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Submitted on
February 8, 2012


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Deadly Allure - and the importance of thumbnails.

Journal Entry: Wed Feb 8, 2012, 11:31 AM

Stop looking at her actual thumbnails.  I mean thumbnail sketches.

Okay, so this isn't exactly a journal entry.  But since I can't be bothered to figure out how to post inline images in the commentary section of regular image posts, you're getting this.  Deal with it.

In my perpetual state of ultimate lazyness, this image has been bouncing around for a while, and I'm just now getting around to posting it.  And I've had a fair number of questions.  So, I think I'll take this opportunity to walk you through some of the happy accidents that fill the days of us artists.  That's right, Bob Ross may be the only one who owns up to it, but we all have them.

To me, the most important thing in art is making decisions.  In fact, you can break my art philosophy into a tidy little three step triad.  Observations -> evaluations -> decisions.  That's the important stuff.  Everything else is just about informing and fueling those steps.  Almost all of that is done in the thumbnail stage.  Which is why even if they seem totally gnawing-on-furniture boring sometimes, they're vital.  

Rough thumbnails are your no-holds-barred brainstorming.  Do at least a dozen to start.  Then evaluate them, and start to pick out things that you like.  Then more thumbnails, refining and incorporating ideas.  You're looking for compelling composition, gesture, flow, rhythm; you know, all those words that arty people use, but can't ever actually explain.

For this piece, I picked out these thumbnails out of about twenty to move on to stage two:

So, this was my first sketch.  And it pretty much does the job, gets the idea across.  But, resist the temptation to go on with your first sketch.  No matter how perfect you think it is, do a few more.  Looking at it now, the snakes aren't really very cool.  They feel a little like they were just thrown in.  So I'm glad I kept going.

The second sketch has some interesting things going on.  I like the vantage, and I like that the snakes become more of a mass, and dominating visual element.  I also like how they blend together in her hair.  But it's not quite got that "come hither, it's worth the horrible death." feeling that I'm going for.

The thing that I like here, is the ambiguity between her and the snakey shapes.  There are no heads besides hers, and that adds an interesting feeling to the piece.  You wonder a little bit if that's all part of her, and she becomes potentially supernatural, instead of just a hot girl playing with pythons.  Happy accident.

And here is the example of just plain going turbonuts overboard with the concept.  A cram-packed harem of sex and danger.  There's pretty much no room for thinking that you'll make it out alive, or unsmiling.

I took the things I liked from these thumbnails, and incorporated them in to a final drawing.  I took some of the happy accident ideas, like maybe she's part of the snake, and reinforced it with her outfit and her gesture.  Unfortunately, I painted over that drawing, so I don't have it to show anymore.  Sorry.  How anti-climactic of me.

So anyway, the lesson here:  Do thumbnails until you can't stand it anymore.  Exhaust your ideas, then go steal some and do more.  Then do a few more.  Then start combining them into your awesome masterwork of incredibility!

  • Listening to: Half of the voices in my head. The rest is jerks.
  • Reading: I'm trying to learn how.
  • Watching: Every step you take, every move you make.
  • Playing: a lovely little fiddle ditty vs. the devil.
  • Eating: Whatever wanders close to my glowy angler tongue.
  • Drinking: in the irony of it all.
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358-2days Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2012  Student Digital Artist
All your images are dead links now.
rubyskye Featured By Owner May 4, 2012  Student Digital Artist
It's a shame the pictures don't work, but an interesting read regardless. I always get really lazy with the number of thumbnails I do.
snake-eyes-x Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2012
All of the image links are broken. Also a couple images at the bottom of [link] are broken too. HTTP 404 Not Found.
SteveArgyle Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, we've been reworking my website, where all those links have resided. All the new stuff has different naming conventions and folder structure, so I'll need to go through and update everything. Sorry!
TheLegendarySam Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012
Damn man! Those guys at Wizards took the least suggestive option. Once you look at all the other ones you realize there's still some prudery in MTG.
Lovely to see a professional sharing his work, btw. And I think it's an amazing card too.

Good luck :)
marcial-arts Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2012   Digital Artist
The importance of thumbnails is applied on our avatars hahaha
Elvenwyn Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2012  Student Digital Artist
The final piece and first three thumbnails are awesome! However, I'm sure you saw this already with the fourth thumbnail that it's too busy and that taking one of the poses in there and putting it as a final picture would be cool, but I still love the final product overall. Also, thanks for putting this up, it acts as a nice tip.
Kiikeluren Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2012
I love the final version and all the thumbnails of this picture! :iconiloveyouplz: Also I like Deadly Allure, I'm going to have it in my black/green elfdeck :B
Do you play MtG Steve? XD
RevanREK Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Aw this is such a good journal. It's really informative and a great insight into how you create an amazing piece of work! I never do thumbnails, I know I should but I just don't have enough ideas and I just take too long to draw anything. So I guess I don't really have the patience to spend ages on a drawing, just to scrap it and start again, and my 'quick' drawings look rubbish anyway. Still I might just give it a go... You've inspired me, my fingertips are itching...
Corvidraline Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ah, I wish I was more patient with my art... Because, although I really do understand the improtance of thumbnails, I do them so infrequently it's a shame... Though I do try to do them for action poses, because I'm still quite alot dodgy on anatomy and perspective... Thanks for these tidbits, though, they are both helpful and informative, as well as giving us a nice little window into how you think and approach things as an artist, which is really cool. Also, now I want to go get some snakes and toss them on my girlfriend. I'm totally sure it'd be worth it.

Oh and also, I was in attendance at the pre-release for Dark Ascension in Flint, and it was great to meet you, even if I was a wierdo spazz. I had a great time drooling over your art, and I hope I wasn't too crazy. You're my favorite Magic artist, though, you see, so I was rather excited.
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