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Viewfinder Painting

Viewfinder Painting
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Students will look at several different images through a viewfinder. They will then create a painting made up of all the parts that they have viewed.

By Andrea Mulder-Slater


  • Students will have a chance to look at the works of other artists.
  • Students will work with acrylic (or other thick paint).
  • Students will learn to look at the different ways of laying out a painting.
  • Students will begin to recognize important elements of design.

What You Need:

  • A large sheet of poster board (22″ x 30″ if you can – half of that is fine too)
  • Small pieces of paper (typing paper will do)
  • Thick water-based paint (acrylic paint, poster paint, tempera paint — add glue to thin paint to make it thicker)
  • Pencils
  • Paint brushes and water containers
  • Scissors
  • Photographs of paintings, drawing and prints (from books, magazines or postcards)

What You Do:

First gather a number of photographs of artwork as well as postcards, art magazines, art books etc. I always keep a large box of small pictures that I cut out of magazines which I can use for such lessons.

Each student should have a chance to choose a few of the images that appeal to them.

Next, each student should create a “viewfinder” which is essentially 2 L-shaped pieces of paper cut from the typing paper.


These L-shaped pieces of paper can be arranged to make a “viewfinder”


The “viewfinder” can be placed on a magazine picture in different ways so that different parts of the picture come into view. For example, if you have the viewfinder on a picture of a house, you could move it over the window, the door or the chimney …

Next, each student should divide his or her large poster paper into several sections. A ruler is not required — freehand lines are all you need.

Then, after placing the viewfinder on a section of a cut-out picture, each student can begin to draw what they see through their viewfinder on one of the spaces they created on their poster paper.

After one section has been drawn, another can be drawn from a different cut-out picture or a different section of the same cut-out picture … and so on until the paper is full.

Finally, the sections that have been drawn on the poster paper can be painted based on the original colors seen in the cut-out pictures.

After the paintings are complete, have a class discussion and talk about why each student chose the pictures they did. Was it because they liked the colors? the lines? the subject matter? Also discuss whether or not there were any difficulties completing this lesson. What were the difficulties? Why did they happen? What could be done differently next time?


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