Thumbnails: Practice, Practice, Practice

Every art book and art teacher tells you to do thumbnail sketches, value studies and color sketches before starting any painting. But, how many of us actually do it? Not me! Not every time!

After years of ignoring this advice, a fantastic art teacher (Larry Casso of the Baton Rouge Fine Art Academy) finally drilled this into my thick brain. He made me do thumbnails and a complete value study before starting to paint. And you know what? The painting was one of my best pieces and sold as soon as I posted it on Facebook! The advice works.

Do I do thumbnails every time? Of course not. I don’t know if it is because I get lazy, I am in a hurry to paint, or I am just that darn stubborn. But, if I am starting a painting for a show or commission I do thumbnails. I do many ¬†sketches to work out my composition. If the subject matter is something I am not familiar with, I do lots of sketches until I am comfortable with the subject. I may (or not) do a complete drawing with shading and values. Next, I might do a quick watercolor to work out colors if the final is in oils. Heck, I have been known to paint the same subject several times because even after all of my “planning” I still find things I don’t like, or I think I can improve.

To me, it is the process of practice that I enjoy so I am not always inclined to plan. I am kind of a “fly-by-the-seat of my pants” girl. So, I tell myself “I don’t need to do thumbnails, I will just paint and repaint if I don’t like it.” When I do, the results are just so-so. But, when I break down and discipline myself to follow the process of the experts the result is great.

I guess these artist/authors/teachers are on to something. Try it on your next project. It really works!