Tip #131

Using Thumbnail Sketches - Part One

Most artists have heard of thumbnail sketches but weren’t sure just what they were or if it was worth it to take the extra time to make them.


Of course a lot depends on what you’re doing in the first place. If you’re just quick-sketching, you probably won’t bother. But if you’re painting plein aire or doing a studio painting you may just find this is time well spent!

Natch, we’re not actually drawing our thumbnails – that’s just a term to suggest relative size. A thumbnail sketch may be as large as 3-4"–it’s up to you. Generally, they’re fairly quick and simple, as well, since there’s not much room for detail. They’re just a planning tool, for most.

Do I always do them? No. Do I find them useful when I do? OH yes! And here are some of the reasons why...

131-1 - fast!



Remember, a tiny sketch can be a very fast sketch as well. These, from my Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature (sadly, out of print), were done from the car window as my husband drove by the landscape. Still, there’s enough there to let me develop the idea further if I choose.


131-2 - format

Can’t decide whether to do a vertical or horizontal? A few quick thumbnails can help you make that decision for maximum impact! What caught your eye? What expresses the mood ? Spend 30 seconds or less trying these out! (This one’s from the Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature.)

131-3 - composition

Composition can be a dilemma as well, and one fairly easily solved with a quick thumbnail sketch. The larger rectangles below show the Golden Mean or Golden Thirds; often, the center of interest is most pleasing NOT in the center but at one of these points.


131-4 - planning



My friend Steve Penberthy often uses thumbnails to plan his paintings–composition, detail, format and all! (From Artist’s Journal Workshop.) Don’t miss Steve’s work for lots more inspiration!


Next time we’ll cover more on planning, travel sketching with thumbnails and working with color!

I’d love to have you visit my 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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Using Thumbnail Sketches -
Part Two



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

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