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Designing a Sketchbook Page

sketchbook Nov 19, 2019

Absolutely no rules exist when it comes to designing a page in your sketchbook. Sketchbooks provide the opportunity to discover your own personal preferences when it comes to design.  

For me, the design of a page evolves as I add new elements.  I maintain a flexibility when it comes to sketchbooks.  There are times when I have a plan in mind, but that plan may not work if my subject walks away or if my train arrives. Most often, as I'm sketching, I'll become aware of something I hadn't noticed when I began.  I allow myself the freedom to change my plan and include the new observation on the page.

Design occurs at many levels during the sketching process.  In this example, the design began with shapes of objects.  

As I sat sipping tea the morning of Jill's birthday, I glanced across the table at the collection of birthday cards on the sideboard. I drew the "70" which appears on most of them.  From there I added shapes from different cards; stars, spotted circles, flags and flowers.  I added them somewhat arbitrarily, building a larger mass around the "70".  Jill's reading glasses lay on the table just beyond my cup of tea.  I added those, connecting them to the mass of smaller shapes, yet allowing for open space as my eye moved away from the flowers, gift and numerals. The glasses cross the centerfold and lead the eye to the right side of the double-spread page.

It was decided that Jill would open the gift from her daughters.  A beautiful, handmade necklace emerged from the colorful tissue and wrapping paper... a perfect addition to the sketch.

Not seeing anything else that I wanted to add to the story of the sketch, I looked carefully at the page and decided to resolve my design with text in a cell.  To further resolve the still glitchy design, I added the cell behind the text cell with a few circles within the cell.  Adding the date was the last step of the preliminary design layer. I then moved on to enhancing the basic design with value choices.

I added a darker value to the text cell by drawing parallel, diagonal lines close to one another.  I drew the lettering in pencil first so that I would know where to begin and end each line.

I then moved on to adding a watercolor wash of blues to feel my way into the color design element ... and then a few cool greens as a possible bridge to warmer accents.

The page design was completed with a few pops of a slightly neutralized orange.

This is only ONE way that I develop a design on a sketchbook page.

The sketchbook pictured above is a concertina (accordion) sketchbook with replaceable pages. I made it as a prototype for one of the portable sketchbooks I'll be teaching artists to make during the upcoming Nurturing Body and Soul workshop at Castillo de Castellar in Spain (December 12-17, 2019).



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