Fast Takes

It can be hard to find the time for art when life gets busy. A whole painting or even an entire journal page can seem impossible to undertake. So I made a grid on these pages in the hope that I would be able to fill smaller spaces over the course of several days. As it turned out, I drew the entire two-page spread during an hour-long hike, pausing every so often to do a quick sketch when something caught my eye. Done directly in pen, each sketch took no more than a few minutes. I added color and text back at home.


Click to view larger

Some artistic tips:

  • Making a grid is a worthwhile exercise, though it did leave me feeling a little boxed in. Make the rules, but feel free to break them, as I did, by going beyond the boxes as you see fit.
  • Use the grid to your advantage. I found it especially useful in forcing me to put pen to paper without fussing, but I have seen other artists fill grid squares carefully, to excellent effect.
  • Consider having a unified theme that ties the elements together. Your theme may be a particular place, experience, or even experiments with a single sketching medium.
  • The risk of a grid is that if one of the elements doesn’t turn out to your liking, the entire page may suffer. That’s fine if you are experimenting and not a perfectionist in your art journal. I like some of the sketches on this page more than others, and I can live with that because my aim was to simply record quick impressions of a particular moment in time.

Page done in Stillman and Birn Zeta journal, with Micron black pen and watercolor at Indian Ladder Farms, New Scotland, NY

17 Comments on “Fast Takes

  1. I think this is a great idea – I’m going to try it – what size paper did you use?

    • Deborah- This sketchbook is 5.5×8.5″, so the full spread is 8.5×11″…but a grid should work on whatever paper size you have. You can decide to vary the box size or have everything the same.

  2. Excellent idea. Thanks for sharing. Great drawings, too! I like how by going outside of some of the boxes it adds to the composition of the whole page.

    • Thanks– I like the way going out of the box helped to tie things together, while the grid gave the page a framework to jump into.

  3. Oh my! Your art is so fresh and I love your subjects and I’m right there with you on the hike! As one who is often overwhelmed without enough time, I find your words encouraging, reminding me once again to get out and do what I love!! And of course, your subject matter is right up my alley! Thank you for sharing. I KNOW it takes time to commit to blogging!

    • Thank you! I’m glad this post struck a chord. (And as encouragement for both of us: Get up! Get out! Explore! Put pen to paper…even if it’s just for a few minutes.)

  4. Hi Jean, Yet another engaging post from you. The page is full of interest and colour. I agree with yours and the other comments. Lately I’ve been feeling pressured about making art. I love to do it but if I get too absorbed I fall behind with everyday tasks which then makes it harder to be relaxed about getting out my sketchbook. I’m going to adopt the grid too. On a recent trip I did multiple smaller drawings across some spreads and ended up being pleased with the result of those pages. Small, simple drawings meant I had time to sight see as well as create a visual record. A win win.

  5. PS. You have inspired me. A few of my travel journal pages are on my newbie blog. If you click on AnneC you’ll see that I am trying to emulate you regarding the addition of more fanciful lettering.

    • Thanks for making the connection and welcome to the world of blogging. It may add another element of pressure to your sketching, so you’ll have to see how that goes. Your art is for you, first and foremost, so it’s always important to find a balance. It’s maintaining that balance that is the trick! Good luck and keep in touch!

  6. Such a pleasing way to break away from the monotony of single/double page spreads! Nice. I particularly like the tiny landscape just to the left of the lettering. And who knew you were so talented at drawing animals with horns?!?

    • Who knew, indeed! Not even me…until I took the risk. I’m glad you like that small trail scene. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Your work I caught my eye and I was pleased to find a practical and helpful idea in the text. I am just beginning as an artist, but my goal is to enjoy nature more by close observation, and this grid I approach is not so intimidating. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and love your art work.

  8. Pingback: Seeking Spring | Drawn In

  9. Indian Ladder Farms was always a great family apple-picking favorite when we lived in the suburbs of Albany! I was struck by how much I liked this grid format, but even more struck by your insightful remark about how it made you feel sort of ‘boxed in’.

    • How fun that you know ILF! It’s still going strong and people are still lining up for their donuts in the fall. As layouts go, the grid approach always holds up, whereas the “hour by hour” layout is much looser and less predictable. I like them both, but almost always break a box or two when using the grid.

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