Improving the planning process – Part 1

One thing I noticed myself doing is reading and researching art, methods, schools of thought and articles that have wonderful advice.  Over the years I have probably read more art theory than I want to admit.  What is lacking currently is practical application.  For the year of 2013, I have resolved to apply a handful of these theories to practice.  As I focus on an article, I will be sure to blog about my experience, good or bad.

My current obsession is composition and planning a painting.  Up to this point, I have put only a small amount of thought into my composition study because I have been much more focused on the techniques of art, rather than the finished product.  I would like that to improve in the year 2013.  While I will always try to improve on accuracy, I want to begin to understand the processes of completed picture making.

Before I continue, I have a confession to make.  I have an online art crush on the guys that blog at Muddy Colors.  You can expect to see me mention them a few times in the near future.  They are not only fantastic illustrators over there, their posts give the reader a sense of approachability while maintaining an absolute professional standard.  The most important reason I have an art crush on them is the plethora of information they put out on a weekly basis.  They have a ton of stuff about planning a picture.

As a rule, Illustrators really know their stuff about composition.  Is that a biased opinion?  Why, yes it is.  Why do I say that?  Because by the very nature of their job, they must tell a story visually.  Visual story telling is the essence of good composition.  Most illustrators are not trying to break art rules.  They use them like tools.  Fortunately for me, they also like to group up and share their wisdom.

Gregory Manchess likes to do “10 Things..” posts.  One post in particular is called “10 things about planning pictures”  It is definitely worth the read.  If you already know these things, it is worth a reminder.  I am currently working with the first step, which is starting small.

Start small. 
Thumbnails. Learn to draw them. Learn to use them. Learn to love them. What you design small will always blow up proportionately. Starting out large will not always work. Use the small size of thumbnails to structure your painting quickly, expediently. You can cover greater ground in a small size. Thumbs will teach you how to draw better, and how to design better.

Don’t think they will? You’ll discover the contrary all too quickly, while others speed beyond you.

I have heard this countless times before, but could never resist the urge to just dive in and start drawing.  After it was all done, I would catch myself wishing I had done a little more planning when it was far too late.

So I have done some thumbnails:


This one in particular is just getting down some important thoughts and ideas.  For example, I really want the arms to be at a 7 o’clock on the angel for symbolic reasons.  I really need her to be above the picture plane to show she is part of both worlds.  Does she really need to be female?


While I don’t expect this to make any sense to anyone but me, I have made a few thumbnail sketches with ideas for this that have been going on in my head.  This is for a medieval style art piece, so I am trying to make things disproportionate and a bit wonky, but still readable and understandable.  The most important thing is that I am trying out things that I probably would never have thought of if I had not made myself do a few thumbnail sketches.  I want to have no less than 15 of these before I am done so that I know I have exhausted my creativity.  The smaller I make these, the more they seem to work.  I have read that sometimes it is more, not less, limitations one uses the better the creative boost.  It seems to be working in this case.

In part two, I will introduce you to similar articles concerning project I am working on.  I truly want to make 2013 the year I break some of my own personal barriers.

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