Saturday, June 3, 2017

Let's Not be L7

Thumbnail sketch made in proportion for a 9x12 finished piece.
Yes, let's not be L7 but if you're too cheap to buy a View Catcher go ahead.  A lot of plein air painters can be seen making the infamous rectangle to the face that used to be made fun of exclusively in TV shows and movies when a crazy director could tell you had the look and you needed to be in their next film. What they're ultimately doing is framing their shot or if you're a landscape painter framing the scene.  This handy little gadget called the View Catcher does the same thing but with a few benefits.
It's basically a 2x2" square with a sliding piece in the centre so you can adjust the size to fit standard sized panels/frames. It also has that tiny hole that can help you isolate colours.  The benefit to using one of these over just using your lumpy fingers is that it's a little more accurate plus you can use it for thumbnail sketches.
In a conversation with fellow artist, Diane Tough, she was telling me how it was frustrating to see some people make sketches that were completely out of proportion to what their final painting was going to be. For example, say they were going to paint on an 8x10 canvas.  They could certainly do an 8x10" sketch but what's the point of that? No, a quick thumbnail sketch to get composition and values is sufficient, but what a lot of them do is just make any old sized rectangle in their sketchbook and get to work. Then when they go to start the painting they can't figure out why they can't work out the composition correctly. If their thumbnail had been in correct proportion it would make things a lot more simple, and HOORAY, this handy little gadget will help you do just that. The View Catcher adjusts to standard sizes, 8x10, 8x12, 9x12, 11x14, 12x16 and any size square.  I do a lot of 5x7 paintings so I did the math and marked spots on the view catcher for that. If you're too lazy to do the math yourself it's approximately somewhere in between the 8x12 and 9x12 mark (but it's closer to the 9x12).
So all you have to do is slide the View Catcher into whatever position you want and trace around the inside. I took a picture just in case. You know, some people like to tell you what to do but they can never actually show you what they mean, so here you go.
It's truly ideal for making thumbnail sketches and, as per the point of this post, will help keep you in proportion. If you're too cheap to buy one and not afraid of doing math you can easily cut up some pieces of cardboard or matboard that would be the correct proprtion and trace around those.  I keep the cardboard backing from a package of framing D-rings in my pencil case for a back up in case I forget my View Catcher.  Why the cardboard package from framing D-rings? Because most brands are really nice and have a ruler printed on them, they're 2" wide and easy to trace around.


  1. My name is John...I'm an L7 abuser...You just gave me an idea: gonna make little sketch books in proportion to 8x10 and 11x14 so no thinking/posing/finger jamming required. Just grab and scribble. Love that little 9x12 notan BTW.

  2. There's nothing wrong with using/abusing just as long as you can keep your sketch in the same proportion. I failed to mention the L7 approach will never work for me because the palm of my hand got cut out when I was a kid. So unless I have a round panel my hands just won't work. As for the notan, thanks, seems I've been only good at working on notans and farmer's tans lately.