There are many approaches taken by artists to achieve perspective and build an accurately proportioned and modeled figure/subject on a flat surface. They sometimes use a viewfinder when it is difficult to determine the overall composition of their piece.
Some of my readers may not know what I mean when I talk about overall composition…here are a couple of ‘rules’ that any artist can basically ‘throw out’ of their artistic tool kit if they wish…but, I tend to observe these.
In the past, I have used a slide frame as a viewfinder and shared that tool with my students. What a basic viewfinder will do is eliminate a lot of the chaos that appears around the subject of the piece the artist is composing and crop the piece so that the composition is dynamic and gains interest.
Another technique that helps to accurately transfer information and placement of content in a composition is to grid both a flat reference or photograph and the larger surface of the canvas/panel or paper with squares of equal proportion. (The number of grid squares measured on the reference must be the same as the number of grid squares measured on the drawing surface and the ratio of those must be consistent in their ratio, 1:4 for example.) What the viewer/artist sees in the top right hand square is then transferred onto the drawing/painting surface accurately. Here are a couple of examples of paintings and drawings rendered by my former middle school students, using this technique. I think that this provides an exercise for student artists in observation and in training those brain/eye/arm/finger muscles to work together.
View finding and using a grid system are only two techniques used to compose. On this subject, there is a huge and sometimes complex manner of creating a well-proportioned image. Any and all techniques are available to every artist to the extent that they wish to use them. It is often a magical thing to make reference to some basic skills in drawing and painting before one tears into self-expression. If it is not your intention to distort figures in your work, it can be a frustrating thing to do beautiful painting and mark making that is lost because the eye travels immediately to the loss of foreshortening or proportion.
I have randomly selected a couple of videos here that demonstrate formal techniques.
Then…there is also the Fibonacci principle. Wowsah!
Presently, in Calgary, my friend, Douglas Williamson, is the featured artist at Collector’s Art Gallery. He has a practice that includes some of the very technical aspects of rendering and painting. I admire his work and his dedication.
Most of the time, quite frankly, especially during events like Rumble House painting, I ‘eyeball’ it and remember that my teachers always told me that I had a bit of a natural sense for composition. I just naturally eliminate peripheral visual information that I don’t want included when I am plein air painting or working in my studio. Artistic style and intention need to be kept in mind and not forgotten. I think it’s a dangerous thing when one artist tells another how things SHOULD be done. Some artists work in a purely intuitive manner.
As I’ve discussed before, many contemporary artists access slide projection or image projection in order to create a large and accurate view. Some among us label such artists ‘cheaters’ and this makes me laugh because typically the connoisseur of art knows little about the process. Ted Godwin demonstrated his technique for me in his studio, as did Bill Webb. With every brush stroke, the works created by both artists became unique and while accurate in terms of the perspective, breathed the life and human touch not found in a photograph.
So, I headed down to see Wendy Lees and the gang at create!, now housed in the Center of Hope next door to the Salvation Army. Present yesterday, were people I care about so much, but haven’t seen for the longest time. It was nice to meet Margot and Philip Lozano of Momentum, as well! I hoped to hook up with Francois and purchase a viewfinder…and I did! WHOOT!
One of the projects during the open session was a section for a Calgary Public Library project in the works at create! So, I sat down and painted me a panel and ate up the varied and enthusiastic conversations that ensued. Thanks, Wendy! Thanks, Francois. If you are an artist who is interested in the purchase of a viewfinder, please contact Francois directly here.