Thumbnail Sketching – Play Before You Plan!

Getting On The Adelita at Sedgwick Bay - Thumbnail sketch ©2012 Janice Tanton.
Getting On The Adelita at Sedgwick Bay – Thumbnail sketch ©2012 Janice Tanton.

Anything good should have a plan. Sure, there can be some spontaneity in the creativity process. In fact, my own process relies on that. However, when you’re faced with high material costs, time investment and a project deadline for work, like any good business (or government)….you need to have an exploratory phase and prototyping period to work out the kinks, see what is possible and what might need more exploration. From there, you can prioritize after you’ve explored all the options, and head to a second full sketching phase to work out composition, value and flow.

Thumbnail Sketches 3 - Janice Tanton, Gwaii Haanas National ParkAs an artist, I use the thumbnail process to start. When I came back from Gwaii Haanas National Park in June, my head was filled with so many images, experiences and thoughts that I needed some time to sort through them before picking up a paintbrush. I’m still going through that, with over 5000 photographs, a full sketchbook, sound files and video. One of the things I’m starting to do now is to thumbnail sketch out in “storyboard” form, my trip through the park itself which took 5 days. I’m looking at every photograph, recalling the experience and picking a few moments that interest me. One of the greatest tools any artist can use is the thumbnail to do this, and it’s a great tool that I learned way back in my college days as a graphic designer.

Thumbnail Sketches 4 - Janice Tanton, Gwaii Haanas National ParkI’ve also had to pull back on the painting a bit, after aggravating repetitive strain injuries in my painting arm. So….what better way to rest and reflect than to work small, in a sketchbook and kick back with the family over the holiday!

Here are my sketchbook thumbnails for Gwaii Haanas National Park. These reflect the first day and a half, so there are still quite a few yet to come. Working 9 to a page on an 11×14 sketchpad gives me a nice size to comp up the thumbnail, and a large enough section of nine on each page to get the flavour of the work and the place storyboarded. Now, I can look at my thumbnails and get that same feeling of being there that a photograph just can’t give. It also gives you a chance to have a good look from an artist’s point of view, at the value and recall the scene in order to produce a more lifelike rendition of the  experience.

I’d say there is enough here for me to paint for the rest of my lifetime and another.

How do you plan your creativity?

Thumbnail Sketches - 1

Thumbnail Sketches 2 - Janice Tanton, Gwaii Haanas National Park

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