Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Workshop About Thumbnails

-by Gregory Manchess

Tara Chang, director of TLC Workshops, brought fourteen of us together in Seattle last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, for my second workshop, Plan Great Images, From the Ground Up, about learning to design compelling, narrative images. 

We drew our brains out, and apparently, my maniacal plan is working. I was elated to watch how quickly everyone embraced the principles of idea generation discovered through composition, value, and working with the figure. In 3 days, we cranked through thumbnail after thumbnail, developing the core sketch for several finished paintings.

My approach is to take the mystery out of the process. It’s not rocket science, so why complicate things? Simply put, by drawing first, one produces more and better concepts. On Saturday afternoon, I watched as everyone made a leap in understanding after a short lecture on overlapping and element-clumping. They burned through pages of sketches as their confidence grew.

Several students asked about a color workshop, now in development.

Looking forward to next year!


  1. I'd like to hear more on your lecture about overlapping and element-clumping if you get the time. Thanks!

  2. Looks like a great weekend!

    Hmmm... color workshop. Man, I sure wish there was a TLC east coast satellite campus. Say, maybe in Philly? I know you'll be reading this Tara! :-)

  3. Looks great!

    By the way, sad to know that David Grove just passed away :(
    Another great artist that leaves us this year.

  4. A celebration of David's' life and work will be held at Café Divine, 1600 Stockton Street, San Francisco CA on November 30, 2012 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

    Anyone in the area is welcome to stop by.

    David was a good friend, a fabulous mentor, and wonderful artist. I will miss him.

  5. His great book "An Illustrated Life" (that you recommended in an earlier post) is already a celebration of his life. It was such a pleasure to read.
    It is a must have for any illustrator. Not just for his incredible works, but because of his view on life as an artist. I'm happy he was able to complete such an incredible testament before he passed away. I've got it right behind me in my studio. How con one be in greater company? :)

  6. GREG I had the best time! Now tackling the mental process of how to finish the illustrations I got out of the workshop!

    It was a great weekend and such a pleasure to meet not only Greg but a bunch of other talented folks...and I could afford to come unlike IMC! Highly recommend TLCWorkshops to any other illustrators in the Pacific Northwest.

    Tora Stark

    1. It was GREAT having you there, Tora. I'm very excited about your ideas. Watching you build such confidence was delightful! You have to paint those! : D

      Perhaps write your own story, with a series of paintings.....hmmm?

  7. Dom! You already have so much on the east coast (IMC, IlluXCon, NYCCC plus myriads of other conventions, museums galore, everything NYC, etc.. plus - all of you amazing folks that *live* there) - hence the trying to balance things out a little for us poor folks on the *other* side of the country. You need an excuse to visit Seattle anyway, doncha? :-)

  8. Oh - and you can follow-along a bit with a day-by-day report of Greg's workshop on the TLCWorkshops blog:

  9. this sounds like an awesome exercise. It would be interesting to see how that was run

  10. Briefly, Kyle...I give an assignment before anyone gets there, but the students only start drawing after introductions are made, and I've given the go-for-engine-start.

    First day, we concentrate on small thumbnails, burn through as many as we can stand, refining, shifting, searching. I lecture during breaks every hour on specifics of composition.

    2nd day, we continue with refining composition, as we burn through value studies. And deconstruct great examples by favorite artists.

    Last day, we clear the boards and begin again, speed being critical. The students go home with 2 to 3 sketches ready to go to finish for portfolio pieces.

    We laugh a lot. There's a lot of free information exchange, just like we do at IMC, only smaller. And the students end up helping each other along. Loads of encouragement.

  11. WOW!! This class was a nice jolt of inspiration and such a good refresher course of things I learned in school but have since lost touch with. Greg was an awesome teacher and very hands on through out the weekend. Just when I thought I had hit a wall, and I had pushed every idea out of my brain onto the paper, he'd swing by, make a couple quick ninja-like strokes with a pencil and BAM! it was like a another dozen ideas came flooding out of me!

    Not only was Greg a great inspiration, but the other students were as well. Some of them professional concept artists, plein air painters, hollywood set decorators, card and board game illustrators and even children's book illustrators. I had such a blast taking this class, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is wanting to learn from a modern day master. No matter if you are a student or a working professional who might feel as though your compositions are starting to feel stale or overworked. Or if you just want a fun weekend to really boost your imagination and to meet like minded individuals.

    Thank you so much for you time Greg, it was a pleasure to meet you and to absorb your positive vibe last weekend. This was just what I needed to get my mind set strait and back on the right path to really to focus on what I want to do with my career.

    And of course, Tara, thank you so much for putting your time and attention to making these classes possible! Now, if only there was someone as driven as you over here in the Tennessee area that could devote such enthusiasm and dedication to making art classes so much fun and inspiring!

    I can't thank you all enough, I made some really great friends during the class and learned a lot about composition, and about my personal goals in life and my own art's focus...


    Adam Baker
    )the Nashville hillbilly with the silly mustache.)

  12. I had an absolute blast at the workshop! Learnt so much more about composition and how to create exciting and compelling images. Greg really has a magic hand, any image he touches suddenly ramps up in intensity 10 notches!

    His advice makes sense no matter which way you look or whatever approach you are taking! The other students were absolutely inspiring. Just when you think you had an image that was working, you look up and see the other students and their amazing work and you decide to go back and re-draw your drawings.
    I loved how informal the workshop was. It was great fun just being around everyone.

    Thanks so much, Greg and Tara. I really enjoyed the workshop, and I hope to be able to attend the next one and the colour workshop.

    I`ve just written up a post on my blog about my experience at the workshop.
    Days 2 and 3 will follow up!

  13. Thanks Gregg ! I learned a hell of a lot at the workshop as well and I posted a painting I generated from one set of thumbnails.


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