Workshop 15: From Macro to Micro – A Visual Story of a Building

Instructor: Nina Johansson

Every city has it´s landmarks and interesting places, some of which we love, some we don´t. In any case, these places usually have an interesting story to tell.

In this workshop, we will build a visual story evolving around one building, working with line and colour on a sketchbook spread or sheet of paper. John Rylands library has a lot of visual complexity to offer, both in terms of the architecture itself, the city context around it and how people are interacting with it. We will build an interesting composition of sketches where we move from macro, telling the story of the context around the building, and the building itself, to micro, where we collect some of the smallest details and stories going on in, on and around the building.

Workshop Schedule:

After a brief intro, we will look at examples of how to capture a story evolving around an interesting building, then we will get to work:

Macro – the context

After a short demo on a) composition and how to think ahead, and b) a few different ways to put emphasis on the most important part of our subject, we will begin our visual story by creating a sketch where the library is shown in it´s context – the street it is in and the daily life going on around it.

Macro – the building

Moving closer, we will give space to the main attraction of our story – the library itself. We will work it into the composition of our spread, and you can chose to work from a moderate distance to get a fairly normal perspective of the building, or try a bolder wide-angle take on it.

Micro – the details

The John Rylands library is full of details, both in the architecture itself and it´s design elements, and in the way people interact with it. Here, we will move in close, and choose from the rich visual environment, to fill in the gaps of the story in our sketches.

We will end the workshop with a group gathering, to share our sketches and talk about how we solved various compositional problems, dealt with line and colour, and what we chose to include – and exclude – in our stories of this place.

Learning goals: 

  • Participants will work with several quick sketches in pencil or pen and colour to build a sketchbook spread (or loose sheet of paper) that tells a full story about an interesting place.
  • Special emphasis will be put into these areas:
  • Building a beautiful composition in our sketches
  • Master the size of the main subjects on the paper, making sure to fit everything on the page
  • Quick ways to put down values in the sketches, to show light, shade and depth
  • How to use colour to put focus on the most important parts of our sketches


We will be working on one single spread in a sketchbook (across the gutter), or, if you prefer, one sheet of paper. I usually work on landscape format, and will base my examples on that, but you can work on the format you prefer.

Also, bring your favorite pen and/or pencil, a box of watercolours or other colour tools that you prefer (crayons or coloured pencils, for example).


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