Off the Grid
By Barbara Weeks
As Urban Sketchers we often get together to sketch for an hour or two or more. There are also those times we use our sketchbooks as a journal of our everyday lives and travels. We add titles, text, and occasionally ephemera to some of our pages. It’s a natural to want the composition of those pages to enhance our sketches rather than distract from them. One way I design a page is by using the grid method.
A grid is a plan made up of a series of intersecting straight (vertical, horizontal, and angular) lines, similar to graph paper. It provides the skeleton of a page. it supports the elements on the page and makes them work I relation to each other.
Years of working in print production designing layouts for magazines, promo pieces, etc. has given me a lot of practice designing to the grid. It's second nature to me and a sketchy version of aligning on a grid is my go-to method for designing pages in my sketchbook. In graphic design the grid comes first. In my sketchbooks it can show up at anytime. It can be the before or after guide for a loose alignment of page elements. I want to emphasize it’s a loose alignment. The casual use of the grid is in keeping with the spirit and look of sketching.
Where, How, When?
Applying a grid before the sketch
These sketches were quick observations at the ice rink in Millennium Park in Chicago. The frames were hand drawn to unify the spread after the sketches were done . The frames are lined up on either the vertical, the top, or centered on another frame. The skater on the left escapes the frame for a little surprise and aligns with the frame around the coffee drinker on the right.
When the muse strikes
If you use a ruler on the examples above you’ll find the alignments aren't labored over but are "guesstimates." When I’m sketching it’s about the fun and joy of sketching and I go with the flow. I don’t always stick to the pre-drawn plan as you can see in the sketch below. Take note where the text is placed. Can you tell why I placed it where I did?
When disaster strikes
This is a series of doodles done at Starbucks in our local Target. One disappointing scribble after another provides the perfect challenge for the my grid theory.
Creating a loose alignment on the (or near) grid lines can strengthen your sketches and the composition of the page. Look at the line up of the added frames and the added text. They add organization to the page. If you want to give the post-sketching grid a try without committing use a piece to tracing paper to work out your plan.
One More Tip
I almost forgot the most important thing – no matter what the T&T, have fun and be brave!
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