Friday, July 23, 2021

When Does a Thumbnail Become a Sketch?


7/19/21 Ballard neighborhood

Enjoying a lovely sketching lunch with Natalie and Ching, the conversation turned to thumbnails, and I was asked how I approach them. Just beyond Ching’s shoulder and the boundaries of Red Arrow Coffee’s patio, I could see a street view: a few houses, cars, trash cans, utility lines, trees. Rather than explain, I thought I would make a thumbnail of the view, then talk about how I made it afterwards. My intention was to make a simple visual notation – a possible composition and values – which is my definition of a thumbnail.

We all got to chatting, and somewhere within the few minutes it took to draw this (at right), I forgot that it was supposed to be a thumbnail, and it turned into a sketch. So my attempted demo didn’t work.

7/19/21 thumbnail in Maple Leaf
Earlier on that same day, however, during our neighborhood walk, I had noticed that some new construction (three houses jammed into the space where two used to be) was at the point where I could see enough to sketch from the alley across the street. I wanted to come back another day to do a full sketch, but at that moment I took only a minute to make a thumbnail – a notation so that I would recall later what I was thinking about. This one really is nothing more than a thumbnail (at left).

What’s the difference? Visually, probably not much – they’re both fairly sparse, and neither took much time. In my mind, however, the top one has nothing left to think about – all the fun is done – so it’s a completed sketch. The one at left shows that the buildings are in full light, so it’s going to take some work to indicate their form. I still have some fun left.  

Below is Natalie’s beautiful pickled egg. I rarely sketch my own food because I’m too busy eating it, but I have no problem sketching other people’s food, especially when it’s bright pink. All the fun is done, and it was definitely fun.

7/19/21 Natalie's pickled egg at Red Arrow Coffee

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