I am always on the lookout for new tools that might help improve my artwork. This is why I was intrigued when Riley Street Art Supply listed the Tom Lynch Secret Plein Air Tool. Gueriila Painter is a known supplier of plein air pochade boxes and this is a fitting complement to their product line.
I have high hopes that this viewfinder will help improve my plein air watercolors. It consists of a clear plexiglass sleeve into which any one of 3 different attached sheets can be rotated. There is a clear grid, a red shaded grid, and an opaque white sheet. The grids also have a value scale along the edge.
The way to use it is to sketch with the provided dry erase pen on the outer plexiglas while the clear grid is inserted. Then you can insert, or even start with, the shaded red panel to see the values more clearly. I assume the solid white sheet helps you to see your sketch when you are done.
The problem I have with a tool like is that personally, I don’t enjoy holding my arm out while I try to sketch. I’ve tried other similar view finders both complex and as simple as a Kodak slide blank, and it’s always the same. I find it difficult to keep the desired scene centered int he viewfinder, and my arm is uncomfortable.
This particular tool also has the minor problem that the dry erase residue can get caught inside the plexiglass sleeve.
Frankly, I find it much easier to snap a photo with my iPhone and then use the Grids app or superimpose my own grid in any art app that has layers. I even have the Notan app to give me an idea of the values in any number of levels that I choose.
I suspect I might like the Secret Plein Air Tool if I could set it up with a typists document stand. Until I find one of those gadgets, I’ll stick with my cell phone to capture my compositions.