How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

Did you know that you can improve a drawing 75% before you even start drawing? Knowing how to use a viewfinder for drawing landscapes is the first step. Whether you are a nature journaler or a plein air painter this video and blog post will help you.

Why Your Eyes Betray You

Your visual system is not setup for making great art. Your visual system is setup for keeping your butt alive. What does that even mean? Our eyes and the visual centers of our brain are good at paying attention to our surroundings. We are good at scanning large areas and paying attention to the big picture. However, there is a lot more information coming through your eyes than what you can fit on your paper or your canvas. This is especially dangerous for drawing landscapes. A lot of times we are attracted to the expansiveness in a landscape. If we aren’t careful we bite off too much. We try too big of a drawing. We get frustrated, we get lost in the details, and we lose touch with the basic artistic priorities.

Your most important job as an artist is to make intentional decisions about what visual information to include and what to ignore.

If you don’t know how to make good decisions or even worse if you don’t realize you have to make decisions then your drawing will suffer. Using a viewfinder helps you be more intentional and disciplined. Your field of view with both eyes is between 200 and 220 degrees! That is far more than you can fit on paper.

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

How to make a viewfinder
  1. Save the plastic container that salad mix comes in or get a sheet of cardstock or other heavy paper.
  2. Decide what shape you are going to make your viewfinder. Put some thought into how this shape will fit on your pages. For more about composition and layout of journal pages see this video.
  3. Trace your shape and carefully cut it with an X-acto knife or scissors.
  4. You can add grid lines to help you with proportions.
  5. Go out and use it right away!

Pro tip: Make multiple viewfinders of different shapes and sizes for your kit.

I really started using a viewfinder before my second trip to Tanzania and it really made my nature journal pages much better.How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

Once you know how to use a viewfinder for drawing landscapes you will thank me!

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

If you want a step-by-step guide to landscape drawing in your nature journal check out this post.