This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
The difficult point in painting a sky, whether clear or cloudy, is to make it recede. To succeed in this one should observe very carefully the colours and values of different parts of the sky, particularly of those approaching the zenith and those approaching the horizon. The vibrating quality of a clear sky it is also an object to render. A good landscapist in painting a perfectly clear sky will use a variety of tones, and play them among one another so as to get an appearance of unity without monotony. In water-colour this is best done by going over the flat or simply gradated tint first laid with pure water and painting into it, with light but decided touches, using stronger and stronger tones until you arrive at the depth of colour required for the upper part of your sky.
Stormy skies are best painted with a rather large black sable, taking one group of clouds at a time and modelling it as you lav it in. To allow of this the paper should first be moistened. Commence with the lightest tones; paint the half-tints and darker tones into them with another and smaller brush, and, before the work has dried, take out the high lights with a bit of blotting-paper rolled up in the form of a stump for crayon. For very " dirty" skies, a moistened bristle brush may serve better than the blotting-paper to take out lights.
When the sky is finished it will probably look too patchy, but a few washings with your large badger brush and clean water will soften and harmonize it suficiently.
As I have already said, it is a good plan to commence with the distance and let it govern the rest of the work, for if you commence with your foreground you may find it extremely difficult to bring your distance into harmony with it. It is a good rule also to leave details out of the distance as much as possible. It is true, you see them; but if you were to attempt to paint all you see in our atmosphere, a single picture might take you a lifetime. The thing to remember is, that, however visible the detail in the distance may be, as a rule it is more conspicuous in the foreground, and the relations of part to part are what it is most necessary to study.
The ground, if it is bare of trees, and forms a large part of the picture, cannot be studied too carefully. One should proceed from the distance toward the foreground, taking particular notice of any cropping-up of rocks upon the surface, also of the sort of soil that covers them - whether sandy or loamy - as well as the nature of the vegetation.
In studying the trunk too great attention cannot be paid to the drawing of the shadows cast by the branches. The manner in which the bark cracks as the tree grows is a very important characteristic. Note how it peels off from the birch, scales off from the oak, forms a network of ridges on the willow, etc. The most important part of a branch is where it joins the trunk, or where one branch springs out of another. The manner of this is different in almost every species of tree. The way in which the roots take hold of or enter the ground is, likewise, important. In treating the foliage, one should do, as in the distance, suppress detail as such, taking care of the masses, their values, their modelling, the character of their outline. For the outlying groups of leaves a simple touch with a ragged and badly crushed brush will often indicate them sufficiently. Enough drawing should, however, be introduced to characterise the species, and if the tree is in the immediate foreground, the individual as well. This can be done with touches proportioned to the size of the leaves, and by noting their directions and grouping. Should a branch come quite close, these touches will take the form of the leaves.
It is well to lessen the grain of the demi-torchon, when water is to be represented, by the use of a burnisher. It is sometimes of advantage to do the same for skies and distances. This will allow of finer drawing of the reflections, which must be clone with flat touches, and without the aid of several expedients which are permissible in representing the real appearance of the things reflected.
R. Jervis. (To be continued.)