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Breathing Room on the Page (or Page Spread)

April 25, 2022
Contour line drawing in a hand-made journal containing the OLD Gutenberg paper from Hahnemühle. The journal is approximately 7.5 inches square.

One of the most important compositional tools you have in a visual journal or sketchbook is the breathing space on the page (or page spread). 

The negative space around an image helps define the image through silhouette, and shape recognition.

The space will help you correct angles and proportions when you go off—or— if you don’t want to go back into your ink strokes—will tell you where you went wonky.

I have to say that I often go wide when working through the gutter as you can see in this sketch of actor Alun Armstrong I did a couple years ago in a Hahnemühle Nostalgie book

Check out this sketch of, well, hair. Yes I’ve exaggerated it every so slightly as I cross that page spread gutter, but I think we can agree that it works because of the spaces around the head and hair—the negative spaces which define the positive shapes. It’s also the breathing space. The area in which the eye can move. The areas through which you can lead the viewer into and out of your sketch. The areas where the viewer’s eye can rest, and then enter again.

And of course, when you leave that breathing room on a page spread in a journal you can always turn around and use some of that space for text. Note: The image in this last link will not expand as it is a pre-2017 post from before the platform move.

To wrap up here’s another contour sketch that moves across the gutter. I believe breathing room around this figure gives energy to the shoulder angle and movement to the head. It imparts a sense of space around the portrait.

This week play with this important compositional tool.

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