Thursday, May 13, 2010

Anatomy of a Page: Step Two - Blocking in and Getting Blocked in

4) Blocking in color and forming the foundation of the final composition

5) Working the surfaces and re-energizing the spread

6) Pulling shapes and images back out

The intimidating spell of the blank page has been broken. Images and words surface. The page spread is beginning to come alive. Now it's time to begin blocking in the whole composition.

This stage is always one of the trickier ones. As the piece evolves, there are times when the composition seems to work and it becomes harder to tell whether the piece is done. It's tempting to stop, declare victory, and move on to the next spread. But there are still a couple of pitfalls still to watch out for:

The composition structure squeezes the life out of the piece.
You may have a well-composed page spread, but there's no sense of life or fun left in the piece. The surface lacks richness and looks flat. The best cure is to make sure that accidents still happen, ensuring spontaneity. At this point it should still feel OK to cover over or introduce images and words with impunity.

The fear that continuing to work will screw up the piece.
Worse yet is the tendency to become too attached to what's there and fear that future steps will screw it up. While it is possible to overwork a piece, my tendency is to give up before the surface has become rich enough. The point is that it's dangerous to allow the piece to become too precious.

Knowing when to let the thinker back in.
Eventually, it is OK to begin planning and thinking through a piece. For me that point comes at the end of the stage I describe in this post, when the imagery and the composition are settled but the piece still retains a sense of life.

Ultimately, intuition and experience are the best guides to when this stage is complete. Once the foundation is there (i.e. the composition and final imagery), all that remains are the details.

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