Having just taught a couple of weekend workshops I was asked by a number of participants about how I begin my process or as I like to call it "my point of departure". When beginning a new work I may occasionally have a very specific idea that is burning in my mind and it is really just about putting that down on canvas. Most often I will have a general idea and I need a method of clarifying the idea, beginning and discarding until I can distill the noise down into a simple design or scene.
There are tools and techniques I can utilize and one I will suggest here is thumbnail sketches . These are usually no more than two inches square rendered in less than a minute. Think of them as mini value studies, a way of getting the idea of where things will be placed and what things are most important. Here are some examples.
As you can see these are not precious, I am not invested in any of them, they are just a quick tool. I then can use these to draw up a larger and more committed picture. I should mention that these thumbnails are only roughly based on real scenes. I have taken parts that I like and edited out parts that don't help me to COMPOSE my picture. Art is never about replicating exactly whats in front of us. That is best left to illustration and documentation.
This is about 12X16". It gets to my main idea which is the scale of these clay banks and their proximity to our local farmlands. If you look closely you will see grid lines drawn. I will use these to transfer my composition onto a 36X48" canvas which is below.
I can now proceed with painting. The thumbnails are a great way to begin your process. Try it.