Drawing Thumbnails

Drawing Club activities: Today, after our Guest Speaker, we practiced Blind contour and negative space drawing.

We had a guest speaker. Our very own Tom Lenon. Today’s topic: Thumbnailing. (A lot of this post is Tom’s instruction paraphrased… all the witticisms are his.)

Tom lamented that thumbnailing is a technique being lost because of technology. He explained that thumbnailing is a quick way to get concepts down on paper. Making them efficiently comes with practice, drawing a lot, being able to almost intuitively draw the human figure and capture facial expressions.

Materials needed: 

Tracing Pad and soft pencils, like B or softer. HB is okay.

How to do a thumbnail:

Step 1. Prepare your proportionate sketch box. Work in the correct context. (If you are thumbnailing a page-sized advertisement, make sure the proportions are correct. ) For your thumbnail to be efficient,  make sure it is no larger than half the size of your final. (Thumbnailing is not about being bogged down with the details.)

Step 2. Indicate where the shadows are. We are working with a pencil here. It’s about applying dark on light, so getting a gist of something with a pencil means that shadows, dark areas should be drawn.

Step 3. Many of your projects will require a layout including type. Draw your type. Don’t let your handwriting represent the type you are interested in executing. Is it serif, sans-serif? All caps, lowercase, small caps? You do not need to perfectly render type on your thumbnail, but make your thumbnail informative.

Step 4. Do another one. Thumbnails come in large groups. If your boss, teacher or client say that they don’t know how many thumbnails they want, do at least ten. More is better. It shows you have ideas. Do each one on a separate sheet. They are separate ideas after all. Waste paper. It’s okay.

Do not

Do not trace. It’s a terrible idea. It’s a crutch, a drug you shouldn’t take. Tracing is something that you should do to your own work to tweak it after having drawn it out in the first place. You need to take every opportunity to draw, make decisions. Each drawing is an analysis, deciding what’s important enough to include.

Do not use mechanical pencils. Your medium inspires your work. Drawing with a mechanical pencil makes the user draw delicate conservative lines. Drawing thumbnails is about being quick and messy if it gets the job done. Mechanical pencils are not made for sketching, they are made to draw eyelashes on gnat’s eyeballs.

Do not use pens. For the same reason as mechanical pencils, mostly, but also that pens are for finishing work.


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