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.

Portfolio Progress completed works

This week I am taking time to inventory my completed artworks for my series Constructed Realities. This mixed media series is a collection of poetry inspired works that incorporate both text and imagery with a variety of media such as soft pastel, oils, acrylics, and gouache. I am making these paintings as part of a portfolio in preparation for applying to graduate school in two years’ time. I’ve been stretched in ways I hadn’t thought possible working with a variety of media, and the challenge of translating abstract ideas into visual art. Here’s a snippet of my Statement of Purpose, which describes these works in more detail.

In my new works, I have incorporated mixed media and text, which is inspired by art journaling and mixed media art. For example, texts from selected poems or songs, such as the writings of Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, and T.S. Elliot, Dylan Thomas, and Thomas Hardy are included in my paintings to give viewers clues about the content of my work.  Other influences include the song lyrics of Sting, and other musicians, psychological theories of human development, and current events.  These texts are incorporated into my paintings to help the view draw connections between the emotional content in my art and the written word.

Gather ye rosebuds final, small
Jodie Schmidt, Time waits for no one,  August 2020, mixed media: oil, acrylic, gouache, illustration board on masonite, 12 x 12 inches. Photo of Grim Reaper photo credit: Jbuzbee, 21 September 2008, Statue in the Cathedral of Trier, Germany, originally sourced on https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CathedralOfTrier_Skeleton.JPG. The photo has been re-mixed into a fine art image with the addition of pastel, gouache and other pictorial elements have been added to the composition such as the clock and figures. The original photo source is liscensed under wikimedia commoms.

Dream of time travel, final, small
Jodie Schmidt, Dream of Time Travel, July 2020, mixed media: oil, soft pastel and gouache on illustration board, 12 x 12 inches.

Pictures of You, with watermark
Jodie Schmidt, Childhood Memory Loss, June 2020,  mixed media: Soft pastel and gouache on illustration board, 16 x 20 inches.

The world, final version
Jodie Schmidt, Money is the Bait, August 2020, Mixed media: oil, acrylic, paint chips, canvas paper, and illustration board on masonite, 16 x 20 inches.

Biographical Portraits in a Mixed Media style

Hello Friends, family, and fans,

This week I am going in a slightly different direction than last week, but I haven’t given up on my poetry inspired work. I have started a new series of portraits based on the lives of writers, poets, and others to try something a little new but somewhat related to the poetry series.  Next to working on artwork, my other favorite hobby is to read biographies of people I admire, such as Emily Dickinson, Julia Child, and others. So I thought,

Emily Disckinson, flat, portrait, 1_edited-1
At home in Nature, Mixed Media, 2020, Jodie Schmidt. 

Emily Dickinson, portriait2, flat_edited-1
In this stage, I continued to add more details and some limited color to Emily Dickinson’s face, the songbird, and the echinacea flowers. 

CS Lewis portrait 1, flat
The fire of creativity,  Mixed media, 2020, Jodie Schmidt. 

CS Lewis 2 , flat, portrait_edited-1
On further review, I decided that the shadows had gotten too dark and overpowering. So I toned them down with some soft pastels to modify the tones. I struggled to figure out how best to represent this abstract concept of creativity and finally decided on using fire. I tried to combine a variety of sources, with some stock photos of greek mythology. This piece will be much larger when I am done since I plan to make it a triptych. 

what not combine my love of art and reading biographies?

Like the poetry series, the work focuses on the portrait and symbolic imagery to help describe the content of the piece. Similarly, I am working in a mixed media style with these portraits, beginning with a pencil sketch and then creating a tonal under painting in gouache. Finally, I finish it off with a more detailed limited palette with soft pastels on Illustration board. My goal is to make at least 10 poetry series portraits and 10 biographical portraits in preparation for applying to graduate school to get my master’s in fine art.

Today I wanted to show you my work process so far with these new portraits. The first one is a sketch of Emily Dickinson. Much has been illustrated regarding her and her poetry, but I wanted to show a different aspect of her personality and that was that she had a passion for plants and nature, even keeping a personal collection of plants in her home and a garden she tended frequently. It should also be noted that many of her poems are about nature, such as storms or sunrises, and so perhaps in some circuitous way, this painting is also about her poetry. To learn more about her passion for plants visit: https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson/biography/special-topics/emily-dickinson-and-gardening/.

My second portrait is about one of my favorite writers who wrote the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, with hints of Greek mythology and even an allegory of the creation story in the book, The Magician’s Nephew. I wanted to make a portrait that showed the creative process of Lewis’s writing and the flow of new ideas. I likened creativity as fire and used that as a way to contain the various characters concerned in these chronicles of Narnia books.

This piece was closer to home for me because although I do love nature and being out in it, I feel that creativity is a large part of me, and I would feel empty without it, I think. It is good to remember that there are rewards to creativity and making things, especially when paintings don’t turn out so well, which I experienced yesterday when I was trying to complete a painting that has been languishing in my studio. Needless to say, it did not go well. And instead of calling it a loss and going to do something else, to give myself time to think about what I didn’t like about the painting, I just kept adding different mediums to the dried acrylic paint, to see what would happen. The lesson here was, paint mindfully, and not mindlessly. Thanks for stopping by!