Monday, January 16, 2006

Oh thumbnails..you are my bestest friend!

I'm not the kind of artist that can sit down and capture a character in one sketch. People like Jason Groh and Gene Fowler just blow me away with they nail a character in seconds. Scribble, scribble...and done!

So what do you do if you're not god's gift to the pencil? You thumbnail! I remember back when we were in school, we were preached to about the power of the little thumbnail drawing. I remember thinking it was silly. If I wanted to draw my character doing something, I was going to do it BIG! That way I could fit in all that gorgeous detail that Todd MacFarlane and Rob Liefeld had taught me to in highschool ;)

So after years of fustration at how bad I sucked, I had a breakthrough. Gene Fowler was walking by my desk one day while I was whittling away at some spumco rip off drawings and I was pretty pissed about how shitty my sketch was turning out. In my drawing flurry, the sketch had gone over the page and onto a second animation sheet that I had taped on. Gene looked at the drawing, and then at the little stick-it note I had sketched the idea on earlier, and said "I like this one better. Why dont you just photocopy it up?" I said "Really? But it's just a crappy ruff!?!" "Still looks better, dude." Hmmm. So I gave it try. And you know what? It friggin worked!! It kept most of the appeal of the original, and it fit all "pretty like" on one page.

So long story short...now I always thumbnail out my designs small...pick my favorites, photocopy them up, slap down a new sheet, and refine the design till I'm happy with it. It might not be the quickest and easiest way of working, but it works for me.

"YO! Talkey McChatsworth...shut your pie hole! We came here for drawings...not your jibber jabber!"

Right...here somes examples.





Isn't work stationary the greatest ;)

20 comments:

g-fifty said...

Steve...i feel yer pain. I'm a bg guy mostly, and before the advent of flash, and control z...i, like you, would always go big. Then i started thumbing on post-its...perfect format for keeping things under control! I kinda think its funny to see how small you can ruff sumpin out. Tiny doodles rule!

GhettoFab said...

Great Blog Steve! You have such a whimsical style..you are bookmarked!

zhaf said...

For what it is worth, I like the Talkey McChatsworth stuff almost as much as the drawings. As far as I am concerned, keep 'em both coming.

Dave Pryor said...

That's a great story Steve. I can attest that working small works best. You have to cover such a smaller area, and it takes less time, and at least personally, I feel looser because I know it isn't final.

When I worked on the Warner Bros. storyboards, If I ever had a good little pose on those, I would blow them up and refine right off the storyboard. It really saved a lot of time for me. Sometimes even the implied board poses were usefull - it was at least a starting point for the pose - and the scribbles on the board usually captured the action in a few strokes already.

I wonder how many pose artists do the same thing?

Kirk said...

Steve,

I know what you mean. I am the same way with my drawing and my day job of design. I remember telling my design teacher in college, “I don’t need to thumbnail, my first ideal is the best and I am going to go with that.” The ignorance of youth.

Now I am contantly telling the designers that work for me to thumbnail and sketch more. Boy, if I had been my own teacher back in the day, I would have givin myself a swift kick in the ass. Great drawings.

michael foster said...

great story. love your style. it's nice to see all the hard work that goes behind your drawings.

craig said...

I gotta agree with zhaf, Steve. The talkey mcchatsworth was great! Cool to see the process

paublo said...

I take guilty pleasure in hearing others suffer too trying to barf out a brilliant design...thanx for sharing your story dude, I'm all ears for more. Oh, yeah...those thumbnails kick ass!!!

Todd Oman said...

Those are the stories that all artists like to hear. Thanks for posting your roughs that is always the most interesting part to see.

Alina Chau said...

Nice production concept drawings!! Thanks for sharing your story too.

Chris Battle said...

I'm a post-it man myself; All the polished follow-up drawings in the world will never match the simple energy of that 1st sketch! Thanks for sharing. (I gotta post some more of my super-ruffs, too...)

Kipp Schell said...

hahaha i like the story.. can really relate. plus your little thumbails rock man!

Uncle Phil said...

I do roughs till my thumbs fall off. or is it thumbs till my roughs fall off.

nice'ns steve.

-up

Claude Bordeleau said...

Really inspiring

dcmackinlay said...

Sadly, it's almost impossible to convince people to thumbnail their work until they figure it out for themselves. (I'm talking about animation, rather than illustration, but it's the same issue, I'm sure) I've tried over and over, but unfortunately it seems like most people see it as an additional step, not realizing that :
a.) it allows you to explore more without commiting,
and 2.) the end product is a lot more easily accomplished when it's already been planned out.
Anyway, that's my rant.
Nice to see the raw stuff, Lamb-o.

Smook said...

Thumbnails are the thinking stage. It helps me out tremendously when storyboarding. You are not committed to a drawing, and will continue to try to find the best solution to whatever problem you are trying to solve. Whether you are a board artist, animator, designer, whatever; thumbnails should be a staple in the process.

Thanks for being so candid about it, Steve. I, too thought they were silly. I am glad that some good people kicked me in the arse and straightened me out about thumbnailing too.

Todd Kauffman said...

Damn it!! Jason Groh steals those drawings out of my garbage every morning and posts them on his blog.
Great, now i have to bust his hands.

Kevin Barber said...

Great words of wisdom Steve. In my quest to find "THE PERFECT WORKING METHOD," i am hard pressed to re-capture the life, spontinaety, and creativity that comes from these small quick doodles.BIG = NOODLeING,..which can kill ideas and get you further from the essence of the message you are trying to convey.

Gene Fowler said...

you Rock Steve, thanks for the plug. You're thumbnails are real pretty, your toenails are even nicer.

piddles,

gene.

Don Dixon's Blog said...

I love these, Might wanna blur out the company name so nobody claims ownership of it. ;)