Why Do Thumbnail Sketches?

If you are wondering what thumbnail sketches are they are small sketches which can help you work out a composition.  Why bother with them?  Well when we start drawing and painting we tend to forget that we have choices about what viewpoint, angle and the arrangement of subject matter.

Why Thumbnail Sketches are a Good Idea 

Thumbnail sketches are essential to work out composition choices, they help the artist explore the options and what would work best before embarking on the final piece.  You can explore variations by altering the placing of the focal point, the amount of background or foreground and different viewpoints.  All this can be worked out before committing hours to a final piece which might not have the best composition.

Learn to plan your artwork
Learn to plan your artwork

Composition is important

Although the subject matter is important the positioning and viewpoint is what can make artwork interesting or not, so composition is worth spending some time on. You can play around with different solutions using thumbnail sketches.  I always spend some time arranging a still life and working out different arrangements before I then start some thumbnail sketches.

Some questions to ask when trying out thumbnail sketches could be: Is the focal point (the most dominant object) in the right place?  Is there balance in the composition, some small objects balancing out a larger object?  Is it interesting? Does it lead the observer into the piece? Could the piece be cropped for better results?

Using a viewfinder can help you find a good composition
Using a viewfinder can help you find a good composition

Another way to find out what composition might work best is to use a viewfinder – see my post What is a Viewfinder? for more advice on this topic.

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What is Subtractive Drawing?

Subtractive drawing is a really nice way of working for beginners and it can teach you much about tone (light and dark). Basically subtractive means ‘taking away’ so pigment is removed.  With drawing it is usually charcoal or very soft graphite that is taken away and commonly with a putty rubber (also known as a kneaded eraser).  A putty rubber is a soft, moldable eraser that you can shape and make into a fine point and is great at removing pigment.

A putty rubber or kneaded eraser

Continue reading “What is Subtractive Drawing?”