The October 31-pastels-in-31-Days Challenge is well behind us now. The primary purpose of the Challenge is to get something painted each and every day. And this can be oh so hard!! One thing that helps me make this daily practice happen is having a sketchbook of thumbnails.
Why is this useful?
Because a lot of the hard work has already been done!
Imagine. You get to your studio ready to paint but first, ack!, you need to decide what to paint. If you’re painting from photos, you need to choose a photo. Then you need to select what part of the photo to use. Then you need to simplify…and create a good composition and also determine a strong value pattern. You have to figure out what format to use. So much to do before you actually put pastel to paper!
And that’s where a sketchbook of thumbnails comes in. The work’s already done! Here’s a sheet of thumbnails – all except one was used to paint from last year.
Each day of the Challenge (and this is true of any day I’m in my studio to paint something representational), I just flipped through my sketchbook and chose a thumbnail that jumped out at me. Then it was a matter of grabbing some paper and sketching up the piece. And yes! then it was time to jump into pastels. (The sketching-up-on-paper process could always be done the day before. It doesn’t require creativity so doing it at the end of the day works well. The next morning, you can jump straight into pastels. Whoot whoot!)
If you’re painting from life, eg from a still-life set up, you need to do the same things in preparation to apply pastel. It’s trickier to create a sketchbook of thumbnails already completed though, so this idea works best when using photos.
Many of the thumbnails I worked from in this year’s Challenge were created last year.
Here’s an example. Most of the thumbnails on the page below were used for the 2020 Challenge. There are two that weren’t used. In 2022, I selected one of two unused thumbnails to paint from.
Here’s another example. Thumbnails done and painted from last year, one thumbnail used this year, and one possibility remaining.
So When To Do The Thumbnails?
Whenever you don’t have time to do a full-blown piece!
- When you’re feeling under the weather, maybe a bit sniffly, and don’t feel like getting caught up in dust or materials
- When you don’t have a lot of time to dig in
- When you feel you want to do something but you have only a small amount of energy.
These are all great opportunities to get a thumbnail done!
It’s amazing how good you can feel after doing even one thumbnail. This IS progress! This IS showing up to do the work. And yes, thumbnails do take effort. They are work! This is why it’s such a treat to flip through a sketchbook of thumbnails already done and just pick one!
Here’s another example. This is an assorted example of thumbnails – architecture and gallery goers. I chose the Tuscan town scene to paint. It was a nice change from the figurative work midway through the Challenge.
I like working on a series. I’ve been doing Dog Walkers and Gallery Goers for a couple of years now and they are still going strong. Working on a single theme (eg Gallery Goers) helps me know what to get to work on when I have time to do thumbnails. And since I enjoy painting these subjects, the more thumbnails I have in inventory, the better!
Here’s a page with a number of Gallery Goers. You’ll also see there are two thumbnails at the top (from a kitchen in Costa Rica) that are still available to paint from. (Can’t wait to start that new series!)
I also created new thumbnails over the course of the 2022 Challenge but didn’t use all of them so there’ll be there to work from whenever I’m ready.
You can see an example of that here – the three lower thumbnails are still to be painted – yay!! I get excited when I look at them and imagine the possibilities!
So whenever I’m short of time, or when I just don’t feel like painting, I get out my photos and have fun scrolling through. I pick an image and then get to work on a thumbnail or two in my sketchbook. It’s such a relief to have thumbnails ready to go!
Do you have a sketchbook of thumbnails? Do let me know. And if not then have you been inspired? I’d LOVE to know so be sure to leave a comment!
Until next time,
PS. You can see all my work from this year’s 31-in-31 Challenge HERE.
PPS. This is a great little notebook to have on hand. It comes with blank pages and a page marker. And it comes in a lot of colours!!