Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thumbnails & Studio Habits

My new article is now out in Pastel Journal! This article extols the benefits of thumbnail sketches. I'm totally in love with them! I do them all the time; in my studio, on the couch at night, in an airplane or at the airport when I'm traveling. You can pour all your ideas out in a sketchbook. It is so cathartic! I love it when I've filled a page. It shows many variations of an idea quickly. I can easily see the best solution at a quick glance of the page. Besides, they are beautiful when I've filled a page. I feel so accomplished to have done it. It's just like a great workout at the gym; like I've broken a great sweat!!

Honestly, I treasure my sketchbook more than my finished pieces, which is very funny, since by themselves each thumbnail is not precious at all. It's the collection over time that makes a sketchbook precious. They are as much journals as they are working tools. I've scanned my sketchbooks into my computer because I'm paranoid about loosing one. I travel with them and would absolutely HATE to loose one. My husband who is a fine draftsman/artist lost a sketchbook filled with urban scenes done with watercolor and ink. We both still ache a bit over that loss occasionally. If you find it, please send it along!! Note to self; put address in all sketchbooks.

Sketchbooks, viewfinders, value scale!

Thumbnails in ballpoint

I love to do paintings from a  tiny black and white thumbnail and put aside any other reference that might have contributed initially. This mode of working gives me an incredible amount of freedom with just enough of a structure to get me going. As I said in the article, I've built a playground for myself by doing a thumbnail. I don't work this way all the time, but opening the sketchbook and choosing a thumbnail and going for it is pretty liberating.

I rely on a thumbnail and often a color study when I'm painting plein aire. I really think it's pretty overwhelming to paint outdoors and so easy to get outside oneself, literally. I need the thumbnail to help me with my drawing and the scale of the elements. Besides, I love to tape the thumbnail into my sketchbook and make a little notation about my experience painting that day. Back again to the journal aspect!

I'm totally hooked on using a ballpoint pen to do my thumbnails. A ballpoint can get really, really dark. Darker than any pencil lead. And you can achieve the whole value scale by varying the pressure you use. The most wonderful thing is that you can always find one anywhere you go! I do prefer the black ones over the blue ones, though.

Check out the article when you have a chance. Here is a link to the Pastel Journal site. It has some  examples in addition to what appears in the article. Nice!

I'm posting some thumbnail/minis on my website and ebay store over the next couple of months while the article is out. I usually keep most of these for reference and just because I like them in my studio, but I thought it would be fun to share.... Check them out. I'll have them up within a day or two.


Carolyn said...

Thanks to the tip about putting your address in your sketchbook, as I am getting quite attached to mine too!

loriann said...

Excellent post Marla! I also loved the sneak peak into your sketch book.

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

I totally agree with you, my sketchbooks are one of the most important things to me. They are full of the promise of work to come. I really enjoyed looking at your pages. Can we see some more?

Sonya Johnson said...

Wonderful! I always love seeing pages from artist's sketchbooks, including thumbnails. I can see why these journals are so treasured; they must be a delight to look through!

Julie Greig NZ Painter said...

It's a great article Marla, I've been teaching a class this past week, and of course I showed them the article as the Pastle Journal had just arrived in the mail - and of course you totally backed up everything I'd been teaching them all week. Although I could be doing a lot more thumbnails too! And I will, after I've written my name adn address in my sketchbook! I just love your thumbnails, by the way!

njart73 said...

I have found that keeping a sketchbook is a wonderful habit. I began to work in small spiral bound 5 x8 sketchbooks since 1991. I was working a retail job and that was a way to keep my sanity by sketching landscapes from memory while on my lunch break. I also lost a sketchbook a number of years ago. This was from one of my trips that I used to take to Vermont. I have always "safeguarded" my sketchbooks but after losing that one I really stepped up my vigilance. I wonder how many artists do end up losing at least one sketchbook over the years? Although I am up to number 52 on these small sketchbooks I actually have 51. I also have a number of 9x 12 Strathmore 300 charcoal pads that I use to sketch outdoors. I just purchased a Sketch Folio from ASW that can hold a 9 x12 spiral bound sketch book and supplies. I think that is the perfect size to take to museums as well as for field work. I recommend the Sketch Folio and I can see that it will be very useful. For the past few days I have been looking through my sketchbooks from 1998 to present & amazes me how many ideas for future paintings are on those pages. It is interesting to look over my notes but unfortunately sometimes I cannot read some of my own handwriting! I enjoy your sketchbooks and pastel paintings . I look forward to receiving your latest paintings in my in box.

Caroline said...

Beautiful sketches I especially love the abstract painting sketches just wonderful.