Sight-size in Landscape Painting

Using the sight-size technique for landscape painting.

Using the sight-size technique for landscape painting.

There is a lot going on right now in my life and haven’t been posting much. This is just a quick post to help better explain to my weekend landscape students the principle behind using the sight-size method for plein air sketching. In the photo above you can see how the camera was held in a position where the subject is the exact same size in nature as the painting on the panel. When using sight-size in the studio, the painter moves back to view the subject and the painting together from a distance. In the case of sketching the large view of a landscape onto a small panel with the sight-size method, the trick is to make sure your head is always in the right position where the subject ‘fits’ onto the panel. I personally believe many painters do this instinctively without realizing it.

The sight-size method is incredibly useful for landscape painting as it allows the painter to focus on the colors, values and edges, and the shapes almost seem to take care of themselves. For atelier-trained painters especially, who have spent years painting with the sight-size method already, it seems a waste not to continue using it outdoors.

Painting at the Badia a Passignano.

Painting at the Badia a Passignano.

Above is a panoramic photo of Wendy, Takuma and I painting at the Badia a Passignano this weekend.


  1. Nicely written Marc. It’s good to finally be reading something about Sight-Size and landscape painting. Too many think it’s just for cast drawing/painting.

    Plus, you can’t beat Badia a Passignano for a landscape subject!
    I hope we get to see the finished painting someday.

  2. This is very interesting. When I was in Fenway studios in the early 80s, many Gammell students claimed that sight-size was not applicable to landscape work, because of the scale differential. Though I believe that is to some extent true, it is not always the case, as you have so aptly shown.

  3. Hi Marc,
    I first saw your sight sizing tutorial on Youtube, and now I am reading your blog from the beginning. I just want to let you know that I had never heard of that before and tried it out for the first time this week, and I am blown away by it!
    I always dreaded doing preliminary drawing on the canvas before proceeding to painting because I just wanted to paint, now I know an easier way.
    Not just for drawing, it also makes checking for values/hues much easier because you have 2 images side by side.

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