I’m about to go on and on about the value of looking through a hole. There are no metaphors involved, just a method that can save hours of dithering and frustration when composing a painting or sketch.
I carry a plastic shutter-style viewfinder, called a ViewCatcher, with me, for quick composing of drawings and sketches. Sometimes I just muse through it, which makes me look a like a freak. This little plastic square has made my work a great deal more efficient and harmonious.
They’re great for sketch outings, to determine what to include and what to leave out of a drawing. I’m notorious for running out of paper, failing to block out the composition first. Set the ratio of the viewfinder to match the page you’re using, then decide what you want to draw and how to compose it. I’ve been concentrating on composition in this fashion lately, making more successful drawings and paintings because of it. Thumbnail studies on yellow stickers helps tremendously, too.
On bright days, it’s good to be able to isolate a color, too. The little hole is great for that.
You can buy a ViewCatcher or you can make a perfectly good viewing tool for less.
My nephew took up drawing recently so I thought I’d send him one of his own, and was reminded that this fabulous item costs $9 to $15 (at Daniel Smith) – I suspect at the time I bought mine years ago I experienced hysterical amnesia after I looked at the receipt, so I decided to make one for him instead.
In my rather embarrassingly large collection of unused art supplies, I dug up a wire-bound Artist’s Trading Card format (2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ baseball card size) watercolor paper notebook. I figured I could cut holes in it and make a collection of commonly-used ratios, plus a tiny holepunched viewer to isolate colors. First I had to turn the white paper 50% grey.
I bought a Copic art marker in a color that matched the ViewCatcher, and bought that for about $3. Toner 5 Grey T05S is marked T5 on the end cap. There are other brands as well, or you could mix your own middle-grey color and paint the sheets. (So far materials are approaching the cost of just going and buying a ViewCatcher at full retail price. But I digress.) I colored a number of the little pages, then drew, labeled and cut small windows of popular ratios for drawing papers. You’ll still have the remaining pages for sketches and notes.
It’s a portable thing to carry; just flip out the proper page, compose your picture, and enjoy how much better your drawings are!