Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I think I may prefer to use thumbnail sketches more often than other artists. I'm old school. Whenever I mention thumbnails to younger artists, they're like, "thumbnail what?"

Today I submitted character studies and thumbnail sketches of Duke to my publisher, and now I'm considering the best use of my time. I could work up tighter sketches for Duke while I wait for feedback. But that might not be a good idea.

I could jump right into research and character studies for Effa. Finding pictorial reference for this book is, I think, gonna be trickier than it has been for Duke. I'd love to make a trip to Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. But a brotha doesn't have that kinda money right now after two summer vacations.

I've waited anywhere from a couple days to eight months for feedback from editors and art directors on thumbnail sketches. Believe it or not, I've had eight month delays at the thumbnail sketch stage on two books in the last four years, so it's not uncommon. Stuff happens.

My preference would be to begin final sketches for Duke next week. It would be best while the research materials are fresh in my mind (and laid out flat on my drawing board). It usually takes about 45 days for me to sketch a book. If I could completely have Duke sketched by mid September, then I could give Effa my full attention in October through December. I'd paint both books, back to back, finishing them by spring of next year.

Course my licensing rep would like for me to squeeze in a project or two also, and I could use the money. And I do need to revise a chapter for a writing project due to my critique group . . . Yikes! . . . tomorrow.

In other news: I'm now on slate to participate in The Hill Country Book Festival and for a full day visit at the grand opening of the Neyland Public Library in Corpus Christi on Saturday, September 6th!


INDIGENE said...

I love when you share your process. It's very inspiring! If thumbnails are "Ole School" then count yourself among the "Harvard" School! Hope you've recovered from the Vegas ill spell. Once again, thanks for sharing your wonderful illustration process and world with us!

rindawriter said...

I love it too, when you share about how you create the art.

Just an idea--did you ever try, since you are so obviously comfortable with thumbnailing a story out, sketching verbal thumbnails for your story draft?

That's what a story draft is, a scribbled sketch of your story. You clearly have the sketch to finished art process under superb control, and I just can't help but wonder, Don, if this is your natural way of creating, in imagry and pictures. You just have to rethink it a bit and now use word pictures now to sketch out that story. You could even, scribble picture thumbnails along with your writing as you go.

You are also very clearly a self-starter and a self-developer as i see you work with the pictures. Very strongly so. You conceive of a project and finish it right through all of its stages with only guidance from those who will eventually publish and sell the book. So you have a clear creative pattern already in hand, a creative habit you might call it.

What I'm saying is that you might need to work this same way as a writer as well, according to your own creative habit, your own natural creative ways. I think you are afraid of the words in some ways also, that they won't look good or look right. You don't need to worry about that. Seriously You are a massively word person, Don, and a natural storyteller. You just need to feel more self confident about using your own creative process in a different medium: words.

Same creative method. Same techniques really as you are already doing wth picturs. Just think of words as a differnt sort of "paint."

The writing process is not really any different from doing pictures as you yourself showed me when you told me how you do sketches before the final pictures. You start with scribbling sketches in words--your first rough draft. Then you do thumbnails with words--look at the first rough draft, find a beginning, a middle, an end, and just freely sketch out the MAIN structures, the main patterns of that story! Just like you form a shape, a solid picture, with scribbing sketches. The tracing paper thing you told me. Remember? Same process, different medium. I was using cloth; you don't use cloth, but the same process worked just as well in cloth for me as you use in paints.

And try this maybe:

Resketch your story in a thumbnail style way: Use narrative, descriptive words, think of yourself describing your story quickly to a prospective audience, and go through your original draft and start sketching out, in words, just how your story action goes.

Sketch out the scenes in words, sticking to describing what the main character does, secne by scene.

Don't worry about the style, format, or words: Just write rapidly, describing your story to a prospective reader just as you would describe a movie to a prospective viewer, sketching out the scenes and actions, but in words not drawings.

This will be a thumbnail sketch in words of your story as you see it in your head and is for your use only. It may not make a lot of sense to a reader, but it will to you as the creator of the story, just like the thumbnails don't make a lot of sense to us the viewers but they do to you right now, as creator of the final pictures in a story.

Try to do this straight through. If you have questions for research mark those down for future work later; if you find yourself writing a scene in depth, put it aside also for further writing,if you have blank areas, draw a square to fill in later, and just keep moving on.

Concentrate first for now on describing that story, thumbnail style, short descriptive, main character's actions, scene to scene, straight through.

I got this hint from the writer who does the Inspector Lindley series (Mystery on PBS), from her book on writing. I thought it wsa hooey, but I tried it anyway, she being what she is as a writer, and lo and behold Don, I have me an early middlegrade story, beginning, middle, end, scenes, an amazing, unique main character, and lots and lots of action. All I really have to do now is fill in the spaces of that story now, just like you paint in your sketches.

You know when your sketches are ready to pain in, right? This is the same feeling I now have about thsi story. It's ready to paint. I think you can do this to your rough draft, too. You'll feel ready to paint, you'll know what to do, where to go with finishing the story, once you verbally thumbnail it out, just as you do your sketches for someone else's story.

Anyway, that's how I truly think you will feel. You helped me, you know, Don. Once I understood about the sketching part, then it was easy to draw, and now, in turn, it helped me sketch out this story, too.

I'm going to go and paint my story now. How about you??!!!!

I won't have much time in the next few months to write on your blog except occassionally, so I wanted to at least share this with you and hope it helps you along the way.

Happy painting, brotha! Happy painting....