Thumbnail sketches

Today I share some thumbnail sketches (small compositional studies) for a couple of large format drawings I am currently working on.Thumbnails are not meant to be detailed. For two-dimensional work, it is very important to emphasize the borders of the drawing and make sure its proportions are consistent with the proportions of the final piece. It is common for beginners to focus more on the subjects of a drawing or design than the placement of the shapes as they relate to the picture plane (border). This results in thumbnails with little regard for shape, proportions and unity of the over all design.

As you can see below, the figures in the sketches are simplified. What matters here is the placement of the shapes and the values. Many artists do the line thumbnails first and then add value or color.

In these compositional studies,  I was interested in exploring the impact of considered geometry in the design. I set out to explore the golden rectangle (a classical format for many art-forms throughout history) and to play with points of emphasis within it. I haven’t done many drawings or paintings using this format and am finding this process very interesting. Below you can see how the harmonious divisions of the golden section rectangle have influenced my decisions regarding the intended points of emphasis in the composition.

The thumbnail sketch on the left shows a higher value contrast around the head and shoulders of the left figure (my dad). The placement of the head and shoulders happens to be in a pleasing area of the golden rectangle, which makes this an ideal area for a focal point. In the final drawing, my intention is to have an accent (a smaller area of emphasis) around the lower part of the therapists’ legs (the figure to the right).

On the top right thumbnail sketch, I explored a different division of the golden rectangle and tried to place key parts of the figures in various points of intersections. I placed the shapes of the figure so they loosely echoed  some of the angles that result from this particular division of the rectangle. On the bottom right, you can see a third diagram showing my intended focal points and accents on the final piece. The two heads to the left will be the main area of emphasis, the head and feet of the figure to the right will be accents. I will develop more contrast of value and denser marks in those areas. Although this is the plan upfront, more often than not a drawing evolves differently than the initial plan and it’s important to remain responsive through its development.

I am currently working on some step by step construction sequences to show how these divisions of the rectangle emerged, so look out for a post addressing that in the near future. I used the book “Geometry of Design” by Kimberly Elam as reference. This book brings many diagrams of harmonious geometric shapes and examples of how these have been used in art and design throughout history and I recommend it highly for artists, designers and art enthusiasts.

Not all artists and designers use these armatures to design their work, but many do. The concept of the Golden rectangle is introduced in many fundamental art and design classes and exploring it can be beneficial, for designing or analyzing art-work. Here is a nice link that introduces this concept Personally this is the first time I set out to create drawings designed around the golden rectangle beyond a class exercise and I am enjoying the influence the underlying grid is having on my designs.