I've become addicted to online challenges. They keep me honest. I say I'm going to do something, like post a new Apple painting every day for thirty days, and I actually do it. Why?

Because You Are Watching.

That's it; it's that simple. If I don't post, you notice. Since letting people down hits about six dozen childhood hot buttons, I pull myself together at some point each day and climb the studio steps and get it done. Hey. It works for me. A daily post can get kind of old for the receivers after three or four challenges, though, so this is me taking a deep breath and committing to an ongoing, weekly blog. This month it's all about Thumbnails because--you guessed it--that's my current 30-day challenge. Some of my fellow Thursday Painters are joining me, and we're texting our results to each other. (Yup. To keep me honest.)

Thumbnails are those little 3- to 4-value studies that a lot of really great artists do of their next painting before their brush ever touches the canvas or, in my case, the paper. They are a phenomenal tool, helping you solve all kinds of problems ahead of time so your composition really sings. They take five to ten minutes. On top of that, the process can yield several absolutely excellent, exciting designs for the same subject if you care to take a bit more time. I dearly wish I could remember which Big Workshop Artist said it was her favorite part of the entire painting process.

So it's fast; it's exciting; it teaches you to see abstract shapes and use them well...and very few intermediate or advanced artists do them regularly. Including yours truly. Hence the challenge. Here are the "rules" I'm going by:

  • Mine are no larger than 4" on a side, and smaller is better, say 2" or 3". 
  • The goal is Not a value study.
  • The goal is to find and arrange the big, main shapes in my painting-to-be, so I'm only using three values: black, white, and medium gray.
  • Detail is death here. It will lure me onto the path called a value study, which only leads back to my comfortable, old habits. Habits teach me nothing.
  • If it's taking me longer than 10 minutes, it's becoming a value study. Stop that.

 I hope you give it a try. See you next Monday.

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