I am deep in the creation of a lesson for my IGNITE! Membership group on the benefits of doing thumbnails. As you know, I am a HUGE advocate for doing thumbnails so I thought it a perfect opportunity to share my thoughts on thumbnails and show you some examples alongside my pastel paintings as well as a version of the paintings in black and white so you can compare them to the thumbnails.
The main reasons I think thumbnails are so beneficial are:
- They help you become familiar with your subject before you get into painting
- Thumbnails are small and quick and so they afford you the opportunity to be creative, to try out things you may not otherwise explore
- Value choices can be explored and decided on
- You can play with formats
- Your painting can be fully composed before putting a stroke of pastel down
- You can pay attention to your ‘why’ when you get to the painting.
Basically the benefits of thumbnails are that you will have a stronger painting and more successful painting. The time and effort are worth it!
Let’s have a look at some of my pastel paintings that have appeared in earlier blog posts (usually as a step-by-step progression).
You can see below how closely I stuck to the original pencil thumbnail in We Three.
Now have a look at this piece – Fountain at Villa Nobile – that I did en plein air. This time I used a pen (which was a bit dry!). You can see how I made a really tiny second version (bottom left of the thumbnail image) which clarified where my three value choices were placed.
Let’s go on to Iceland Poppies, a floral demo experiment done at IAPS 2019 from a photo on my iphone. Again, the thumbnail is quickly sketched in pen and ink.
The next was a small colour study, Snow Day, that I painted to show how to use colour under white to ‘push the colour’ in white. Even though this is a very light scene, it still has darks, middle, and light values within its lighter context. Can you see the only darks in the picture? They are the tree trunks and the line indicating a ditch or something running horizontally across the piece in the background.
Now let’s look at this painting, Twilight, from one of the 31-pastels-in-31-days challenges. You can see two thumbnails here (and there were actually three but they all wouldn’t fit!) where I am trying out different value compositions. I think it’s pretty obvious which thumbnail I picked….
Here was a very quick pastel I did en plein air in Mexico. Even so, I made sure I did a thumbnail first to help me know where I was going. (Total time for thumbnail and painting was less than 20 mins.) As I worked, more light appeared in the foreground and I decided to change the painting, The Turquoise Wall, slightly from the thumbnail. This is something I rarely do!
And finally there’s grumpy old me! Even with this non-realistic piece, I started with a thumbnail!
I hope you can see, from these examples, the benefits of doing thumbnails. Thumbnails give me a road map to work from. They allow me freedom to play around with colour and expression when I get to the painting part. All the hard work is done beforehand!
I’d love to know what you think. Do you see the benefits of doing thumbnails? Do you make thumbnails on a regular basis? Or if not, do you sometimes do them? I hope if you don’t do them at all (go on, fess up!) that you’ll take them to heart now!
Until next time 🙂
PS. The feature image for this post shows the thumbnail along with the black and white and colour versions of “View From Calella,” Sennelier pastels on UART 320, 9 x 12 in. Click here to see the original post.