THE VALUE OF THUMBNAILS
One way to develop a composition is to exhaust the design possibilities. This can be accomplished by creating thumbnails. arms, a road, fences, foliage and mountains. Thumbnails, as the name implies, are small, quick sketches, usually the size of a standard deck of playing cards. They allow the artist to explore compositions without spending time on large renditions, and they are a valuable first step in planning a design. For example, I wanted to create a scene that included barns, a road, fences, foliage and mountains. Using a pen, I filled several pages with doodles. My intent was to explore many designs so I could exhaust all possibilities and choose the best one.
Ultimately, I chose the composition above and refined the barns into a more interesting group. From this thumbnail. I created an ink drawing and in the process, consciously evaluated focal point, lead lines and positive and negative spaces.
I am a retired art instructor. During my 30 years as an educator, I have developed courses in drawing, painting, cartooning, photography, crafts and art history. I also taught drawing and painting in adult education programs. I was last employed as a college adjunct, teaching drawing classes.
My freelance work includes architectural renderings of historic sites, commercial illustrations, gallery sales, public murals and commissions. I was one of 10 Florida artists selected to update and re-interpret historic depictions of Native American tribes. A Maine educational firm published my first book, Easy Lessons in Graphic Arts, a Self Teaching Program.
Recently, I have been working in acrylics, colored pencil, and pen-and-ink. I am a member of local art organizations and the Colored Pencil Society of America.
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Too often in my career I have looked critically at a piece in progress and realized I should have taken more time with the composition. The same is true of illustrations I have pulled from the closet to view again. Looking at work with fresh eyes, even only after a day or two, can be humbling when rushed decisions reveal themselves.
Therefore, I now spend more time on thumbnails because they often give me choices I may never have envisioned. My initial thumbnails are usually repetitions of stale ideas, and when I push myself to create different compositions, new ideas arise. With a number of fresh compositions on paper, I can be objective and know that I am moving in a new, creative direction.
In addition, the thumbnail allows me to examine all the elements of composition without committing a design to canvas or paper. Thumbnails give me space to think, to rethink, to look with fresh eyes before investing labor and materials. Although they take time, thumbnails save time. And they help prevent those awkward moments when you revisit an art piece and see a compositional flaw.