Monday, April 30, 2012

Plein air idea 2

Sorry, I an writing this with a connection that  is too weak  to put up a picture. Imagine if you would, a picture here. The picture is of half a dozen or so tiny sketches done with a thick pencil line  using a chiseled   edged carpenters pencil with a soft lead. Each of these drawings is about the size of a playing card and are all drawn on a ringbound sketchbook of good quality paper.

Thumbnail drawings are the highest form of previsualization. They are little practice paintings of the subject before the artist in the field. Each of the thumbnails has a different "take" on the subject. It either stresses one element of the scene over the others, or it is a simplification of the masses  presented in a large attractive design.
Often the last two are more resolved versions of one of the previous entry's that seemed promising.

There are several advantages to doing this.

  • you will have a better large design because things done small often look good "blown up" in scale. They often look simpler, which is almost always good..
  • You will have examined different "takes" on the arrangement.One thumbnail might emphasize one part  of the landscape,a different thumbnail, a different aspect. Looking across a farm scene, one thumbnail might make the painting about the barn and the copse of trees around it, and the other might subordinate the farm buildings to the larger valley scene in which they are set.
  • You will hopefully have encountered the hidden gremlins waiting to be a problem in the painting later on. Instead of being ambushed you may have said "this is a great view, but it has a big problem! What am I going to do about that? "
  • Here is the big one though. It is often easy to show up on a location and paint the  "regular" arrangement of the subject, or perhaps just that inflicted on you by an awkward or overly symmetrical  static set of shapes before you in nature. Your first thumbnail was probably that arrangement, the one that would show what was present before the artist. One of the later thumbnails  progressed from that to a more creative arrangement or simply AN ARRANGEMENT .It's not the first picture you would have shown up and made. It is more like what you would have made the third or fourth time you painted the location.
I look at doing thumbnails as a chore, I do them sometimes. I went through a long period where I did them for every painting, I don't do them often now. I probably would be better off if I did, lots of really great landscape painters did thumbnails, but I can also show you a lot of fine painters who didn't. I have made a whole lot of paintings. I would recommend that you thumbnail things for a year or two and decide whether it is something you want to do. You will learn a whole lot about arranging your paintings by doing this.

17 comments:

Lori said...

Hi Stape, I still do thumbnails because I am not to the point where I can pull off a good composition on the fly. I don't enjoy doing them either, but neither do I enjoy getting half way through a painting and deciding that it's all wrong.

At least with graphite, I haven't waisted paint. Thanks for this advice. I can picture your description!
Lori

willek said...

I have always found it tough to do thumbnails, but I often spend months thinking about a location and a way to put a picture together. Especially when it has to be all made up. Lately I have been thinking a lot a lot about color plans for these pictures.

Paul Bachem said...

Excellent post Stape...thanks!

willek said...

I suppose you should do a color thumbnail or at least a color plan of some kind, too. We don't hear about that as much.

Judy P. said...

I just completed a small, simple still life of a baseball and cigar box, and realize that a preliminary thumbnail would have revealed a better placement of the shapes- Rats.
It sure feels good to be sipping my morning joe, reading a Stape column- Ah!

Deb said...

Doing thumbnails is akin to a dentist appointment for me. Not something I really enjoy, but I bought a little sketchbook, and some pens - and am forcing myself to practice this. That stack of unfinished BAD paintings over there in the corner is a good reminder of WHY WE NEED TO DO THIS.

Zan Barrage said...

Keying the painting is very important for sure Willet. see my post here for a complementary article to Stapleton's:
http://artezan.blogspot.ca/2012/04/importance-of-keying-painting.html

Donald Jurney said...

Glad you're back. Your willingness to share helped me decide to blog, too. Thanks. Have a look at "The Dead Paintings Society", www.donaldjurney.blogspot.com

Susan Hogan Girard said...

Excellent post and thank you for your information, it is always appreciated. I have to thank David Teter, Avid Art, for pointing me in your direction. I'm learning here.

Susan Hogan Girard said...

Excellent post and thank you for your information, it is always appreciated. I have to thank David Teter, Avid Art, for pointing me in your direction. I'm learning here.

Susan Hogan Girard said...

Excellent post and thank you for your information, it is always appreciated. I have to thank David Teter, Avid Art, for pointing me in your direction. I'm learning here.

Susan Hogan Girard said...

Excellent post and thank you for your information, it is always appreciated. I have to thank David Teter, Avid Art, for pointing me in your direction. I'm learning here.

Susan Hogan Girard said...

Excellent post and thank you for your information, it is always appreciated. I have to thank David Teter, Avid Art, for pointing me in your direction. I'm learning here.

Susan Hogan Girard said...

Excellent post and thank you for your information, it is always appreciated. I have to thank David Teter, Avid Art, for pointing me in your direction. I'm learning here.

Mary Byrom said...

Nice to see you writing again Stapleton.
Thumb nails are great. Sketchbooks are great. I like filling sketchbooks with lots of thumbnails, sketches and developed drawings. I'm a fast painter so its a way for me to slow down and look, really look around at what is surrounding me. I find if I do thumbnails I get a handle on design. If I do larger sketches I get familiar with the shapes and forms I choose to work with. Sometimes I do value sketches and watercolor sketches of several scenes before I set up my easel. If I am in a new landscape it helps me to see it better by sketching it. Its like a practice rehearsal and its very relaxing. Not like painting which is very focused and demanding. (We don't paint cause its fun.)

Tony Robinson said...

Glad to hear you confess that sometimes thumbnails are a chore for you, too, - I know I should do them but thought I was the only one who usually can't wait to get to the painting.
In my defence, I do allow myself time to walk around, or stand thinking before I begin. This is putting on the artist's eyes, not time wasted but a meditation and a prelude one can really enjoy - painting without paints. And once I start, I am very open early on to wiping off a turpy sketch and making a complete change right on the panel. I'm sure many people employ similar approaches.
Interesting topic for your latest blog. Thanks for sharing.

Judy said...

So glad you're back blogging again! Your blog is really worth reading--I'm taking these posts slowly and trying to apply each one.

Judy