Top-Secret Thumbnails and a Story's Beginning

I have a confession to make. I hate preparing for an illustration. Ok, maybe hate is too strong a word, but it's not my favorite part. I just want to get to the cutting and pasting and painting because my first idea is always absolutely perfect. Except sometimes it's not. Sometimes my first idea is actually really bad. So I do thumbnails. If you're not in the art and design world, thumbnail might be a completely meaningless word to you. If that's the case I'll fill you in real quick. Thumbnails are tiny, fast drawings. They aren't supposed to look good, and in fact most people who look at them probably can't figure out what those squiggles are supposed to be. That's ok, because thumbnails are really just for the person drawing them. They help get ideas out of the imaginary realm where all perfect art resides. In this realm all art is perfect, and it's only when you try to translate that perfect painting onto paper that problems arise. So, thumbnails are a quick way to see those problems before you put hours and hours of work into an idea that turns out to be ugly, or wrong, or simply not quite right. 2015-3-23 DSC_0539a sm I don't usually show my thumbnails, because most of the time they are fast and tiny and only make sense to me. I keep them secret because sometimes they're just straight up ugly. But I'm showing them this time because I'm making a book, and I want to share the whole process with you. It's a children's book, and a grown-up's book, and an in-between book. It's a book for people who love stories. And I hope it will be the first of many. I want to create a collection of illustrated stories from around the world. I'm searching for stories that aren't famous, but are beautiful. I'm beginning with a story I first heard years ago from a fellow illustration student - the Inuit tale "Crow Brings the Daylight." I won't tell you the whole story now, but you can look it up or watch as it develops here. I'll be sharing posts of each illustration as I do them. And, of course, you can read the whole story in the finished book. Digital copies will be free, and all proceeds from physical copies will be going to a charity that supports reading and education. (More on that later.) I'm creating this book to share a story. And I guess I'm posting about thumbnails, even though I hate them, because they're part of a story too. They're part of the process, the journey to creating my first all-by-myself, not-in-school illustrated book. So please jump into the story and be a part of it. Share your thoughts and I'll share mine and we can watch the story grow together. These thumbnails are about to get a little bigger.


  • The Dangers of Darkness | Ruth Meharg

    […] my upcoming children’s book, Crow Brings The Daylight. See the very beginning of the story here and check back to follow along as the paintings […]

  • The Evolution of an Illustration – Crow Traverses the World | Ruth Meharg

    […] painting! Unfortunately only half of that sentence is true. I haven’t finished my thumbnails (thumbnail post here), but I am ready to begin painting. And since I don’t have anyone to tell me not to, […]

  • Ruth

    Thank you Rhonda! Any tale in particular that stands out to you? I’m rolling a couple of Japanese tales around in my head for the next one, but I really haven’t chosen anything yet. Always on the look out for something new!

  • Rhonda Bulmer

    Sounds exciting! Aboriginal tales are popular around here. Good luck, Ruth. It’s amazing that you’ve grown up into such a great artist. The last time I saw you was at the Smith Manor with your mom so many years ago.

  • Crow Whispers A Secret | Ruth Meharg

    […] book. A composition very similar to this was among my very first sketches, back when this project began. The angle and the closeness are so odd that I wasn’t sure the idea would work as an […]

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