|The Yellow Umbrella, Galle Market, Sri Lanka|
You have various choices; we have discussed this before, I know, but it never hurts to go over things more than once, and this suggestion is slightly different.
"Thumbnail sketches"..........when I was teaching and I said these words,I often saw glum faces around the room. Some people did not seem to mind, but others just loathed the whole idea, they simply wanted, quite clearly, to GET ON with the painting, and doing a bit of initial drawing to get the subject onto the surface seemed quite enough to them.
Well -nobody can force you to do thumbnail sketches, I can only advise how useful they are, they make you think more about the subsequent image, and work a few things out in your mind.
Going back to my students..........what I would usually find is that most people would simply plot their image, using outlines only - into their sketchbook, within a rectangle they had drawn. But a line drawing gives you no idea at all about the overall tonal look of your painting-to-be. Which area will be dark, which will be light, and how these areas will balance each other and relate to each other. Where edges could be softened and tones linked to make a bigger, stronger shape; where and how the eye will travel.
Scribbling away, even with a 4 or 6 B pencil, can take time, and often, can be unsatisfying, since bits of the white paper will still show through the scribbled tonal areas. I would spot people just putting in a bit of random scribble, not even bothering to complete the shape, and when I asked what they were doing, they said "oh, that bit just needs to be dark, this is just to remind me".
|A thumbnail like this is really pretty useless|
Now - here is another option. Why not work on TONED PAPER to begin with, using charcoal, and a bit of white chalk or conte. Instantly, you can see where your light shapes will be, and your darkest tones, and those in between are "done" for you - it is really a great way to preplan. You can immediately see the balance of light and dark areas of the painting, and you will begin to get a sense of whether you need to make changes here and there. Here is a tonal sketch I did for my Yellow Umbrella painting at the top of this post. You can see how strong a tonal image it gives, yet it really only took a few minutes to achieve - there is little in the way of detail. It was about half the size of the finished painting.
If you haven't tried this method, do give it a go, it is extremely satisfying to see, instantly, how your painting is going to look, rather than staring rather blankly at a whole lot of outlines which do nothing more than position the subject matter on the paper. That is, I can promise you, only a tiny part of the challenge you face.
Sorry to be brief ...I am rushing to complete work for Open Studio, and can only manage a shortish blog post today. Hopefully someone might find it helpful!