Invisible Cities - Thumbnails 1 - 5

Lines, no colour. I couldn't decide if I was creating thumbnails for a cinematic purpose or for design a lot at the beginning. Having to do both simultaneously in a minute was a challenge most definitely. All I could think of when doing this first city was the idea of massive mountains that you had to do a lot to get through, clustered with a distracting environment then to come out the other side at an almost empty area except for the grouping of a city. Large empty spaces with sudden clusters of close-knit towns have been on my mind a lot recently.

Lasso tool mostly. My old friend. I don't usually use it entirely for things, though. It tends to get a bit too Matisse for my liking. (It's useful for paintings when you want to lose some of the softness.) I first thought of Venice when I read the description, but it soon turned into a community of nautical exploration. I wonder why I didn't add colour, at the time. 

"My colours" slowly started creeping into the concepts. I feel like I responded to this one better but I still didn't have a purposeful narrative in my head completely. Cloud creatures that get around using elaborate piping systems. 

This is the one that really stood out for me, suddenly I had a narrative and found it much easier to produce thumbnails in the time.  I imagine a clustered city sitting ontop of a cloud, but it is so silent and still it seems dead. Underneath it, life, plants and living activity. People on the cloud live in the houses and constantly fight the cloud deteriorating. When a hole is created in the cloud a mysterious force shoots beams of light downwards to "cover" the hole but ironically will deteriorate anything else it touches. Number 15 and 16 are what I deem the most successful because they show a sense of scale so removed from normality it makes me think "Just how many people are living there and are they okay?"

This page of thumbnails was a matchup of previous ones I had done, and combing a few concepts together. I painted over, added and erased elements.

Overall the thumbnail exercise was useful and definitely made me focus more on the concept rather than how it would look, however, a minute per thumbnail.. I see it like trying to say a sentence in an extremely short time frame. Half your worded construct will be there, and the rest will be sloppy because you're rushing to get it all out. All particles and no verbs or nouns! Perhaps the trick is to accomplish vise-versa. (Okay, enough with the metaphors)
The next set of thumbnails I do I'll probably spend longer than a minute per one, (Even 2 or 3 would be better) as I think it's important to at least resemble what you are trying to achieve regardless of skill for the purpose of communicating design. Especially when you don't have a design to begin with! If you don't have enough time to draw a circle how will they know you wanted to achieve that? 
Maybe I'm looking at it wrong! 


  1. some evocative thumbs, Ella - in terms of evoking space and place, really enjoying 1,2,4, 5, 13 and 16 on the Baucis sheet - and 4, 13, 14 on page 5. I guess the one-per-minute left you feeling a bit agitated, but the results speak for themselves... remember, one or some of these thumbnails may indeed work like a stem cell... for example if you were to imagine that Baucis 5 is 'crop' of a much larger composition, how about 'growing' a bigger composition from that small detail - drop the image back into Photoshop, shrink and place into a new canvas - and extend the world accordingly - like the rest of a photograph being slowly developed out of the emulsion :)

  2. Hi Ella, what a great start :) Already so much potential and hopefully just the start of a broad body of work. 80 thumbnails in the first 2 days is a great starting point and now gives you so much to start working with. Personally, I really like 2,4,5 and 15 on the Baucis sheet.3, 5 and 15 on the last page stand out as well. 5, 11 and 12 on the Armillia page as well. Keep them coming, it's great to see things gearing up and moving forward.

  3. Lovely choice of colours, especially set number 5 : )
    You're quick and really effective, that's some really great attributes! Make good use of them and keep all these lovely drawings and painting coming!