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Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Steps to a Good Thumbail

'In a Nantucket Meadow'          11x14

Thumbnails are good for you.  That is if you are doing them right.  I would go through 'thumbnail kicks' where I would do them for a few paintings but then stop. I wasn't really using them effectively so I didn't take the time to do them.  I learned some great tips form Doug Dawson about doing black and white thumbnails and I am really excited about them now!  I'd like to share some of what I learned.

It's all about the tools.  I find that Prismacolor Premier markers work great. I am using Gray #
Charcoal and pencil won't work as well since it is more difficult to get even consistent values.
I am using a small mixed media sketchbook since the markers tend to bleed on thin paper.

An effective thumbnail is between business card and post card size and should be done quickly.  If you work too large or too long you tend to get caught up in too many details. The goal is to simplify your composition into big simple shapes using 3-4 values.

STEP ONE:  I like to do a rough pencil block in of the main shapes. This isn't necessary but I find it helps me.  NO details!!!  If you find yourself putting in too many details skip this step and use the markers first!  I also like to draw my box on the paper rather than using the whole piece of paper. This gives me  a better idea of how the composition fits. Kind of like having a mat.

STEP TWO:  Decide what shapes in your design are the LIGHTEST.  These shapes you will leave the white of the paper. In a landscape the sky is typically the lightest shape.  After you decide on the lightest shape. Take the 20% Gray (middle light value) and block in everything else. Everything else! Even areas that you think will be darker.

TIP:  Be sure to fill in each shape solidly. Messy or incomplete areas of value won;t be as effective and aren't as nice to look at!

STEP THREE:  Now decide what is the DARKEST shape.  Use the 70% gray marker to fill in these dark shapes. Remember you want to have simple masses of value so if you see some light areas in your dark mass.....make the whole thing dark. You will be able to modify the mass as the painting progresses. This will help you avoid spottiness.  (see yesterday's post here)

Now you have a three value thumbnail. You can leave it as is or decide to add a dark middle value.

STEP FOUR:  Evaluate the light middle value areas that you blocked in with the 20% gray marker. Are there any areas that are a bit darker?  If so use the 40% gray marker to mass these shapes in. You now have four simple shapes with each one having a value. You will now use this black and white thumbnail to block in your painting.

A few of my black and white thumbnails with the reference photo


Pam Short said...

Thanks, Karen!

This is great! I have the pens but haven't been approaching the thumbnails as methodically and found I would tend to avoid them. This will definitely help me.

Karen said...

Thanks Pam! That was what was happening to me too! Hope this helps!

Donna T said...

Thanks so much, Karen! I need to try this.

Carol Flatt said...

Wow! Excellent information, Karen. You've whetted my interest in doing thumbnails!!

Anonymous said...

You've made thumbnails look like fun! I can't wait to try this.

Dottie T Leatherwood said...

Love this!...when I do thumbnails I just tend to use pen or pencil but love the idea of the markers! Simplifies it so much more... going out to get some markers today! Thanks for sharing!

LauraGee said...

Thanks so much Karen, you are a natural teacher. I've ready many explanations of thumbnails. But your step by step approach really makes sense, clear and valuable!

Karen said...

Thank you all so much for taking time to comment! I really appreciate your feedback!

Meredith Adler said...

Karen, thank you so, so much for sharing this information. Your explanation is so concise, so well-worded and makes the whole process seem so possible, rather than just a pre-painting chore, as it has always seemed before. You are such a good teacher...

Susan Williamson said...

Great post ....getting back to basics as you grow as an artist has a different meaning than when beginning the adventure!

Unknown said...

I've always just been lazy to do thumbnails (and I suppose I get a bit excited and eager to start painting😶) but these tips have just prodded me in the right direction I think - thank you Karen! Now have to locate the pens on South Africa- or something similar 😁

Unknown said...

Ah, great tip on using the 20% marker on everything and the the dark and finishing with the middle value! Will try today brought my sketchbook and markers in this short trip to visit grandkids!
Honestly I had the markers and was not using them, I hunk this will make a difference.
Thanks for the tip

Unknown said...

I have the pens but I tend to be lazy and take short cuts. After reading this I'm going to start doing them! Thanks.