AN ARTISTIC conception is susceptible of translation into graphic expression through a variety of media, but by a certain universality of custom, or perhaps more accurately of convenience, the familiar lead pencil has achieved a significance derived from its immediate association with all forms of pictorial delineation. One may speak of it as a kind of staff upon which the artist or the draftsman leans most heavily. But this popular acceptance or recognition has, curiously enough, failed to carry with it an equivalent degree of appreciative comment or of authoritative instruction in the technique of its individual employment. Therefore, an examination of the text and illustrations contained in this volume must be of special and compelling interest to any one of artistic profession or aspirations, for in his accomplished and excellent interpretation of the potentiality existent within the pencil, Mr. Guptill is practically a pioneer.
By far the greater acknowledgment must be given, however, to the very definite stimulus contained in this volume toward a really effective educational development among architectural draftsmen. The atelier system which offers an inexpensive means of acquiring certain architectural training, based on the general principles of instruction at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, nevertheless, stops short of completeness from the lack of stress placed on the important element of free-hand drawing. Great emphasis is properly laid on the solution of the plan and its presentation but the adherence to the mechanical method more or less predicated in the drawing of the two-dimensioned plan, has been carried with almost equal insistence into the study of the three-dimensioned elevation. Out of this practice has grown a kind of formalized T-square and triangle "indication," much in vogue, and with scarcely more suggestive value than the working drawing produced with the other mechanical paraphernalia of ruling pens, compasses and dividers.
Most draftsmen avoid the blunted pencil point as they would a plague. A large part of their time is spent in sharpening the pencil to the length and sharpness of a needle. With such an implement their horizon is narrowed down to the production of scale drawings and the conventionalized sectional hatchings indicative of various materials. Form expressed in the graceful, flowing suavity of line becomes a remote possibility under such conditions.
If I am dwelling with some insistence upon the value of free-hand drawing, it is not in disparagement of instrumental drawing, nor with any view to its neglect. It is rather in the desire to build something more vital and engaging on this foundation of mechanical skill which will result in the draftsman becoming ever increasingly more of a draftsman that I most earnestly recommend this book. Mr. Guptill has with every evidence of success endeavored to assist the draftsman out of this automatic conventionalized indication into the realm of appreciation of the greater artistic possibilities lying within himself. To suggest to others a way of increasingly beautiful accomplishment is obviously no slight contribution. This volume is a plea for better instruction in free-hand drawing and for the thorough perception of its value.
The illustrations accompanying the text, by their variety and excellence of selection and their orderly arrangement, furnish in themselves a basis of suggestion to students which should awaken the most enthusiastic response.
The initial and almost certain discouragement which the making of a drawing from life connotes, inevitably becomes an emotion of compelling interest once a grasp of the elements of form and contour has been accomplished. I know of no way in which artistic capital, in the sense of facility and sureness of drawing, can be obtained better than by drawing from life and the transition from the plastic model to the rendering of the static architectural ornament enables the student to embody in his drawing the spirit of the design with a sureness and a refinement of detail not possible to one who has not passed through the former experience.
There is some distance to be travelled along the road of artistic endeavor before the student can express his personality in the composed statement of the artist. Mr. Guptill has, I think, in pointing out the road and contributing to its illumination, wisely kept away from the indication of style. His insistence has been in the line of encouragement of a greater fluency of speech in the language of pencil technique and of the assistance that intelligent conventionalization can render in the presentation of form and of color and of materials.
New York City.
It is a pleasure for the author to express here his grateful appreciation of the co-operation of all those who have contributed towards the making of this volume - especially to Walter Scott Perry, under whom, as Director of the School of Fine and Applied Arts, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York City, the lectures upon which this work is based were prepared, and to the artists who have kindly given permission for the reproduction of the drawings shown in the supplementary illustrations.