Tip #132

Using Thumbnail Sketches - Part Two

As promised, a wee bit more on using thumbnail sketches!

Of course they are useful (and quick, and paper-saving), when you’re planning just what you want to do. Whether you’re working in your journal, planning a more formal painting, or even doing a mural size work, some small, very quick studies can firm up your thinking and save you time. Last time we mentioned choosing a format – horizontal or vertical, etc. – planning a composition, and working fast. (See Art Tip #131)

Personally, I don’t like to plan TOO much ahead, doing numerous detailed studies; it kills the spontaneity for me – so thumbnail sketches are just right.


This kind of small, quick sketch is really useful when you’re traveling, too. You may not have a lot of time as you zip through in a car or train (or in a plane! I’ve often sketched from plane windows...) You may be traveling with others who prefer to shop, golf, surf, fish, rock climb, hang glide, visit galleries – so you may feel rushed and perhaps even frustrated. Well, how long does a thumbnail sketch take?

You’ll be surprised at how they can call up the memories of a time and place, with a few well-placed lines.

Helps you decide what you want to focus on for a larger work, too!


What colors do you want to use for your finished work? Sometimes working on the spot tempts us to try to exactly reproduce what we see--and we may overwork it, trying too hard. A quick color sketch or two, capturing different moods or themes, can really help in the long run. Try out a few options!

And of course sometimes all you have time for is a tiny color sketch...the middle one was from memory at a stop light, the bottom was a fleeting sunset. Working small IS faster...

As you saw last time, our friend Steve Penberthy sometimes does a few thumbnail sketches right in the margin of his field sketch...it’s handy and a really nice graphic effect. See more of his work here.

I’d love to have you visit my newly re-born artist's blog, my Etsy store where I’ll be offering some of the demos from my classes, my catalog where you can find instructional CDs and downloads for artists, or drop by for a visit on Facebook! Check out my YouTube videos for lots more art tutorials.

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Testing Your Paints

Punching Sky Holes
Look Sharp!
• Watercolor Pencil Tip
• Studio Space
• Spatter!
• Fan Brushes
• Masking Tricks
• There are no mistakes!
• Texturing Your Painting Surface
• Drawing for Fun and Practice
• Utilizing Negative Spaces
• Working with Your Wildlife Sketches
Painting Fur with Watercolor Pencils
Capturing the Effect of Distance and Depth
Feature Focus - Painting Eyes
Painting Wood Textures in Watercolor
Capturing Excitement and Drama
Techniques for Painting Foliage in Watercolor
Simple Buildings in Landscape
Finding Beauty Wherever You Are
Painting Rocks in Watercolor
Tricks and Techniques
The Why of Self Portraits
Bravura, Brushwork, Round Brushes
Putting People in your Paintings!
Focus on Animals
Paying Attention to Details
Painting Horses in Acrylic
Utilizing Negative Shapes
Catching the Sense of the Surf
Step by step painting of the ocean
Animals in Landscape
Making Time for Art
Feature Focus - Lips
Sky Effects
Some helpful books -- an artist's bibliography
Using Personal Symbols in Art
Keeping a Sketch Journal
Working on Toned Paper
The Healing Value of Art
Painting for a Cause
Found Art Supplies
The Value of Thumbnails
Working in Weather
Keeping a Journal of a Special Trip
Watercolor Painting -- with a palatte knife!
Shadows -- where and how to use them
MORE Making Time For Art
Fantasy and Myth
Field Sketching and keeping a nature journal
Color and Value
Sketching with Colored Pencil
Zeroing in on Details to Appreciate Nature
Creating a Sense of Scale in Your Art
Wildflowers & Weeds
Drawing and Painting our Canine Friends
A Few Tips on Linear Perspective
Differences in Perspective -- Aerial and Linear
More on Painting Man's Best Friend -- and Woman's!
Watercolor Pencil Revisited -- What's New!
Feature Focus -- The Nose Knows...
On The Nose - Again!
Exploring your watercolor pigments
More exploring your pigments
Painting with Gouache
Accentuate the Negative??
Found Art Supplies
Finding Beauty Wherever You Are
The Humble Sponge
Capturing Light in Landscape
Using Liquid Mask
Graphite Techniques
Feature Focus - Hands
Painting Cats
Cats II
Working with Colored Pencils on Toned Paper
Painting with Acrylics
More Found Art Supplies
Travel Sketching
More On Travel Sketching
Ink & Wash Techniques
Pigment, Paint and Color
Online artist groups
Sketching on the spot in cold weather
MORE found art supplies
Keeping an Art Blog
Keeping an Art Blog - An Interview with Katherine Tyrrell
Keeping an Art Blog - Gabi Campanario on Starting a Successful Group Blog
Keeping an Art Blog - Alyson Stanfield on Blogging for Artists
Make your own tiny travel watercolor kit
Painting on the Spot!
Learning from Nature
Who says you can't fix a watercolor?
Three of my favorite watercolor books!
Artist Trade Cards and ACEOs
Exploring the basics -- round brushes
More Brush Basics - Flats
Putting People in your Paintings -- again!
Still MORE Found Art Supplies!
Focus on Food
Restoring a favorite old paintbox
Use String with Watercolors
Quick Sketching Techniques
MORE on quick sketching
Painting Flowers
Organizing a Sketchcrawl
Unusual Tools
A Review of Waterbrushes
Playing With Yupo
Painting Moving Water, Part 1
Painting Moving Water, Part 2
Painting Still Water, Part 1
Painting Still Water, Part 2
A Place of Your Own
A Studio Alternative
Studio in a Backpack
Studying Nature through Art
Pen and Ink
Ink and Wash
Working on Toned Paper
Quick Sketching Techniques
Watercolor Pencils and Crayons
Ink Pen Comparisons
Exploring Your Artistic Roots with Dip Pens
Unusual (Found) Drawing Tools
Watercolor Crayon Play
Back to Basics -- Graphite Pencils
Using a Limited Palette
STOP - Quit While You're Ahead!
Using Opaque White
Using Thumbnail Sketches - Part One

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