The Importance of Thumbnail Sketches

Thumbnail sketches are quick little drawings that help generate ideas. They are not meant to be perfectly drawn but to simply get the ideas out of your head and onto paper. These sketches should be small, gestural and general.  During this process, you’re able to relax and focus on composition, deciding what to put in and what to take out.  Oftentimes, when I’m trying to come up with a new painting, I will always draw out small compositions in my sketchbook.  Each little drawing will have similar elements but parts placed in different areas in the picture plane, trying to create a strong arrangement.  Besides using my sketchbook, I’ll also draw on my iPad using the app Procreate.  

Here are two quick thumbnail sketches that I used for recent paintings.  

Pumpkin Sketch

In this drawing, you can see where I loosely created a square for the frame of the canvas and then drew the lines for the composition “Rule of Thirds”.  I wanted to make sure there was a large focal flower at one of points made my the intersecting lines.  The final smaller filler flowers are not shown at all in this sketch but just shaded in to represent darker areas as support.  As you compare the finished piece to the sketch, you can see differences in the additions of details and also elements that I eliminated.  By doing the sketch first, I’m able to plan ahead before even starting on the canvas and speed up the painting process.  This way I won’t paint over and over trying to correct things.  

Flower Field on a Hill Sketch

I wanted to show you this one because the sketch is very minimal with only a suggestion of value changes and placement of the elements.  As you compare the sketch to the final painting, you can see big differences in the details but the general layout is the same. 

When you allow time to sketch before even reaching for the paintbrush, it allows you to generate more interesting compositions and therefore a more successful painting. I know that if my sketch is not working out in my sketchbook, it’s definitely not going to work on the canvas.  So spend some time drawing and playing with ideas.  It’s easy and fun because you know the drawing doesn’t have to be perfect.

Want to paint with me?  Check out my available tutorials here on my website OR watch me paint on my YouTube channel.  Thanks, Debbie 

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