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Monday, January 17, 2011

110117 Composition Liz Style

A few people have asked me for some tips on composition.... I think that rather than give a few 'rules' I would try to explain my thought processes for a few pages.Every page is different and everyone will have their own unique way to compose it.

So here are two pages from Saturday in the state they were when I got home. Often I have to complete my pages at home (add text, tie the elements together)

Imcomplete Page 1
Page 1 - Morning Tea
Normally, I do take a little thought before I start sketching - is it to be a single object or a full page spread to describe the moment. If a single object (or group of objects such as a cup, teapot and plate of scones...funny that I chose that subject as an example?) I try to think very quickly of what else I might want to do on the page in order to have a stab at its size and location. Sometimes I have no idea what other things I might what add to the page but I do have a feeling of where to put it based previously layouts in my book and what I think would add variety. Other times I don't think at all but just draw...and occassionally I purposely challenge myself by drawing a cup of tea right bang in the middle of a page just to see what I can make of the full spread.
On Saturday morning (page 1) I was half thinking of drawing my scones and then I felt too embarrassed to let the world know that I ordered them so I just drew the tea and pot. Was actively involved in the conversation so I didn't really get a chance to sketch a view of the cafe, or a detail a flower arrangement etc. But just when we were finishing up I suddenly had a thought (out of nowhere) to draw the plan. This was as far as I got.
Imcomplete Page2
Page 2 - Lunch
I had a few minutes sitting at the table alone so I started drawing the fountain... then after the I had eaten my food I decided to draw a facade of the buildings of the courtyard. Still talking and not really concentrating on what I was drawing... once again this was a far as I got.
110115 03 Afternoon Tea
Page 3- Afternoon Tea (T2 tearoom if you are wondering)
Trying a very difficult view of the tearoom. I was rushed as it was closing time- so didn't draw this as carefully as I would have liked to and rushed the colour. I am not going to do anything more to this page.
110115 Composition Liz Style

Now what am I going to do with these?? (BTW these as the first three spreads in my new book #35) It is important for me to see the three pages as a sequence. I like the fact that I have a full page spread (afternoon tea) and a more sparse first page.
This spread is a record of the type of thinking that I do...

First- I decide what else I want to put on the page- heading, business card, map, text. An aside ... I like to contain my text in columns or a block of text.

Second - Should I consider adding another element - texture, colour relating to the page?

Third - I mentally look at some options for putting these on the page - sometimes I struggle to picture it mentally so I scribble with my pencil the options. As I am an architect and deal with composition, shapes, spaces etc in my daily job I am very used to testing alternatives. I also think about the pages before (or after) and make sure I mix up horizontal and vertical elements. Sometimes I don't really look at options...but a layout seems to jump out at me.

Fourth - I just make a quick decision(ie. don't worry too much and start on the page. Often I change my direction as I am adding text etc. That is part of the fun for me.

110115 01 Morning Tea

So I decided to keep page 1 simple and I didn't end up putting the map on either page.
BTW- this sketch is quite wrong in the fact that I drew the pot full of tea and then drew the cup full of tea. One of them should have been empty. Also the tea had been plunged so I am thinking that the pot should have been empty!
110115 02 Lunch

Often I make the wrong decision... or more accurately am not sure that I made the right one. Not sure if I did the right thing with the courtyard cafe page...but hey it is just a page in my sketchbook...who cares!?
Hopes this all makes sense.


  1. I'd love to make wrong decisions in your mein. Sheesh. Your pages are always stunning, Liz.

  2. Thanks for the demo Liz - you are brave and adventerous in your layouts and the almost always work! I think your architect training shows :-) lucky (talented) you!

  3. Hey Liz
    I haven't been here for a while and well your sketches are changing. There is a great deal more in them, more lines, more colour.

    Lovely to see how things are evolving.

    You have a little mention over at my place.
    Cheers and hope you are well and happy.