This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
There is an obvious advantage in using in your studies from nature the same pigments which you will use in your finished work. Otherwise your pictures must be translations of translations. My palette includes only thirteen colours: flake white, strontium yellow, lemon cadmium, orange cadmium, yellow ochre, gold ochre, vermilion, rose madder, raw umber, permanent blue, vert emeraude (or veridian - they are practically the same), brown madder, and ivory black. You see, at once, from the predominance of light-toned pigments, that I paint in a rather high key. But nature paints in a still higher key. I use a little siccatif de Haarlem and turpentine, rarely as a vehicle, usually only as a varnish. In general, if I wish to paint thinly - which seldom happens - I use a scrubby brush, and rub the colour into the canvas. I like to paint rather dry, and I believe that it conduces to permanence.
I carry a tin colour-box when sketching. It is lighter than a wooden one. It will stand rain and heat, can be put down in wet grass, and will bear much knocking about. As for brushes, I use flat hog's-hair ones, hardly ever sables. Canvas should be double primed; that which is single primed absorbs too much colour. I find it pays to carry an umbrella, a good easel, and a camp-stool. To make a satisfactory study in oil colours one must be as much as possible at his ease, and have some approach to a studio light. The fact of the matter is, that in open sunlight you do not see the effect of the colours that you are putting on your canvas. They shine more or less, and they all look much lighter than they do indoors. A practised artist may make a useful sketch in such conditions, though he will rarely accept such conditions if he can help himself. A student certainly should not. He may study form in almost any light, but not colour. And, in landscape, everything depends on colour. Distance, atmosphere, light, and colour are what make a land-scape, and all the others depend on colour. I would, therefore, insist on the student carrying a white umbrella. To depend on natural shade is to depend on what is often not to be had, unless one sacrifices his subject for the sake of it. If the sketcher gets tired, let him rest before beginning work. But, usually, the objection to carrying the needful appliances comes of sheer laziness. I have asked people why they sketched in water-colours when they intended to paint in oils, and have found that they never had any better reason to offer than that it saved trouble. That is not a good reason. Pastels, however, I believe in. The directness with which the wished-for effect is attained is much in their favour. They are the best medium for out of doors, and make you work simply. When one is inclined to pay too much attention to detail, as most beginners are, pastels are a good corrective.
Of course, one must learn to draw; but drawing is best learnt indoors. In the case of a student who is obliged for any reason to dispense with a teacher, I would advise him to get some casts of the antique and study from them; also, what is quite as important, to attend every exhibition he can, especially school exhibitions, and see how others work and what they aim at. Nature and exhibitions are very good teachers. If one will candidly compare his own work with both, he will learn what can be done and the easiest means of doing it, and a master can teach him no more.
Detail is a great stumbling-block to beginners. They almost invariably want to paint the most complicated subjects, and not only that, but they force themselves to see more than their eyes can actually behold. They know that the mass of a tree is composed of leaves, and, though the tree be two miles off, they will still try to see every leaf on it. But knowledge already acquired about things troubles all of us to some extent, and prevents our seeing things as they naturally appear. Having seen a building close at hand, and knowing certain facts about its construction, I find myself supplying those facts later, in a distant view, when they are not really visible. On the other hand, it is necessary to study detail in order to understand the character of the masses. But detail studies are best made with the point, and in black and white. The lead-pencil, or pen and ink, should be used rather than oil paints. I have made many exact studies of trees, and now know all the commoner sorts by heart. Here, for example, is a pencil study of a sycamore before the leaves had come out. The distance between each branch and the next was measured exactly. Nothing was left to chance. I took care that each angle of the crooked branches had just that opening that it had in nature. Each of these little nests of twigs is exactly where it occurred on the tree. Here, again, is a pencil study of a group of willows. It was made early in May. Later in the season, when the foliage was fully out, I painted the same group from the same point of view. Even in my studio work I seldom put in a tree without first drawing in the branches. I want to feel that the masses of foliage are properly supported, even though the branches should show only a little here and there; and I have studied branches so much from nature that I can now compose them in a natural manner.
This leads me to say something of work in the studio. The object of sketching and studying out of doors is to fill the memory with facts. It should, therefore, be exact and conscientious. But, in the studio, the artist should use his knowledge freely. Nature seldom presents pictures ready made, and the best effects last so short a time that it is impossible to study them directly. Bruce Crane.
Third Prize. Awarded to "Ascog" (J. Muir MaThieson).
No. 9 Daffodils