I was looking at Pinterest the other day and saw a Pin about thumbnail drawings and realized I totally forgot about doing them. Thumbnails are basically just small, quick drawings to test out different compositions. In my previous post I mentioned that I let myself get locked into a problematic composition. Well If I had done thumbnails first, I could have avoided that. I’m going to talk a little about a couple of thumbnail sketches in this post, and also some technical stuff.

I’m going to just talk about these in the order I drew them in. Each picture has two images, the left one being the first one I drew of that set. Like I mentioned in my previous post these are painted digitally in a free program called MyPaint.

I wanted to start out just working in black and white, and not let myself get distracted, or confused by adding color into the mix. So for all of these drawings I started with a middle gray canvas, and worked on top with more or less just pure black and pure white. After doing the left drawing, I felt like I was having a lot of trouble, but luckily these are just thumbnails; I didn’t have to invest a ton of time on the drawing to realize that, so I could just move on to try something different.

Before starting the right drawing, I took a look back through the paintings in my previous post looking at colors, and I noticed something. Most of the paintings had some sort of “visual path” at the bottom of the composition, that led my eye through it. Or another way I thought about it was that if I imagined myself walking into the painting, I could picture myself entering in at the bottom of the canvas and walking through this path. Hopefully that makes some sort of sense, I realize it isn’t a very technical description of composition, but I encourage you to try looking at those paintings in that way too and see if you can picture how you would walk through them. So when I started this drawing on the right, I tried to approach it with this in mind. I tried to draw the lower right portion of the drawing as sort of a path way I could picture myself moving through. I feel like instantly drawing these made a lot more sense. Admittedly though, the composition is a little less dynamic than it could be.

In the left drawing, I was conscious of trying to make the composition a lot more dramatic than the previous one. I also noticed that a lot of the paintings I looked at in my color study post had fairly high horizon lines, which I think accomplishes two things. First, and most obviously, it gives more room to show things like the waves which may be more dynamic and interesting than the sky, but it can also suggest a more elevated angle of the viewer. Perhaps it makes it feel more like you could fall into the painting; like you’re closer to the action. Once again I imagined how one might walk through the painting, giving something of a walk way in the lower left corner that one would enter through and ultimately meet up with the wave. Theres also an S curve or something like a sin wave that goes through the middle of the painting horizontally, I thought this would make it more dynamic. I was aware of letting the rock form in the upper left go off the canvas as well. It can help to have things in the painting extend off the canvas because it suggests that there is a world beyond the canvas, which I think helps you step inside of it.

The painting on the right, I don’t have much to say about. I approached it in basically the same way, just trying to explore different com positional options. This time I wanted to try letting the water come all the way into the foreground. Which maybe cuts off that “imaginary path” that I’ve been talking about a little. The horizon line is also lower than the left painting and I feel that its a little less dynamic.

This is the last set of thumbnails I’m going to talk about in this post. In the left drawing I approached it slightly differently. Where as in all the previous drawings I would start out by drawing the rocks and then the water, with this one I started with the water. I wanted to draw a path with the water, moving forward from where the wave crashes, into the foreground of the drawing. I also wanted to create a strong sense of movement diagonally upward, so you can see that all the rocks and even the foam where the wave is crashing form a diagonal line through the painting. Of course a diagonal line creates more movement in a composition that a horizontal one; just imagine putting a ball on that line, it would roll off, but it would stay still on a flat horizontal. For this reason I think it can be helpful, if you want to achieve a more dynamic composition, to obstruct the horizon line in a landscape. So here I drew the waves at the top of the painting as curves. You can imagine the horizon line lies lower, but the waves obstruct it. I also wanted to have a line in the painting that contradicts the movement of that strong diagonal through the center, so I attempted to do so with the top of the wave. Ultimately though I notice that the path of water flowing into the foreground moves forward with a lot less “push” or “thrust” than I might suspect based on the wave crashing behind it. Luckily since this was only a thumbnail, if I wanted to develop this composition further I could just do another thumbnail and try to correct for that.

The last drawing, on the right, I wanted to try to push the movement of the composition more than in the previous ones. I also let myself be a little more loose. One thing I realized was that doing these sketches zoomed in, to where they would fill my screen, made me focus more on rendering. Zooming out helped me focus more on the big picture. When you’re doing any sort of painting I think its a good idea to step back from time to time to see the big picture, especially at the beginning when that should be the primary focus. I tried to create a path where the viewer would enter in on the wave and sort of zigzag through the crashing water.

I also took a few in progress shots of two of these thumbnails, and wanted to talk a little bit about how I actually think about drawing and rendering the forms in space, but sense this post is already kind of long, I’m going to save it for the next post. After that I plan on looking at one or two of these again but exploring adding color to the thumbnails. I hope you find the idea of using thumbnails useful, and thanks for reading.

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