Many of us are inspired by the overwhelming beauty of the natural world. However, you may find that once you are in the landscape, the subject, with its vastness and complexity, is very difficult to scale down to a sketchbook-sized image. For this reason, one of the most useful tools of the landscape artist is a viewfinder.
A viewfinder is to the artist what looking through a camera's viewfinder is to the photographer. It's a way of isolating a subject and seeing how the arrangement of the big shapes of your subject, once scaled down, is going to look within the format of your paper.
You can make a readily accessible and inexpensive viewfinder using two right-angle corners of mat board, held together with paper clips to mimic the format of your paper (a).
You can hold up the viewfinder with one hand and view your subject through it while sketching the landscape on your paper with the other hand (b). By bending your arm, you can "zoom in or out" to either crop your subject closely or to allow a lot of space around the objects that you would like to draw.
This drawing of some boats in the water was most likely drawn in about 90 seconds, while the artist was on a painting trip. The drawing might have been the beginning of a larger drawing or painting, or simply a feeling of light and movement that the artist wanted to capture. It is highly recommended that you carry a small sketchbook with you at all times, and when something catches your eye, for whatever reason, you should make a record of it. It is one of the best ways to train your hand to respond to visual stimuli, and a wonderful way to gather ideas for future works or simply to keep a visual journal of your experiences.
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