Often I am so busy sketching that I completely lose track of page composition. I lose myself in observations and then look down at the page and think “hmm, what can I do with this?” By adding, titles, boxes of written notes, areas of tone or color, and expanding some sketches with habitat or as part of a landscape, you can pull a collection of sketches into an interesting composition.
As you sketch, if you have a little bandwidth left to consider composition, vary the size and spacing of your drawings. Some big, some little, some close together or overlapping, some farther apart, and some blocks of blank space. With that, you will have the raw materials to create your page composition after the bird has flown.
Remember that the purpose of taking field notes is not to make a pretty page. If page composition feels like just one more thing that you need to keep in mind, ignore it until you are ready for the challenge. It should feel fun and playful. When looked at this way, it adds to your experience of keeping a journal and gives you another source of positive reinforcement.
Click on the first image to start a step by step slideshow.
A Red-tailed Hawk flies into a nearby oak and begins to feed on a small mammal that it had caught. While the bird is in sight, you are able to make several sketches of the postures. By combining several sketches on the same page and adding a close up view, you have the raw materials for a post-hoc composition.
After the bird flies away, add habitat or landscape backgrounds around some of the birds. Consider the composition of each section in itself. Notice that the birds are not centered in the compositions and break the frame.
Add color from memory as quickly as possible after having observed the bird. To suggest the overcast day, add a box of gray behind the upper birds. Overlapping some of the other images unifies them and adds an interesting compositional element.
Think of blocks of text as shapes that modify the composition. Try writing your notes with a hard colored pencil (such as Prismacolor Verathin). Choose a color(s) that echo other elements in the drawing.
You can add boxes, areas of tone, frames, arrows, titles, and metadata. Notice how the boxes and frames can connect similar information and make the page easier to scan and read.