The Ultimate Grid

A window seat over the American mid-west provides an astonishing view: a landscape of squares spreading in all directions. Striped in shades of tan and green with occasional non-conforming blue snaking its way between the squares, the American heartland is the ultimate grid. Midwest Grid

The pattern owes its existence to Thomas Jefferson and the Land Ordinance of 1785, which served as the basis of the Public Land Survey System used to divide property for sale and settling.

The Largest Landscape: The Grid of American Agriculture, from Architizer

The Largest Landscape: The Grid of American Agriculture, from Architizer

I had been working with grids in my sketching workshop in Anacortes, and had already marked out a journal page for future use. When the view from the airplane on my way home presented itself, it was a perfect fit. I quickly sketched the patterns and later used Google Earth for additional reference.

Grids are frequently used for design because they provide a flexible framework that breaks the space of a page into related parts. I devised a 12 square 2-page grid in my 5” x 8” Stillman & Birn journal, with about ¼ in of space between the squares. The beauty of it is that the squares can be combined in numerous ways—long or tall rectangles, a larger box, and smaller squares. No matter the combination, the grid holds the design together.
gird-thumbnailHog Island-2016_750Spring-2015-gridI find grids to be especially useful when I’m hiking or traveling and want to capture a number of experiences or scenes on a single page. You can fill a square quickly with a sketch and paint later if needed, so it works well when with non-sketching companions.

7 Comments on “The Ultimate Grid

    • It’s worth trying. Opens up some possibilities for ways to approach a page. You can also bust out of the lines if you like to add some fluidity to the design.

  1. I have read about those mid-west grids in Neal Stephenson’s novel “Reamde”, where they play a little role. After reading I looked in Google. I it so strange for an Europeian view!

  2. I just loved this post. I have used grids for a long time and love them too, but your airplane view is such a novel way to use them. I don’t fly, unfortunately, so I guess I will be using Google earth! Thanks you for this inspiration.

  3. I love the variation of color & topography you got. And what a great grid design, and a short history lesson to boot. I’ll have to try for a window seat instead of my usual aisle on my next flight.

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