Many artists will not start painting until they first do thumbnail sketches for that painting.  Just what is a thumbnail sketch and why do we take the time to do them?

      Thumbnails, as they are typically called, are small sketches of the prospective painting done on paper in order to design the composition. They are also used to determine the values in the painting. If you draw out your scene and it doesn't look like you had imagined, then it's easy to change by simply sketching another one. Often on an 8 x 11 piece of paper an artist can have between 4 - 8 sketches of the scene, each can have only slightly differences, but even small changes can make it look completely different. It is a good way to ensure that your paintings have a strong composition and the light and dark areas are balanced before you even put paint on the canvas. Thus the artist greatly reduces the risk of getting frustrated with their painting. I have some photos of thumbnail sketches below to illustrate.

     As you can see, these are very small.  You can draw them larger, but it's not necessary.  The main objective is to set the composition and value system.  Obviously, it's much easier to make corrections here rather than after the painting is started.  If you do a sketch and you're not satisfied but not really sure why, try turning the sketch upside down.  That will often show where you have gone wrong and what needs to be done to correct it.  It forces your brain to look at the scene differently.  Try it, you'll like it! The upside-down principle is a BIG concept of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards.

      Start doing thumbnail sketches and you will find that your paintings will be greatly improved and your frustration levels will dramatically decrease!   And, who knows, when you become famous, even your thumbnail sketches can become valuable.  Onward and Upward!



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