Composing a view: Thumbnail sketches
The next activity is useful for a number of reasons. It enables you to explore and come to understand how composition works. And it also encourages you to experiment and try out a number of options before committing yourself to one image to work on.
You will need:
Paper – A4 sheets
A piece of masonite or other board to press on
You are going to create a series of “thumbnail sketches” that will allow you to quickly explore many different compositions.
Draw nine or ten small rectangles on a sheet of paper. The blocks should each be approximately 5 x 6 cm. These rectangles should have roughly the same proportions as the paintings you will make.
Create a viewfinder by cutting a small rectangular window in another sheet of paper. Go outside and use the viewfinder to look at lots of different views.
Try making very slight shifts of the viewfinder to see how completely the composition changes, even though most of the content stays the same. (A tree, for instance, in relation to a road, a shrub or horizon line, has a very different impact if the view shifts it to the right of the picture, to the middle, to the left, to the top, or to the bottom edge.)
When you find an interesting composition, quickly draw it in one of the rectangular spaces on the paper, using very simple outlines and simple shapes.
Create as many quick thumbnail drawings as you can in the time you have.
Discussing the thumbnail sketches
Back in class, look at all the sketches. Take turns to tell your class why you chose the views you did. What makes your composition work well?
Discuss the thumbnail sketches, with reference to any of the compositional elements we have described. Once you are sure of your choice, you are ready to start your painting.