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  • Colette Pitcher

Plan with Thumbnails

Want to make better paintings? Plan. You have heard if you fail to plan, you plan to fail? Well, same deal here. Thumbnail drawings are the answer. Thumbnails are small compositions usually in pencil. These drawings are miniature ways to work out your ideas on paper before going to all the work of a finished painting only to discover a composition flaw. Here's a quick guide to making thumbnails work for you:

- start with black and white drawings using pencil or


- keep drawings small (like a thumb nail) 3" maximum either


- no details

- simplify areas into flat shapes

- design 3 values of shapes: light, mid-range, dark

Here are two black and white thumbnails and two sketchbook color studies. Usually these studies are for the artist's eyes only. You are making a road map to help you get to your destination: a well developed painting with contrast and pleasing composition.

Thumbnail plan for construction work.

Here is a really rough thumbnail that let me plan where to put construction workers that I was viewing working on 8th Avenue in front of the Showcase Art Center. First I worked on placement of the people which would be the center of interest. Then I worked on the triad of bright orange cones and safety gear that I thought would lead the eye around the painting. I played with placement of lights and darks. When that was done, I was ready to try it in color. My goal was to keep it loose and juicy. This is a page from my sketchbook. Simplifying detail was a goal. I liked it so much that I don't think I want to make it big. Do you think it warrants a full sheet?

Color plan for landscape.
Thumbnail for landscape.

The landscape was done in a class with Iain Stewart. What a

wonderful workshop! By the way, Iain is returning to do another

workshop July 2017 at the Showcase in Greeley, CO. It will be

3 days. Details TBA later. It sold out fast last year. Let me know

if you want to be on the list.

For some reason these two did not want to line up in the blog.

The thumbnail is to the right and the color sketch is above in

the beginning text.

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