Teaching composition in Amsterdam

January 7, 2019 | Leave your thoughts

I feel very honoured to be teaching again at this year’s Urban Sketchers International Symposium in Amsterdam July 24-27. This will be my 10th symposium (I’m only one of 2 people who have been to all of them) and my 7th time teaching. But it’s the first time I will be teaching something other than ‘sketching architecture’. So it’s particularly exciting for me to be teaching composition!

When we are out urban sketching it’s easy to spend all our time thinking about how to capture everything in front of us accurately. Can we draw all the details and match all the colours perfectly? But creating a pleasing sketch is much more than simply copying what we see. We first need to interpret the scene and then we need to arrange the elements in order to tell our own story clearly.

When the term ‘composition’ is mentioned, many people think it just refers to the classic ‘rule of thirds’ but it’s much more than that. It involves the entire process of designing the parts within our sketch in order to tell our story with interest and balance. And when we work in a sketchbook we have even more compositional decisions to make as the sketch might not be the only image on a page. The other elements (detail sketches, text, maps, headings etc) have a huge impact on the balance of the page and add significantly to the story about our location.

In this workshop we will explore how to create dynamic sketches and sketchbook pages – ones that tell compelling stories about place.

Once we can develop some techniques for designing our sketchbook spreads, the pressure of producing a masterpiece for our first sketch on a page goes away. Its possible to create a beautiful overall page at any stage of the process!

A sketch with a less than successful composition on it’s own can become an important part of a balanced spread – the other elements can actually fix the composition of the original sketch. Not to mention that designing our pages is a lot of fun and really helps train our compositional skills!

I will be sharing a few essential concepts which are the secret to my sketchbook layouts:

  • horizontal vs vertical,
  • unity vs separation,
  • positive vs negative space,
  • open vs contained,
  • consistency vs variety.

I can’t wait to teach this material for the first time, and to sketch in Amsterdam.

Registration starts on February 2nd, 2019 at 15:00hrs CET and I’m sure it will sell out extremely quickly. Make sure you have signed up to the USK mailing list so that you don’t miss out on the updates.


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