What is a thumbnail sketch?

Thumbnails are the first drawings I make after I read (or write) the manuscript.  Thumbnail sketches are where I figure out what I will draw on each double page spread. Each spread of a book is like a scene in a movie or documentary that presents a distinct idea or event.


I also consider book design in my thumbnails. I decide whether the illustration will be a head shot, a landscape, a still life, an interior scene, or a diagram, and where the words will fit on the page.  Sometimes one page will only have type, and be across from a picture with no words.


There are lots of choices to make right off the bat. The thumbnail is where I make most of these big decisions. Drawing small helps me focus on that big idea not details.


The image here shows the thumbnail sketches for an upcoming book about birds.