This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
IN a pen-and-ink sketch the technical qualities should be so skilfully expressed that the beholder may enjoy it as a picture while almost unconscious of the medium used. To ensure this, great care must be taken in the handling, lest the interest in the composition be wholly lost by the obtrusion of spotted shadows or a chaos of crossing lines. Pen drawing should express light and shade - not mere black and white; but this is not secured by forcing effects, making shadows black and lights pure white. Endeavour to keep the work high in key, so that the shadows may be as light as possible without decreasing the effect of light.
Study the half tones carefully, using only such as are essential. This is especially necessary in figure work, for with the pen it is difficult to model a face in all of its tones and half tones without making it appear black, and even if these are followed with the most careful observation, one cannot represent the delicacy of nature. Under ordinary circumstances a face is more luminous than its surroundings, and vet too frequently it is portrayed almost as dark as a piece of bronze. Work your head very light in tone, selecting only the most important shadows, and paying especial attention to their shape or outlines, as these are what give form to the face.
Solid black is difficult to manage, and if a touch of it often sets off one drawing, it not infrequent!} spoils another. A face worked up with delicacy and care, with the idea that the effect is to be enhanced by a hat with a solid Mack rim, will fall perfectly lifeless against the plain black. Pure black is especially suitable for a certain style of work - that clever Parisian illustrator, "Mars," for instance, uses it most successfully; but it will be remarked that he rarely models a face, and that his work is mostly in outline. So far as possible, avoid lines, and work in masses of light and shade; a white building against a tree is better if the building is not outlined, but is allowed to be a simple light mass against a dark one. Note, too, the masterly effect of colour got by Vierge by the use of solid black.
Work a considerable part of your drawing in the same way, so that it will appear simple in treatment; but do not carry this idea far enough to cause a " sameness " in effect. If possible, do the shadows dark enough in the beginning; draw the lines far enough apart to permit bearing on the pen, which increases the value of the colour. Nothing spoils a shadow so much as working over it often; but if it cannot be worked heavily enough at first (especially if the lines be perpendicular), draw over it with lines inclining slightly bias; this gives a transparent and agreeable quality to the shadow.
With a little practice a whole background can be put in with lines hardly varying in length or in distance apart; but be careful not to have lines ending in black spots, which are caused by bearing too lightly upon the pen at first and too heavily afterwards. Beware of plaid shadows; they betray a mechanical and inartistic treatment most disagreeable to the eye.
Lose no opportunity of working with a pen. Try every subject possible, from a landscape to a head, from the neighbouring roof and chimneypots to a procession of vehicles. Study the pen drawings of the best masters of both Europe and America. Look for the good points of every drawing; for instance, the atmospheric qualities of Vierge and Rico, the simplicity of "Mars" and Forain, and the freedom of Gibson. But do not copy any one's style; study it so as to discover wherein lies its charm, and how certain effects are obtained. Seek to know the weak points (as well as the good ones) of a drawing, so as to avoid them. As most pen draughtsmen are self-taught, and their work is the outcome of ceaseless study and experiments, it is but natural that there are many "theories" about the technical qualities of this medium, and yet probably not one in a dozen draws in compliance with them, for it is difficult to shake off old ways of working.
The best help that can be given the student is to direct him to the right road in the beginning, so that he may not be handicapped by having to try to find the way for himself. Thus equipped, let him look at nature with all her individuality and charm, and seek to depict her as she is to him.
The best scraper vet devised for the painter is an old razor blade set in a convenient handle. It should have a leather or stout cloth sheath, so that you may not cut your hand in an incautious moment when fumbling among your tools.
NeveR use dry sand-paper in scraping down a picture. Wet the paper and apply it quite freely and with a firm and steady movement, so as to render the surface under it even and regular. Sandpaper should never be used except on small surfaces, where very minute finish is required. For all larger canvases a scraper will do the work better, because it leaves a more certain tooth for the brush.
Before painting on a new canvas, rub the surface well with a rag saturated with turpentine. This will work the priming down into the pores of the canvas, and you will obtain a delightfully even and firm surface on which every brush-mark will tell.
There are two excellent ways of discovering any weakness in a picture you have in hand. One is to look at it through a magnifying glass, which enlarges and makes its shortcomings more noticeable; the other, to reverse it in a mirror. The latter is an old and ever-popular method, for the eye becomes so accustomed to looking at a thing in one way that it ceases to be critical. The moment the picture is reversed it becomes a fresh picture, and, in nine cases out of ten, errors hitherto unnoticed reveal themselves.