Drawing: The Power of Thumbnail Sketches

Would you like to learn a new skill to add to your drawing toolbox? Or, did you want to learn drawing , but felt intimidated by the prospect of drawing and the many approaches you can take to it, such as contour drawing? Enter thumbnail sketches. Source: Brummer, Carrie. “10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching,” Artist Strong Blog, www.artiststrong.com. Accessed 09/11/2020.

A thumbnail sketch is a quickly drawn small sketch, hence the name, thumbnail sketch. It could be any subject you choose, such as animals, portraits, landscapes, city scenes, etc.  the only guidelines are to make it small, about 2 inches by 2 inches for height and width. Your thumbnail sketches can be composed of boxes, rectangles or any shape you choose. And you can use pencils or pens. If you wish, you can add color to your sketches with colored pencils or watercolor paints. Think of your thumbnail sketches as gesture sketches, which can be done in seconds, and which can be used as a dress rehearsal for more complex art projects, such as paintings. Source: Brummer, Carrie. “10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching,” Artist Strong Blog, www.artiststrong.com. Accessed 09/11/2020.

Want to know how to get started? To begin your thumbnail sketches, you can begin by gathering pencils, pens, rulers and watercolors or colored pencils, if you wish. Start by drawing a series of small squares, with pencils, papers and rulers. Then decide what you want to draw and gather your source materials, such s photos, a still life, or go out on location, such as to a park to draw people and landscapes from observation. Source: Brummer, Carrie. “10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching,” Artist Strong Blog, www.artiststrong.com. Accessed 09/11/2020.

 I began with six squares to test out different compositional concepts for my paintings, Let Your Soul be Your Pilot and Song of Service, using pencil, ruler, and pen to outline my drawings. If you can’t get outside, use your old vacation photos as a source, such as a beach vacation, etc. Be sure to try out different compositions for each box, such as: close ups, and eye level viewpoints, etc. Trying out the compositions now, will help you make the best choice for your projects and give you practice and confidence in your drawing skills. But don’t spend more than a few minutes on each sketch, keep it loose and free of detail. If you feel stuck, check out the list of prompts I am including below, from the blog post, 10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching, by Carrie Brummer, posted on her website, www.artiststrong.com.

  1. Draw a house plant, using close up views, details of leaves, etc.
  2. Choose your favorite photo and abstract it, by simplifying it into smaller sections.
  3. Compose a still life using objects from your home, such as plates, dishes, vases, or fruits and vegetables.
  4. Draw the scenery at a park, while sitting on a park bench.
  5. Drive to the beach, or look for old vacation photos if you can’t get outside this summer.
  6. Look for patterns in your home, such as: fabric patterns in your curtains, throw pillows, or futon covers.
  7. Get your family involved and participate in a scavenger hunt on a rainy day. Ask your family members to look for an element of art, such as: line, in your home and then share your sketches of these subjects as a group.
  8. Bring your sketchbook to your appointments and draw the offices you are waiting in.
  9. Design sketches that illustrate your favorite cookery recipe.  10.) Make a storyboard from your thumbnails to illustrate your favorite fairy tale.

 I began with six squares to test out different compositional concepts for my paintings, Let Your Soul be Your Pilot and Song of Service, using pencil, ruler, and pen to outline my drawings. If you can’t get outside, use your old vacation photos as a source, such as a beach vacation, etc. Be sure to try out different compositions for each box, such as: close ups, and eye level viewpoints, etc. Trying out the compositions now, will help you make the best choice for your projects and give you practice and confidence in your drawing skills. But don’t spend more than a few minutes on each sketch, keep it loose and free of detail. If you feel stuck, check out the list of prompts I am including below, from the blog post, 10 Creative Prompts for Thumbnail Sketching, by Carrie Brummer, posted on her website, www.artiststrong.com.

Pictured in this week’s blog is my progress for the Let Your Soul be Your Pilot painting. I began with a somewhat busy composition and decided to simplify it, even though I liked all the symbolic imagery of map and compass. It felt like the figure, which was the main narrative was getting lost in all the detail, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Making thumbnail sketches helped me to see my options. The painting still isn’t finished, but I have a better idea of where I want to go next with the painting. I also began making some color sketches to try out color schemes for the finishing painting. I am hoping to have the final oil painting based on this new thumbnail posted to my blog or Instagram account by next week. Thanks for reading!

A variety of thumbnail sketches were explored here to try different viewpoints for my drawing, Let your Soul be Your Pilot. I used pencil, pen, and ruler to sketch on mixed media paper in my sketchbook.
Basic sketch for the chosen thumbnail sketch. I used this sketch as a basis for my oil painting on masonite board.
Photo collage I made in Adobe Photoshop of the revised composition from thumbnail sketches, reduced into a black and white image to focus on values, from darkest black to shades of grey and light gray. Doing this gave me more freedom to choose different color combinations, as I started to do below in watercolor paints on mixed media paper.
Color Study one of the revised composition, with analogous colors of blue, blue-green and green as the main color scheme.
This is the original sketch which I had started with before I made thumbnail sketches. I thought it was too busy and so I looked at different thumbnail compositions to try out, pictured at the top of the gallery.

Author: artofschmidt

Jodie's focus is on oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolor and pastels.

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