to do anything other than art." Of course, as simple as that! :) I look forward to meeting you in Lisbon, happy sketching until then!