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.

Drawing and Value Sketches, The Saga Continues

Hello Readers, Friends, and Family,

I am including my revised artist statement for this series, which I have called Voices and Visions, but I am now calling Constructed Realities. I am finally getting into he value sketches and drawings, and its starting to slowly come together. But I still have a long way to go toward the final product. I’m not sure if they will be traditional oil paintings or mixed media pieces. Right now, I am looking for readers to let me know how my artist statement sounds, and if the artwork I am posting here, “matches” with it. If you could, post a comment on my website,  http://www.artofschmidt.com or Art of Schmidt Facebook page and let me know how this statement and artwork make you feel. I want to be sure that I am not too esoteric, and that everyone who reads it can understand what I hope to express in my art. Anxiety with watermarkThe World, flat_edited-2Value Sketches_edited-1Thanks!

Artist Statement for Constructed Realities

 

How does an idea for a painting get born? For me, it’s sometimes a memory being replayed, hearing a song lyric that resonates with me, reading a poem that lends itself to telling a story or visiting an inspiring art exhibit. This series of paintings focuses on the connection between the human condition and stories described in the written word, through poetry and song lyrics. The works may describe a feeling, such as a search for love, broken relationships, and homes, uncertainty, nostalgia about one’s childhood, wishes and desires, journeys, the modern world and industrialization, overcoming adversity, artist’s block, etc. These themes are described using metaphors and symbols, such as maps, industrialization, etc. In addition, limited. The color palette in oil paint, to keep the focus on the content of the artwork and not the color.

 

Two things have sparked this re-current theme about visual storytelling, and they are: 1.) An art class that I took at Frederick Community College, and 2.) Learning about art journals and mixed media artwork. In January of 2015, I took a drawing course at Frederick Community College in Frederick, MD. One of the final assignments I tackled was to illustrate a poem of my choice using pastels. A major challenge in this assignment was to find a poem that had some concrete images to illustrate. I chose Robert Frost’s poem, Ghost House, which has an abundance of concrete imagery. The first lines, “I dwell in a lonely house I know, that vanished nearly a summer ago, and left no trace but the cellar walls …”

(Frost) griped me with a strong visual picture. I immediately thought of a derelict house and I tried to create a narrative about this haunted house. Slowly, different images popped into my head, a derelict house, a ghost bride, a tree, a path, and some crows. To facilitate this process, I collected artwork that inspired me on Google image searches and checked out art technique books on vampires and fantasy creatures from the public library. To create this current body of work, I collected a notebook of images that inspired me, from Google searches or Pinterest, and stitching them together in PhotoShop to create unique compositions. Next, I read books on poetry or did Google searches to look for poems that lent themselves to visual depiction. Brief lines from the poems or songs which inspired these works are embedded within the works so that the viewer can make the connection between the imagery and words which inspired each work.

 

I then collaged various photos of the house, ghost bride, path, crows, landscape, etc. in Adobe Photoshop and printed out the collage on copier paper in the size in which I intended to create the artwork. The final step was to trace the image with carbon paper and Pen and to begin filling in the pastel paper with tones and shades of blue and purple pastels. Some of the poetry that has inspired this new series, entitled, Voices and Visions, are verses written by Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot, among others.

And my second inspirational spark to create this series is the art journaling movement. A new trend in popular culture is the concept of the art journal, in which the artist writes and illustrates specific things, feelings, seasons, etc., often in mixed media materials. According to mixed media artist, Dina Wakely, art journaling is a way to express your emotions through imagery and text, and no specific rules need to apply to this process. She also shares that the idea of art journaling is not a new one, and well-known artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, kept a series of notebooks. Like Dina, I find that creating narrative art can be a meaningful process, either to express difficult emotions such as sharing universal truths with others in

Much the same way as song lyrics do. In a similar fashion to the poets, Dickinson and Frost, songwriters such as The Cranberries, Sting, Shawn Colvin, U2, Roseanne Cash, Johnny Cash, and Coldplay, and many others have masterfully shared universal truths about love, loss, uncertainty, identity, depression, and loneliness. A good case in point is Sting’s song, Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, an ode about uncertainty and the process of finding answers in the midst of it.

The Importance of Color in Art: Choosing a Color Scheme

Today I am blogging about an introduction to the color wheel and how artists can use it to choose an effective color combination. Since last week, I have been consulting a reference book entitled, Color is Everything, by Dan Bartges. I wanted to try out some various color schemes for my Biographical Portrait of Sting, which I posted about in last week’s Sketchbook blog post.  After consulting the book about possible color schemes, I tried out two versions of a tetrad color scheme; one is described on pg. 35, and consists of oranges, reds, and greens, while the other color combination includes blue-green, red-orange, yellow-orange, and blue-violet and is described on page 36 of Bartge’s book.

Sting, pencil sketch
Line sketch based on the Photoshop collage.

Sting in Landscape, with symbols, with black and white
Photoshop collage I made with various photographs.

Sting's Biographical Portrait #1, flat
Here is version one of my color sketch, using a tetrad color scheme of blue, orange, red and green. This sketch was made with watercolor and pencil.

Sting's Biographical portrait version #2, flat
This is version two of the color sketch tetrad version # 2, with blue-green, red-orange, and yellow-orange. The sketch was made with watercolor and pencil

But before I get into the definition of tetrad color schemes, I would like to give a short overview of the color wheel and how it can improve an artist’s artwork.According to the article, “Color Psychology: The Emotional Effects of Colors”, retrieved from http://www.arttherapy blog.com, the color wheel displays the three primary colors and its secondaries, and the twelve colors which are included on the color wheel are: yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red, red- violet, violet, blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green, and yellow-green. The most important colors displayed on the color wheel are red, yellow and blue, from which you can mix almost any color. (ibid) However, this concept should be considered in a theoretical context, because paints do not necessarily contain only one color. (ibid) In fact, paints often contain residues of other colors which can affect the final outcome of color mixtures (ibid).  Some colors that you can mix from the two primaries include yellow + red= orange and red + blue= violet.  These colors are called secondaries.(ibid)  It’s interesting to read that primary colors theoretically mixed together, can create any color you wish, but that in practice, it is not always so easy. I think that this is a concept I have grasped as a seasoned painter but did not have words to explain it. This is why I need to buy specific cool reds such as alizarin crimson, or warm reds, such as carmine to get reddish colors that are either warm or cool in tone. Now I have evidence to support my observation and I can explain to others why I need to buy so many different paint colors to create specific colors!

According to the author, Bartges, (2008), a triadic color scheme utilizes three colors which are equidistant from each other on the color wheel, and these colors create “a strong, triangular relationship.” For example, Bartges, 2008, states that a frequently utilized triadic scheme for landscapes includes green, orange and violet. Furthermore, in the words of  Bartges, 2008,  the “most visually powerful triad is red, yellow and blue, which are called the primary colors”.

I decided to apply this knowledge about triadic colors to my portrait of Sting. While I knew I wanted the colors to be pleasing to the eye, I didn’t want them to take center stage. Instead, I wanted them to complement the symbolic nature of the artwork. In this drawing, I wanted to tell a story about Sting’s ancestry and family stories, which I learned about by watching a PBS tv show entitled, Finding Your Roots, a few weeks ago. In this drawing, Biographical Portrait of Sting, I wanted to tell a story about Sting’s ancestry and family stories with references to his great-grandparent’s trade as lace makers, their migration to France, and to describe the setting of his hometown in Newcastle, England. These items were symbolized by the Canada geese migrating in the background, the lace handkerchief, the fleur de lis symbol, (which is often associated with French royalty, according to Britannica.com), and the ships and dock of the Tyneside docks represent the setting where Sting grew up amongst the shipbuilding trade in the 1950s. If you are interested, you can learn more about Sting’s family story by visiting the following website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/blog/stings-roots-beyond-england/. The PBS website includes an overview of the television series, Roots, Finding your roots,   which features an episode that investigates the family history of Sting, Sally Field, and Deepak Chopra. Thanks for stopping by! I hope to continue work on the color sketches pictured here and post the results on next week’s blog post.

 

How to Develop Your Artistic Muscles: Make a Sketchbook

A few weeks ago, one of my art fans complimented me on a painting which she had viewed on my Art of Schmidt website, entitled, Phyllis and Dad. She said that she liked the colors, that she admired my talent, and wanted to know the story behind the painting. I told her that the painting was based on a collection of family photos which I had collected and that I always remembered my father as being older than other kid’s fathers. I also shared that this was the first photo I had ever seen of my father taken when he was young. Although I do not know his exact age, as the picture is not dated, I would estimate that he was in his early twenties when this photo was taken of him and his first wife, Phyllis.

I was of course, grateful to hear the compliments about my artwork, but at the same time, I wanted to share that the artwork I post on my website does not come about by magic. It takes a lot of effort.  Furthermore, sometimes more than one version of a painting or drawing is created to lead to the finished product that people see on my website, commerce site, and social media feeds on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, I have to practice on a weekly basis to keep my drawing and painting skills from getting rusty. During this conversation, I shared all of these insights with her and I hastened to add that if I relied solely on my artistic “talent” then it wouldn’t get me very far. Instead, I have found that practicing art is much like practicing a sport or playing an instrument. I believe that in order to get good at any of these disciplines, one needs to practice, a lot, and on a regular basis to maintain a certain level of skill. And sometimes it may require me to make a drawing or painting over and over again until I get it “just right.” In the words of songwriter, Sting: “I will reapply the needle of the record player again and again to the bars of music that seem beyond my analysis, like a safecracker picking a lock, until the prize is mine.” (Sting, Broken Music, dust jacket cover, 2003).

I was thinking about this conversation this week when I was trying to decide what to blog about. While I was pondering this, I wondered how to make this knowledge which I have gained about the need for artists to practice their art, into an applicable blog post that anyone can learn from. According to the author, and textile artist, Bren Boardman, one specific way for artists to stay “in practice” with their craft is to keep a sketchbook. The sketchbook serves as a repository to record their ideas and inspirations, such as “color swatches, quotes, magazine clippings, newspaper cuttings, or reference photos” for artwork in progress. (Boardman, Bren. “Sketchbooks and Mind Mapping for Artists”, https: www.textileartist.org).  Bren Boardman, textile artist, and author of the article, “Sketchbooks and Mind Mapping for Artists”, states that sketchbooks can help artists to develop their ideas for artwork and that using a mind map in their sketchbooks is an effective strategy for fleshing out ideas for new artwork. In her article, she provides some useful tips on how to start a mind map diagram, sort of like the “web” I remember from grade school in which my teachers used to help my fellow students brainstorm new ideas. In Boardman’s mind maps, she starts with a word or phrase that encapsulates her concept for a new artwork and draws connecting branches, which describe her ideas in more detail, sometimes using imagery. To start a mind map, she recommends that you write a word or phrase, with which you can associate, the main idea. (Boardman, Bren. 2013)

In addition, Boardman states that it is helpful to consider what type of sketchbook you would like to create such as a reference sketchbook, where you might “collect color mixing tests, color swatches or samples, or an idea generation sketchbook”; such as creating a mind map which describes the process and ends with the final result. On the other hand, perhaps you might make a sketchbook that would describe a trip or journey. Furthermore, if you still feel overwhelmed by the process of starting a sketchbook, I’m including a list of suggestions that Boardman offers in her article to get you started with the process. For example, you might include: “photos, magazines or prints, magazine or newspaper cuttings, drawings, sketches and doodles, text, poetry, stories, thoughts, thoughts, letters, extracts, statements, words, fabric, threads, wools, beads, buckles, papers of all kinds.” (Boardman, Bren. “Sketchbooks and Mind Mapping for Artists”)

In this blog post, I include my process for adapting  Boardman’s mind map idea and translating it into a project I wanted to create of a genealogical portrait of recording artist, Sting. My inspiration for this project was based on an overworked watercolor painting I made last summer, a portrait by Durer of a man standing in front of a landscape,  and a TV miniseries, entitled, Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates, J., on PBS. The segment I took inspiration from was called, “Sting, Sally Field, and Deepak Chopra,” and was filmed in 2014. Gates spoke with each individual in turn and he shared what he had learned about their ancestry through genealogical research. In particular, Gates shared that Sting’s third-great grandparents were lace makers who started a family in Nottingham, England in the 1820s. However, due to the Industrial Revolution, which led to mass production of products and consumer goods, they were forced to seek work elsewhere in Calais, France and in Australia.

I took inspiration from this TV series, a failed watercolor portrait of Sting, and from a sketch by Duerer which featured a portrait of a man and a landscape in the background.  To record my thoughts, I took notes as I watched the TV segment and I re-draw these thoughts in a mind map. I knew I wanted to make a portrait that was different from the typical face front painting or sketch of a person with a wall as background, and that I wanted to let the artwork tell a story about the person. I wanted to use symbols to tell the person’s story so that it would lead the viewer to contemplate the scene and ask questions about what the symbols might mean. After I completed the notes, I set to work looking for images on the internet of Sting, his hometown of Wallsend, England, and some symbols to describe his ancestor’s migration to France and their profession as lace makers. Then I put all the photos together in Adobe Photoshop to create a collage as a reference for the resulting sketch and three value watercolor painting.

Sting watercolor portrait, flat
Original watercolor painting of Sting with English landscape.

Sting mind map final
Mindmap I made based on the TV mini-series, Finding Your Roots, with Sting, Sally Field, and Deepak Chopra.

Tennis-mindmap
Example of mind map from Wikipedia.

portrait-of-caspar-tower-and-a-river-landscape-1520
Portrait of Caspar, Tower and a River Landscape, Albrecht Durer, 1520. This portrait by Durer, influenced the composition for Sting’s biographical portrait.

Sting in Landscape, with symbols, with black and white
Photoshop collage I made with various photographs. I created a black and white image and applied a cut out filter to create a value scale in black and white. 

Sting, pencil sketch
Line sketch based on the Photoshop collage, drawn with pencil on backing board.

Stay tuned for more updates on my painting process of this portrait! Thanks for stopping by!