Thumbnail sketches – why do them?

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This is one of my favorite things to do before a painting: A small 2″by 3″ graphite sketch.

There are many advantages to this: It’s low risk, it’s quick and dirty. Above all, it gives me almost instant feedback if the masses, shapes and values work. Do they relate to each other? What about lines? Since it is a very small sketch, it can easily be altered, erased and redone without major time invested.

I find that if my little sketch looks good, the final painting will have a better success rate. Maybe it’s because it boosts my confidence in a subtle way.

The sketch can also have another nice effect: it can tell you if it just isn’t worth painting! At least you have found out in the early stages..time to move on change your approach!

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4 thoughts on “Thumbnail sketches – why do them?

  1. Cheri Isgreen

    Absolutely; I totally agree. For my work, I find a value sketch, (which I call a map) to be invaluable. Thumbnails are especially helpful in plein aire painting.

  2. lesliepaints

    I just started getting the knack of doing these. Always, before, I spent too much time putting in things that were not important and worrying about size and perspective. I’ve done two in the last month and used them, even while working the painting. I limited them to value only and that made all the difference.Good post. I think thumbnail sketches take time to learn.

    1. frankeber Post author

      that’s so true, Leslie – I used to do the same thing: put too much into them and they started to look like real drawings! Not their purpose at all..thanks as always, Leslie!

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