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.
Adriana Burgos, thumbnail for physiotherapy session #1
Adriana Burgos, value thumbnails for physiotherapy session # 2
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.
Adriana Burgos, thumbnail for “Physiotherapy # 1” with a harmonious division and of the golden rectangle
Adriana Burgos, thumbnail for “Physiotherapy # 2” with a harmonious division of the golden rectangle
Adriana Burgos, thumbnail for “Physiotherapy # 2” with a harmonious division and of the golden rectangle along with focal point accents
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 http://emptyeasel.com/2009/01/20/a-guide-to-the-golden-ratio-aka-golden-section-or-golden-mean-for-artists/. 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.
I don’t consider myself a landscape artist but when I go on camping trips with my family I love taking time out to draw nature from direct observation. These two studies are journal entries from my camping sketchbooks. The first is a watercolor sketch of the woods in Stone Mountain. I did this while sitting at our campsite looking out to other campers among the woods. I used my travel watercolor kit and chose to work with a limited palette of earth tones. Limited palettes in color drawings keep the composition unified and can be a fun challenge for the artist, since it requires a simplification of the observed space on many levels, shape, form and color. This was done during the fall, so there was a red brown and orange dominance in the space as the leaves were turning.
Adriana Burgos, Sketchbook entry , Stone Mountain Campground, Nov 2008
Adriana Burgos, Sketchbook entry, June 2015
The second image is a mixed media drawing done at Driftwood beach in Jekyll Island this summer. I chose to use copic markers (which can resemble water color at times), graphite and multiliner copic markers. The great thing about using markers is that they are immediate and easy to use on the go, no need for water containers and brushes or palettes. They are great for color studies and their transparent quality allows for subtle value and color effects. It is important however to consider the paper you are using. In this case I worked directly on my multimedia sketchbook instead of working on the marker paper. The porous quality of my sketchbook causes the markers to bleed through. I don’t mind it much since the sketchbooks are very personal in my case. Once again I explored a limited palette, in this case, focusing on warm against cool temperatures, which is a fun way of using minimal color in a drawing. I enjoyed the balance between large value and color blocks and fine linear buildup with graphite and multiliner pens.
Today I am sharing a series of studies for “The Encounter” one of my recent narrative pieces.
The first is the original graphite sketchbook study done a while back. I revisited the image last summer and developed it into a small silverpoint drawing. Before deciding on silverpoint, I explored several media options including subtractive charcoal, although it translated well to charcoal, the small format is not the ideal. This summer I plan to develop a large subtractive charcoal version.
The process of working with the same image in different mediums and sizes is not unusual for me. When it comes to working with complex multiple figure narratives, my preference is to work with the same image in a series of studies before committing the large final piece. This allows me to refine the composition and its correlation to form and content better as well as the way media and scale can affect the response of the viewer.
Sketchbook study, graphite on multimedia paper
“The Encounter”, Adriana Burgos, silverpoint on plike paper, 8″ x 10″, 2014