The Beauty of A Two-Page Spread

May has been a month of sketch experimentation. One thing I try at times is to do a two-page spread in my sketchbook. This can be a challenge, and takes planning. I think a little more about how I want to fill up two pages instead of one. Is there enough to the composition? How will I lay out the pages… with text, sketches, other things? These are some questions I keep in mind.

I typically approach a two-page spread if I know I’ll have the time to sketch. A couple weeks ago my urban sketching group sketched at the Normandale Community College Japanese Garden ( If you are in the Twin Cities and want a beautiful, calm, and relaxing garden to attend, this one is for you! Nearly 40 of us showed up to sketch this beautiful place. Prom goers and other celebrations were having photos taken. I decided to focus on the Bentendo (structure), bridge, and another small island, Crane Island. I sketched with pen first, then added watercolors. The sun was out, it was warm, and just a lovely afternoon. We’ve had a cold spring, but I was pleased to see green leaves, flower buds, and koi swimming in the pond.

I work with a Sailor fude pen, Platinum carbon ink, watercolors, and Gelly Roll white pens.

I began on the right-hand page of a large watercolor Moleskine, sketched the Bentendo and tree/shrubs, then worked my way to the left, adding the bridge and rocks. The rest was blank.

Next, I decided to add a small island with one tree, Crane Island. I positioned it on the far left side of the first page.

When I left the garden, I had the Bentendo, bridge, and Crane Island sketched and painted. But I had a huge white space between the bridge and island. I decided to cut out a piece of the garden brochure and taped it in and then added text. I like the overall effect of the two pages and lots of white space:

My second two-page spread was at a friend’s garage sale. I used an A5 small landscape Hahnemuhle book and sketched some items in her sale, as well as some crane ornaments in her rock garden.

With a little text to tell some thoughts about the morning, I had my 2-page spread.

I like doing a two-page spread, it’s a beautiful way to share experiences through sketches and have more space to work. One thing I try is to watch carefully how I sketch across the “gutter” (the middle of the two pages where the binding is). The bridge in the Japanese garden sketch goes across the gutter and seems to unify the two pages together. I purposely sketched the duffel bag in the garage sale sketch a little over the gutter and extended the border farther beyond it. I think it helps the sketch visually. Don’t put a focal point directly over the gutter.

Doing a two-page spread isn’t for everyone, but it is fun to try when you have the energy and time to put into it. I invite you to give it a shot sometime, you might be surprised how much you enjoy it!

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