A teacher of mine once said that all artists have a scale. That means that some artists are comfortable making large works, some comfortable making small works, and some at whatever size in between. I’ve generally agreed with that statement. I tend to be more comfortable working larger than smaller. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t start out small. I do. I make small sketches or drawings that are referred to as thumbnails in artist lingo. I guess they are supposed to be small like the nail on your thumb.

Thumbnail sketches usually aren’t much to look at. They are just about throwing ideas down on paper quickly to give the artist and idea if he is going in the right direction. Some artist’s thumbnail drawings can be pretty interesting to look at. Usually that would be an artist who’s scale is small. Someone who is used to, and likes to, work small is naturally going to be able to make prettier small drawings. Even if that drawing is just a thumbnail.

As I was going to bed the other night an idea popped into my head. This doesn’t happen too often and when it does I usually write it down because ideas can slip away in the night without me even knowing it. Many a time I’ve been lazy and thought to myself that there was no reason to write anything down. I’ll do that in the morning. When morning comes I have no memory of what the idea was. Just the memory of having an idea. That can be frustrating.

For some reason I didn’t write this idea down. Maybe because it wasn’t really even an idea. It was just an image in my head. The image of old 1950’s science fiction comic book covers that take place in the loneliness of deep space with that cold, harsh, no atmosphere look that photos of the men on the moon have. I don’t remember any specific comic book cover like that existing but I wanted to make one. I’ve made a series of comic book covers to comics that never existed and this would add to that series.

A couple of days later, with that vision of cold space still in my head, I started doing some thumbnails of covers. Little drawings. Only about two by three inches. Usually such small drawings of mine are not much to look at but these ones were coming out nice. Not just as thumbnails but actually as interesting little drawings. That’s not usual for me so it was a bit of a surprise. But now I have the task of making an interesting little drawing into an interesting big one. Not always an easy task.

A lot of time a small quick drawing has more life to it than a finished piece. The process of working on a piece of art can drain what made it interesting out of it. That is something artists everywhere have struggled with. You can work on a piece and then at some point ask yourself what happened. When you look back at the sketch you can see the life in it that interested you but in the drawing it’s gone. Something got squashed and it isn’t easy to figure out what.

“So why not just stick with the sketch you like so much and call that your art”, you ask? Because usually there is a ton of things wrong with the sketch but I’m not concerned with them because I plan on fixing them in the drawing. It’s that life, that action, that raw idea that I want. Not the quickly drawn and not thought out bad renderings of faces, hands, and bodies.

I was thinking of all of this as I looked at the thumbnail drawings I made. I liked them. But I had no idea how to make them into finished covers that I would like. It was a different type of drawing than I usually do. As I looked at them I could see that I was using more shape than line. That was unusual for me and hard to translate up because it’s easy to use shape when the drawing is small but harder as the drawing gets bigger. That just has to do with the scale of the pencil or pen I’m using. I can make a shape that takes up a good portion on the thumbnail with a couple of strokes but when the drawing is full size that same pen mark becomes tiny.

I analyzed the drawing a bit more and came up with something that helped me. Usually my drawing is all about “Finding the line”. Discovering the shape of things and defining that shape with the correct line. These little drawings had a lot of “Not finding the line” in them. Sometimes I defined the shape distinctly and sometimes I didn’t. That “Didn’t” part, when in the correct amount, is what added the eerie life to the little drawings.

So now I have to try and duplicate that on a larger scale. I already know that, at any time, I can find the line but now I have to see if I can not find the line too. I’m not really sure if I can do it but I’ll let you know.