Less than one day ago I came back from the BTC Graffiti Festival in Candeais, Bahia, Brazil. I was lucky enough to be invited last minute, as an international artist and participate in painting at the event. I had never heard of the event before, and only discovered its existence and the fact that I was going to be attending, around 9pm the night before the first day. The whole 4 days went by really fast, and I had about 1 hour spare to try and prepare, sketch ideas and plan ahead. Actually it was more like 45 minutes.
I usually like to plan a piece of art that I intend to finish to a high standard. Sometimes I will write ideas down on paper first, or brainstorm. But most of the time I dive straight into the thumbnail sketching stage where I draw out a number of small boxes in my sketchbook, literally around the size of thumb or thumbnail (sometimes a little bit bigger), and sketch abstract ideas and concepts down rapidly. The point of this exercise is to get as many ideas down as possible in the shortest amount of time, neglecting any thoughts or inclinations to draw out any level of detail. Just plain lines and abstract shapes, sometimes with a little value shading to give a sense of scale or depth, but even the value sketches can be done in a matter of seconds. And these sketches don’t need to make sense to anyone else, so long as you know what the lines represent, and the initial idea you had, with the sketch serving as a reminder, you are good to go.
Usually after having completed a range of thumbnails, I would take up to 3 of my favourite, and develop them a little further at a slightly larger scale, using pencil, and begin to work out some of the possibilities and details. After this stage, I would experiment and explore some colour concepts and variations by photographing/scanning my sketches, and painting over them digitally using Adobe Photoshop.
This time however, with my matter of minutes to come up with an idea and sketch it out, I had to put my main focus on the thumbnails. Initially I wanted to create a mural of something I had already created, as I was going to do a full scale spray paint mural outside in the public view, (my first) and with the little time I had I wanted to ease this transition and allow a little comfort and confidence with knowing exactly what I would paint. But instead I decided to go for something original.
The Significance of The Jaguar
The black Jaguar/Leopard is one of the animals that have appeared in my dreams in the past, a few times in fact. In the dreams the Jaguars are around me, just quietly sitting by me, watching, resting, being quiet and still, or walking by/around me. As I am in Brazil, it made sense for me to paint something related to the country, and environment. So I decided to paint this wild cat from the South/Central American Amazon. The theme was also ‘Illumination’, or light. I was conscious about the theme as I progressed with my mural, and made decisions to try and express light & colour in the natural scene.
After trekking through some jungle terrain, and swimming under the biggest waterfalls I have ever seen in my life at Chapada Diamantina National Park, gathering it all together along with the inspiration from my own personal dreams in my mind, I begun sketching little thumbnails of this big cat in the amazon.
Ideas Direct On Paper
I sketched the final few concepts just moments before choosing a wall and starting to paint. If I hadn’t done any of these thumbnails, I would have to go with a very rough idea in my mind, and develop it as I painted. That combined with being a beginner level with spray paints might not have led to the strong finish I had. In fact, I don’t think I would have come close in the short time available as I would have been spending so much more time thinking about exactly what I was painting next. The thumbnails allowed me to dive straight into the painting with much more confidence, and allow me to focus more on other areas such as colour choices.
In the end I was really happy with the painting I produced in the 12 hours I had to paint it. And the experience served as a personal reminder of the importance of sketching out these thumbnails before developing and working on a larger piece. I think as a bare minimum, thumbnail sketches are essential for the artist, just like having a map or compass is when you go out on a long hike or trek into the wild on a solo adventure. If you want to arrive at your destination on time and enjoy the process, prepare just a little first, and be ready before you start. The process doesn’t take much effort, and actually be a really fun experience.
My Amazonian Jaguar Mural
This was me painting on the first day.
The Final (second) Day
This is the result of my biggest piece of art, and first exterior public mural. The size is approx. 4 X 3.5 meters. It was both exciting and difficult painting it. I did my best and gave it all my focus until the very end, when I decided to stop because it was getting dark just after 6pm.
Now I want to paint more murals as I travel the rest of Brazil, and South/Central America.
Thank you for checking out my post!