The full sheet of thumbnails

Thumbnails- In Preparation For The Paint Around At The ICAN Pastel Conference

When you receive this, I will have finished participating in the ICAN Pastel Conference Paint-Around! As I write this, however, the event is still in the future. In preparation, I needed to decide on an image and to help with this decision, I turned to creating thumbnails of a number of photos.

Two things I needed to keep in mind as I collected possible images: the allotted painting time of only ONE hour and also the size we were going to work on – 16 x 20 in. The size is larger than my usual 9 x 12 that I use to paint outdoors for approximately the same time. Hmmmm- lots of paper to fill!

I wanted to focus on thumbnails for this post as I believe they are soooo useful and I know that some people don’t do them ever before painting (gasp!). Here’s what thumbnails do for me:

  • They help me become familiar with a subject in a tactile way (not just in my head)
  • They also give me the chance to simplify a scene into big shapes which makes painting so much easier
  • Thumbnails allow me to sort out different compositions, to try out the scene in different ways and distances – far away or closer, vertical or horizontal
  • And thumbnails are most useful for deciding on a three-value pattern.

All this gives me a template or roadmap from which to work and to which I continually refer as I paint. It grounds me when I begin losing my way.

So let me share the thumbnails I created as I sifted through images, culling complex and detailed ones for simpler, bolder designs.

Here’s the full sheet of thumbnails I did:

 

The full sheet of thumbnails
The full sheet of thumbnails

 

Let’s look at them more closely.

These thumbnails show a lovely view of the Big Rideau Lake in Ontario. It was simple, with a delightful pattern of trees against the sky. In the top one, I played with the idea of making the extremely blue sky a middle value, the same as the lake with white clouds and lakeshore being the only light values. The lower one keeps the whole sky in the light value. I also put more emphasis on the small tree in the lower thumbnail.
These thumbnails show a lovely view of the Big Rideau Lake in Ontario. It was simple, with a delightful pattern of trees against the sky. In the top one, I played with the idea of making the extremely blue sky a middle value, the same as the lake with white clouds and lakeshore being the only light values. The lower one keeps the whole sky in the light value. I also put more emphasis on the small tree in the lower thumbnail.

 

This thumbnail was of an evening scene with a colourful sky. Dark trees and also a rider on a horse are silhouetted against the bright sky. The field in front is a middle value. Note that only I know where the rider is. In thumbnails, small details don't matter.
This thumbnail was of an evening scene with a colourful sky. Dark trees and also a rider on a horse are silhouetted against the bright sky. The field in front is a middle value. Note that only I know where the rider is. In thumbnails, small details don’t matter.

 

Thumbnails: This is another Ontario scene snapped from the car. I liked the shape of the trees and the almost hidden farmhouse. One of these days I will paint this! But not this time.
This is another Ontario scene snapped from the car. I liked the shape of the trees and the almost hidden farmhouse. One of these days I will paint this! But not this time.

 

Thumbnails: This was a tree from the village of Calella where I taught my workshop in Spain. The wall was the most gorgeous orange yellow and I loved that the shadow cast by the tree was darker than the tree itself. It will be recognized by a couple of my students for sure!
This was a tree from the village of Calella where I taught my workshop in Spain. The wall was the most gorgeous orange yellow and I loved that the shadow cast by the tree was darker than the tree itself. It will be recognized by a couple of my students for sure!

 

Thumbnails: I have always loved dresses hanging to paint and I've always wanted to paint this dress of mine - white with a scattering of dark pink flowers. Because of the format (4:5 ratio) I tried a cropped version to remove excess background. As much as I wanted to paint this, I felt it deserved a longer format.
I have always loved painting dresses hanging and I’ve always wanted to paint this dress of mine – white with a scattering of dark pink flowers. Because of the format (4:5 ratio) I tried a cropped version to remove the excess background to fit into the ‘wider” rather than “upright” format. As much as I wanted to paint this, I felt it deserved a longer format.

 

Thumbnails: And finally, there is this scene in a village outside of Budapest. I loved the deep shadow, the brightly lit wall and the figures walking through it. It's a bit more complicated than the others but in the end, this is the image I chose.
And finally, there is this scene in a village outside of Budapest. I loved the deep shadow, the brightly lit wall and the figures walking through it. It’s a bit more complicated than the others but in the end, this is the image I chose.

 

And so it was time to try out a couple of colour studies (or colour thumbnails). I decided to do this as I felt I needed to be prepared to launch into the painting quickly, with no hesitation. This felt like doing a practice run even though these studies are only 5 x 4 in.

First the scene sketched up on a scrap piece of UART 800 grade sanded paper. This is their smoothest surface and one I never work on. I chose it because we’ll be working on UART 600, the next smoothest paper, and so I wanted to try something comparable. (The UART grade I generally use is 320 or 400 – much grittier than 600 or 800.)

 

Thumbnails: The scene sketched twice on UART 800 grade paper. Each sketch is 5 x 4 in.
The scene sketched twice on UART 800 grade paper. Each sketch is 5 x 4 in.

 

I forgot to photograph the first layer of pastels in the first study but the colours I used were a dark blue violet, a mid-value blue, and a yellow for the light value. I’m using pastels from my travelling set – mainly Unison with a few Mount Vision and Great Americans thrown in.

Here is the first colour study with two layers:

 

Thumbnails: Colour study with a base of two blues in dark and middle value, and yellow for the lights. A second layer has been added.
Colour study with a base of two blues in dark and middle value, and yellow for the lights. A second layer has been added.

 

And the second colour study showing the first layer of the three main value areas. The photo below shows it with two layers.

 

Thumbnails: First layer of the second sketch.
First layer of the second sketch.

 

Thumbnails: Second colour study with a second layer added.
Second colour study with a second layer added.

 

Here are the two pastels together so you can see the subtle difference that comes from using a different colour underlayer. I didn’t stay with exactly the same colours in the second layer but close enough. I think I’ll use the second option and so I’ll note those first tree colours.

 

Thumbnails: The two colour studies side by side. There is a subtle difference between the two.
The two colour studies side by side. There is a subtle difference between the two.

And now I’ll leave the writing of the blog until Tuesday when I’ll have the finished piece to show you!!

 


 

Well that was intense and FUN! And really, all the paintings turned out well, considering they’d been through the hands of various artists with different styles and approaches.

So here is a few minutes after the start and then the end of my painting after 15 mins. Time to pass it on! (Apologies for the quality of the photos.)

 

Thumbnails: After 15 mins, this is what my 20 x 16 in piece looked like
First three values on in just a few minutes
Thumbnails: After 15 mins, this is what my 20 x 16 in piece looked like
After 15 mins, this is what my 20 x 16 in piece looked like. Figures barely indicated.

 

We each then worked on another pastel for 10 mins, passed that on, and other for 10 mins, passed that on, and then one more for 10 mins, and then mine was back.

 

Here’s what it looked like when I got it back 🙂

 

Thumbnails: After passing through the hands of Suzanne Godbout, Andrew McDermott, and Roberta Combs, this was my painting.
After passing through the hands of Suzanne Godbout, Andrew McDermott, and Roberta Combs, this was my painting.

 

The first 15 mins felt very slow, the last went VERY fast. So much still to do! I forgot to take a  photo of the final piece but I cropped this image from one of the four of us. Can you see the changes I made? There is so much I would like to have done but the timer went down and it was, “Pastels down!”

 

Thumbnails: Me with the final piece done by four artists!
Me with the final piece done by four artists!

 

Each painting is signed by all four artists and then they are up for silent auction until Friday. Bid starts at $250. Happily when I went by this afternoon, there was a bid on mine!

 

Here we all are with our paintings …

Thumbnails: Me with the final piece done by four artists!
From left to right: Suzanne Godbout, me, Andrew McDermott, and Roberta Combs

And the not-so-serious!

Thumbnails: Goofing around!! From left to right: Suzanne Godbout, me, Andrew McDermott, and Roberta Combs.
Goofing around!! From left to right: Suzanne Godbout, me, Andrew McDermott, and Roberta Combs.

 

So what do you think about doing thumbnails? If you don’t do them have I convinced you that it might be a good idea to try doing them? I’d LOVE to hear from you!

All for now. Gotta go prep for my workshops!

~ Gail

 

PS. If you’re on Instagram, come on over to howtopastelwithgail and checkout my Stories – they’ll be covering the ICAN conference!

PPS. Messy but colourful fingers!!

Thumbnails: Blue purple for the first layer!
Blue purple for the first layer!

 

PPPS. Yay for me! I won an Honourable Mention Award at the accompanying PAC exhibition. An unexpected and wonderful surprise!!

Honourable Mention Award for "Summer Sanctuary" at PAC Exhibition in Aurora, Ontario
Honourable Mention Award for “Summer Sanctuary” at PAC Exhibition in Aurora, Ontario

 

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Comments

31 thoughts on “Thumbnails- In Preparation For The Paint Around At The ICAN Pastel Conference”

  1. Oh, Gail,
    I so wish I could have been there!!
    Loved the way your painting came back!!!
    I would have bid on it!!
    I live in southern Ontario
    In fact as far south as you can get. I live on the North Shore of Lake Erie.!
    To find out you were here in Ontario!! But still too far for me to travel, sadly.
    Hope you enjoyed yourself.
    Maybe one day, I will have the honour of being at one of your workshops.
    Your Freind
    Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I had a grand time for sure. Thanks for saying you would have bid on the painting 😀
      So sorry you couldn’t make it to the conference. Hopefully it will take place again in two years and I’ll see you there. Also, there’s a chance I’ll be back to teach a workshop before 2020 (gulp!). Sooooo, one of these days…..

  2. Great story. I rarely do thumbnails. Most of my work is done in my head and on my iPad. Then I start painting. I have tried thumbnails. I can see where they would help but I only use them if I need a quick sketch of a scene I don’t have time or camera for. That could just be my excuse! I guess. Haha.
    I love the story of the paint around. I haven’t done one. It has to be an experience. It would be hard to put pastels down at the timer! There would be a lot of “ya, but” and “just a little more here” to deal with! I can imagine how you felt. Sounds like a fun time though!

    1. Thumbnails changed everything for me Denise and so I hope I can encourage you to try them 🙂
      When you say you work on your iPad, do you mean your actual painting is done there?
      The Paint Around was a riot and yes, the hardest part was putting pastels down after we were working on our pieces a second time. So much more to do!!! But you just have to let it go!

  3. Thank you for sharing this fascinating process.
    My mentor, instructor, friend, Fran Hutton, has convinced me of the power of thumbnails. Your shared journey including your valuable photos affirms their significance.

    1. Thanks Linda. And I’m soo happy to hear that you are being convinced of the usefulness of thumbnails. Once you get in the habit, it will be difficult not to do them!

  4. I’m always in awe of the artists who take part in these events! You guys are amazing! Thanks for sharing! As far as thumbnails, yes, I’m doing them almost always, and when I don’t.. well, often I’m sorry I did not.

    1. Lana it was a crazy experience. Having done it, I would do it again but I have to say that saying Yes to participating was a huge leap out of my comfort zone and I began wondering why I’d agreed! In the end though, was very glad I did.
      Love what you said about thummbnails. Thanks for chiming in.

  5. The preliminary sketches that I do probably would not qualify as a thumbnail, seeing that I usually do them on 8 x 10 inch paper. This applies mainly to paintings with figures in them, which I re-arrange to my satisfaction (some of them could be considered drawings). With still life, I can re-arrange the objects at will on the table, window sill, etc. Having said that, I do appreciate that small thump nails are useful to some artists.

    1. Thanks for chiming in Cliff. Yes, what you are doing is more like preparatory drawings. I think of these as understanding details and the relationships between shapes more fully.
      For me, thumbnails, on the other hand, are a way to jump into my artist’s brain and really begin to see AND simplify. I can see it all in my head but it’s not until I express that vision and those thoughts on paper that I really begin to understand what’s going on. I also find it easier to play around with values, trying out different value choices for instance, when I’m working with small quick thumbnails.

  6. Hi Gail
    Do you use charcoal or pencils for your thumbnails..?
    They look great. I’m SO going to try this at the weekend. As a rule I don’t do thumbnails, but I think it’ll be my new ‘thing’..!
    Lindsay x

    1. Hah hah – love that you are making thumbnails your new “thing”!!
      I use pen or pencil. Often I like using thick markers in two different greys ie. one black and one 50%. I’ll do a blog on those one day.

  7. I learned a lot from looking and reading your process. I can see I have much to learn. I’m beginning to realize that there is as much pre-planning for abstracts as there was for portrait. Thank you.

    1. Ann I LOVE hearing that ie that this post has shown you about the value of pre-planning for all sorts of subjects. It doesn’t have to be a long time spent. Even five minutes can make all the difference.

  8. I have started to try using thumbnails, but need to change my thought process. I find I always want to ‘complete’ even a rough sketch… gotta get that detail in… just can’t seem to stop. So… in an effort to break that ‘habit'(?) I have been intentionally starting and leaving smaller sketches in various states of noncompliance with my thinking. I find I’m walking about with my hands in my pockets a lot… or sitting on them! Hahaha

    Congratulations on the Honourable Mention, well done!
    Just between you, me, and the wall… I’d have trumped that bid on your painting, love the juxtaposition of the colours and light play.

    Cheers, Val

    1. Thanks for your funny addition to thumbnail creating Val! What you could do is set a timer say for three minutes. Also, squint!! That will help you both simplify AND NOT see the details (so you won’t be able to add them).
      And thanks for your bidding compliment 😀

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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