As I get this week’s painting underway, I thought I’d mention the humble thumbnail sketch.  After setting up the model, it’s usually the very first piece of active work on the path to the final painting.

The thumbnail is just a small, rough drawing that I use to establish the composition.  It’s only purpose is to help me determine how objects sit within the picture frame and rough proportions.  Problems with the composition become more and more time consuming to fix as the painting progresses.  Nailing down the major compositional features in the thumbnail helps ensure I don’t have to spend valuable time fixing problems later on.

Sometimes, I will use a viewfinder to help me, especially when I know there will be tight cropping of the image, as with this painting.  My viewfinder is a very simple tool; just a piece of card stock with a square hole cut in the center.  Another piece of card stock can be taped over part of the opening to get a hole that’s the same proportion as the surface I’ll be painting on.  The video above shows how I use these tools.

Once the composition is worked out on the thumbnail, I can easily transfer the drawing to the panel or canvas on my easel:

With the drawing in place, I’m ready to begin the first phase of painting tomorrow.