Page layout for sketchersPosted: July 28, 2018
After five wonderful weeks in France and Portugal, it’s great to be back in Montreal, seated at my computer, typing on a full keyboard with my trusty scanner at my side. I have piles of scanning to do but thought it would be interesting to go back a few weeks to write about a subject that came up in one of my workshops in Provence at the beginning of July.
After many days of sketching in quiet villages and crowded markets, near the end of the week I gave my workshop participants a goal: to complete three small sketches (within a two hour timeframe) that would visually convey our location — the monastery in St. Remy where Van Gogh spent a year of his life. I sketched along with them, as well as circulated in the gardens to see how they were doing. The group did some amazing work in that short time. Fresh, lively sketches of the sunflower garden, the lavender field, the cloister and the monastery exterior. There’s no shortage of subjects in Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, and sometimes having a time limit generates the freshest results.
The following day, someone asked me for some insight into how I had subdivided my own sketchbook page into rectangles. The question caught me off guard. As a graphic designer and graphic design teacher, dividing a page into columns is something I do without really thinking. Grid systems for text and image placement on a page are hard-wired in my brain. But when I looked at my sketchbook page, I realized that without even thinking about it, I had created a three-column/row grid on both pages, just like I teach my students to do in my Publication Design class.
Here is the same spread with a grid overlay on top.
So how did I create this? I started with the sketch of the sunflowers, first drawing a frame in pencil and then sketching the sunflowers (left) in ink and wash. From there I sketched the monastery exterior (top right). Next I looked for a subject that would fill a vertical space, and found that in the cloister arches (second from left) and finally finished the spread with a horizontal sketch of the lavender field. I could have also filled that space with two or three smaller sketches to balance the larger one at the top.
If you are thinking of trying this on a page in your sketchbook, a good way to start might be to draw the frames in advance in pencil, and then decide what to fill them with. My sketchbook is square so the three-column grid works well, but your sketchbook may have another format, so feel free to experiment with different sized frames.
And if you are interested in seeing sketchbooks by other artists who create interesting page designs (and often incorporate writing too), have a look at Brenda Swenson’s journals, Liz Steel’s sketchbooks, and Jean Mackay’s nature journals.