Thumbnails on a piano

I few days ago, the image of a man riding atop a piano across the ocean flashed in my mind. I had been thinking about solo piano music I enjoy, and about the possibility of visually expressing the music’s sentiment.

So, I got to work:

Howard Pyle, the great Golden Age children’s book illustrator, would reportedly create 50 thumbnail sketches before starting on a piece. Even if he liked the first one, he had 49 others on hand just to be sure.

The above thumbnails – along with several more not included above – were done in-between other work over the course of several days. Each day I stopped working on them, I’d say to myself, “That’s it! That’s the composition I’ll go with!” Then I’d return to the idea and completely switch things around. Using thumbnails helps me toy with an idea before striking out on the final sketch, making sure everything’s in its place and the idea is being executed as best as possible.

Also, as you can see in the last thumbnail, creating a smaller version of the piece lets me toy with the tonal relationships in the illustration, making sure the lights and darks are exactly where I want them. The clouds lighten around the dog, allowing his darker form to stand out. Similarly, the clouds darken around the face of the man, making his lighter profile more easy to discern.

I still have a bit of work to do on this before I can begin a final version, but I’m liking how it’s shaping up so far.


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