Some art students carry a view-finder of the kind first described with them constantly and gain a great deal of pleasure and useful knowledge of composition by studying different objects through its opening. In making one, cut several spaces through your card instead of one, if you prefer, of various shapes and sizes. They need not be large as the card can be held near the eye; in fact two or three small openings or a single large one can be made in a finder of postal card size. Sometimes threads are fastened across the openings from side to side and from top to bottom in such a way as to divide them into a number of smaller rectangles or squares. Those who have preference for this finder feel that it lessens the difficulty of laying out correct proportions when drawing from nature, just as in copying a photograph or enlarging a sketch the work is simplified when the print or sketch is marked off into squares or rectangles.
Several excellent compositions can often be found for the same object or objects when viewed from one point, by showing more or less of the surroundings, just as a number of satisfactory photographs can be secured. Naturally, too, an infinite variety of compositions of any architectural object can be discovered by studying it from various positions and under different lighting conditions. When working from the photograph several excellent sketches can sometimes be made from different portions of one print, especially if the picture is a street scene or a general view similar to that of the Wye Bridge and Cathedral, published below on this page. It is easy to frame a number of attractive compositions on this photograph and it would be to the student's advantage to do so. Figure 25 shows three sketches drawn from this very picture.
It will be noticed that no attempt has been made to slavishly copy the values and details exactly as they appear on the print, for it is seldom wise to do this, but the general effect is indicated in a broad, simple way. There is perhaps no better manner of learning composition than by making such selections with the finder and also such sketches as we have shown here. For this reason the following exercises are offered to fix in the memory the ideas which we are considering.
First of all, obtain several photographs such as street scenes or general views, each showing a number of objects which might make pleasing sketches, and with the finder frame on one of your prints some selection which seems to compose well, remembering that each composition should have a center of interest. Remember, too, that there should always be a pleasing relation between the shape of the picture space or margin line and the subject itself. If, for example, a very tall building such as a skyscraper or church spire has been chosen, it is as a rule best to draw it on paper placed vertically or to frame it in a vertical picture space, whereas a long horizontal building or mass of buildings can usually be represented to the best advantage when enclosed in a horizontal manner. This has been illustrated in Figure 24. The English cottage shown at "1" at the top of the sheet, seemed, when viewed in connection with the nearby trees, to demand a horizontal treatment, while the church tower at "2" suggested at once a vertical handling. A group of buildings such as that shown at "3" usually calls for a horizontal space, for if the horizontal masses are more prominent than the vertical the fact must be recognized and expressed. Thus the church at "4" is given a long, low, frame, but if its tower alone was to be shown the contrary treatment would be more appropriate. As a general rule it is well not to use circular or oval or triangular frames or margin lines on architectural drawings as such shapes often have little or no relation to the form of the architecture itself. A square shape might be well related in this respect and therefore might sometimes do, but from an artistic standpoint a square is usually less interesting than any other rectangle. It is even true that certain rectangles are more pleasing than others. One with a length just twice its width is not as desirable, for instance, as another which is one and one-half times as long as it is wide, while even this proportion is less subtle and hence less satisfying to the eye than one about three parts wide and five long.
Photograph of the Wye Bridge and Cathedral. Three Sketches Drawn from this Photograph are Shown in Figure 25.
Courtesy of Pratt Institute.
While discussing margin lines it might be well to mention that the line itself should never be so black as to draw the eye away from the subject. The width and tone of line should vary in different drawings so as to always be in harmony with the sketch. Again, attention should be called to the fact that sketches in some cases are carried way to the margin lines while in others they are allowed to fade gradually into the paper, or "vignetted" as it is called. In either of these cases if the exterior of a building is being drawn it will be found that the margin lines need not be far from the building itself, with the exception, perhaps, of the line at the top, as all spaces will appear much greater after they are rendered than before, for such surroundings as are generally used add a sense of distance. If too much space is left in such drawings the landscape and accessories may easily become too prominent in relation to the architecture.