Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Vision Thumbnail Sketch

You've heard of a thumbnail sketch. It's a rough value study, usually done in pencil on a small scrap of paper, in an effort to work out design issues before you put brush to canvas. There's also the color thumbnail sketch, which allows you to work out your color scheme. The idea is to keep your artistic feet from wandering when you start to work on the real thing.

"The Persistence of Sugar Maples"
6x8, oil, en plein air

There's a third kind I haven't run across before. It's the 'vision thumbnail.' I'm sure you've read that it helps if you can envision the finished painting before you begin to paint. I find this is so true. I have much more success if I can visualize, in detail, my destination.

On the bright side, wrong turns may create something truly remarkable. But these serendipitous paintings are rare, and you'll plow through a lot of paint to get them. And if you're painting outdoors and thus against the clock, such wrong turns will cost you precious time. (And to take the longer view, if you're a late-comer to art, you may not have much time left.)

With practice, you can develop the skill of quickly seeing where you want to go and the best route to it.

You can't put this 'vision thumbnail' down on paper with pencil, paint or pastel. It's something you have to work out in your head. But you'll want to have it so clear in your mind that it's almost as tangible as thumbnail sketch on paper.

I created the painting above with this in mind. I wanted to capture the shape and age of this tree, and I envisioned it pretty much as you see it here.

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