In the Victorian era a sweet, sentimental subject received the accolade. An honest painting of something really seen and experienced would be by-passed or condemned.
A good example of this was with the movement known as Impressionism. The Impressionists wanted to go out and see the world with their own eyes. They were tired of sitting in the studio all day making up nice subjects for the Salon which was the accepted practice of the day. They went out and looked. They made little or no distinction in what they looked at. Light and color were their subjects.
Consequently their paintings were judged ugly by their own age.
Times have changed. We don’t call them ugly any more. We don’t ridicule them and say they were wrong to have done them. We put them in all our public galleries, pay high prices for them and see them reproduced time and time again.
So that if you choose a subject that you have come upon and which you feel will make a good picture, go ahead and tackle it. Be unconcerned with the judgments, real or imaginary, which you think will be made on what you do. Concern yourself only with the use of your media and tools. Let your hands speak through them and keep those critical faculties quiet.
You will find that you get great satisfaction. You will discover many things you were unaware of before. A whole new world will unfold itself for you. You will be seeing more and more each time you go out. Your confidence will grow and you will really be fulfilling yourself.
Having considered what to draw or paint, let’s see how we can get down to practical matters. What are the things we should do first? You have settled on your subject, you are excited by it. Then move around it, see it from different angles. It is a good idea to have a viewfinder with you. A piece of card, about 3 inch x 4 inches, will do. Paint it black and then cut out a rectangle 1 inch x 2 inch. This will make an excellent viewfinder. It will help you avoid what you don’t want, guide you to the view that you can best manage on paper.
The eyes, because they can rove about and change focus so quickly, take in too much. The viewfinder will simplify the scene for you and help you to get an interesting composition. A viewfinder has many other uses. It can help you to judge perspective: the changing angles on objects as they recede into space. It can help you really see what you are looking at, by concentrating your eyes on that piece alone. It can also help you to ascertain the tone and the colors. It is invaluable for the beginner and the experienced alike.
If you keep it always tucked in at the back of your sketch book, it will always be handy when you need it. A diminishing-glass viewfinder, or a camera viewfinder, can be used likewise. In short, anything that serves to put a rectangle round what you are looking at will be of great assistance (Fig. 19).