Cover by Kirko Moth

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January 2006

January 2006: Phoenix



  • EMG News:
    January 2006
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Poking the Gravid Chicken
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Artmakers as Friends of the Earth
  • Behind the Art:
    Fighting Artist Blocks with Brainstorming and Thumbnails
  • Cosplay101:
    An Introduction to Cosplay Costuming
  • Myths and Symbols:
    The Two-Headed Phoenix


  • Rising From the Ashes
  • Online Marketing Part I


  • Critique Corner: Phoenix
  • PA Spotlight: Crackle character from Camilla Grow


  • Movie: Aeon Flux
  • Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
  • Movie: The Fog
  • Movie: Ringers: Lord of the Fans

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  • Fighting Artist Blocks with Brainstorming and Thumbnails
    Behind the Art
    by Annie Rodrigue

    Did you ever wish the muse was following you all the time so you didnít have to worry if youíd be able to draw something that day? Yes, me too! Unfortunately, thatís not possible, but what I can offer you in this monthís article is a solution to fight this demon! Iím talking about brainstorming and thumbnails. Ever used them in your everyday art life? If not, lets try to cover a bit on both of those powerful tools!


    When my teachers told us about brainstorming, I thought, ďOh! Yeah! I know what brainstorming is! Itís easy! Boy, will this class be boring today.Ē I was up for much more than I could ever expect when they asked us to write down 20 ideas on one subject in just a few minutes.

    Thatís what brainstorming is all about: training your brain to turn on to the creative mode whenever you need it to. I am not saying that it will come up with good ideas all the time. Thatís never the case. But it does train us to stay focused on an idea, write down all that comes to mind, and from that manage to find an subject we might want to use for our creative endeavour.

    How does it work? First, take out a sheet of paper and a pen. (Yes! Right now!) Now, we need to ask ourselves an important question:

    What subject do you want to draw today?

    Your answers might include a bird, a fairy, a unicorn, a tree, a fruit, a car, a warrior, a child or maybe you just donít know! Thatís okay too. If you arenít too sure what you want to draw, do this: Take a general, everyday subject like seasons, colors, animals, or an item at home. It could be anything. Itís only the word that will start your creative processóyouíll be surprised how it can change to something completely different when youíre done. Now just choose a word or a simple phrase and write it at the top of your sheet. Youíll need to time yourself for this exercise, so keep a clock nearby.

    Ready? You have five minutes to come up with 10 ideas that your word inspires. Donít hold back. It doesnít have to be a good idea, just write what comes into mind when you think about your word. It could be just another word or it could be a full description of scenery. It also could be a description of a character or an action. Anything is good!

    Here is what I came up with:

    My word: Dictionary (because I have one next to me)

    1. Girl reading a book
    2. Words in my head
    3. A scribe
    4. An Egyptian scribe writing hieroglyphics or reading them maybe in a pyramid?
    5. A monk writing (when there used to be no printers and such?)
    6. A magical book
    7. A sorcerer and his book, making magic and bubbly potions
    8. A teacher explaining to a kid how to use a dictionary
    9. Writings on a wall
    10. Red words, words of blood (my dictionary is red)

    When youíre done, you should have 10 ideasósome that you might want to work with and some that youíll want throw away. Thatís what brainstorming is for. What you need to keep in mind is that brainstorming is an exercise for your brainóthe more you do it, the better youíll get. Of course, this doesnít mean that ďyouíll have more good ideasĒ but rather that ďmore ideas will come quickly to youĒ. With time, youíll probably have random ideas while youíre at the office, at school, or even while youíre driving. Keep a notebook with you all the time and you wonít forget them.


    Thumbnails are another little trick that my teachers introduced us to. It has to be one of the most helpful tools to beat art blocks, but from what Iíve noticed when I meet fellow artists and friends, it is the most neglected tool. I hear a lot of people saying that they started a big drawing but couldnít finish it because they didnít really know what they wanted to draw in the first place. Thumbnails can help remedy part of that.

    Whatís a thumbnail? The name pretty much says it all: Itís a sketch that is the size of a thumb. With a sketch this small, you can set the mood of a drawing, the composition, and pose of your characters. I also do color thumbnails in watercolor or in Photoshop when Iím not sure what color scheme to use for an illustration.

    Whatís fun about a thumbnail is that you can easily draw it in less than two or three minutes. If you donít like it, you can start another one without feeling too bad about throwing away your first idea. How great is that? Like brainstorming, you can draw many versions of an idea within 10-15 minutes. If you really like how your thumbnail comes out, you can even go to a copier or use your scanner and reprint it at larger size, and use that as a layout for the final drawing. An important thing to know about thumbnails is that they donít need to be cleaned up. If youíre the only one who understands what going on in your thumbnails, thatís okay! Thumbnails are there to help you put your idea into an image quickly. Itís not a work of art.

    What's Next?

    Our next step will be to understand composition. Weíll be using thumbnails again for this important step in creating an illustration, so stay tuned!

    If you have any questions about we have covered in this issue, feel free to drop by the EMG-Zine forum and ask more information.

    Annie Rodrigue

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