Friday, September 10, 2010

100 Thumbnails

A few years ago my friend Tim Diebler and I met for a January lunch and challenged each other to make 100 thumbnail sketches each and every month during the year ahead. Sketches could be pencil, pen, paint, whatever, but had to be FAST (no more than 5-10 minutes each) and there had to be 100. We could work from life (preferred) or from photos (still useful) or from the television (can be fun and challenging, especially when there's a howling blizzard outside). Or from whatever. We just had to draw.

100 thumbnails a month works out to 3-4 sketches a day... or about 30 minutes if you count the deciding-what-to-sketch time. I confess that there were a few months that I got to the 25th or 26th and had to crank out 50 sketches in five days, but I always got them done, one way or another. And so did Tim.

Last month's "Project Woodcut" assignment (15 minutes to collect sketches and color notes as reference for a multicolor woodcut) reminded me of our "100 Thumbnails" adventure, and I've decided to launch another round.

2x3" thumbnails from the front step, September

Granted, I didn't start until Monday, by which time I was already 3- or 4-times-7 days behind for the month of September. I'm still not quite caught up, but I have every intention of getting the first 100 sketches done before October starts.

I christened a brand new sketchbook for the endeavor, which always feels good. (Last time I did this I filled 2 good-sized books with nothing but thumbnails. Raise your hand if you have a backlog of assorted empty sketchbooks that would LOVE to be filled this way.) The first page was horrible, since I started by looking at photos on my computer in the dark WITHOUT my glasses on. Ooph. But here we have page 2, sketches made from my perch on the front step, and I feel much more excited about the process. Thumbnail sketches are a little like weight training- one starts out slowly and ultimately builds skill and stamina.

Speaking of stamina... tomorrow I hang what I expect will be my last big show of the year. (Two days ago I would have said definitively that it's the last, but as of yesterday there's a slight possibility that will change. Won't know for two weeks.) Tomorrow evening we'll go up to Buena Vista for the opening of "5 Lines," an exhibition of drawings by five (of course) local artists and friends. Saturday is the opening for my show and then? An autumn full of opportunities to make thumbnail sketches. 3 or 4 of them. Every day. Can't wait!


  1. 100 thumbnail sketches ! This is exercising and I think the weight training comparison is a relevant one. I admire how you can draw the most exquisite image from what other people would consider mundane subjects. You can see the beauty in tiny thingsthey don't ever notice. I'm thrilled by this project and will you please share from time to time ?

    Best wishes for the show.

  2. This is a great idea ..the 100 what you have shown here too.

  3. 100 Thumbnails. At first, I thought it was gonna be a Hannibal Lecter thing. But I remember when you mentioned you were going to do this. I was intrigued then, and now I am again. I wonder if I will do it ...? “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Do I dare disturb the universe?

  4. Great post, Sherrie.Show us more of your sketches!

    Who doesn't type or write at least 1000 words a month, regardless of our occupation?

    For those who think in pictures or want to, this is the best way to "talk" to ourselves. Making it official and 100 a month is a great way to claim and really explore what we do.

    What's fun is to think of these small quick drawings as tiny comic book scenes. Thinking about not just what you're looking at, but HOW you want someone (you or viewer) to understand what you're drawing. Is the sketch a pan, a zoom, some sequence across several drawings? It's an amazing practice of composition, regardless of your drawing style.

  5. Hi, these thumbnails are really interesting. Kind of a visual diary in tiny snapshots, I love the idea. Good luck and congratulations on the show.

  6. Wow- 100 thumbnails a month! I don't think I could do it. It's an excellent idea and you've got a great start here!!

  7. Thanks for the encouragement, everyone! Yesterday (September 14) I made it to 50 sketches, so I managed to get on schedule despite the "late" start for the month. (Hmm... fifty-ONE sketches if you count the snake.) Onward!

  8. I like this exercise! I'm totally stealing it for my class. (with credit to you, of course!) ;-)

  9. I love this whole project. 8-] I just started a new sketchbook...maybe I'll give it a try.


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