This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
President of the Society of Miniaturists.
(Concluded from page 167.
WE proceed now to the third stage of our work," Mr. Praga said. "You see, I map out the principal shadows. First, the side of the nose and the shadow side of the face. .. Be rather inclined to get your cool grays first, and warm them subsequently, than begin by putting in warm shadows.
"Next we have the shadow of the neck. Try to see form in all your shadows and tones. Do not be timid about putting in your shadows, but be careful to keep them short of their full strength, in their early stages. Until the background is painted they will look darker than they are. In blocking in the forms of the hair, every touch should mean something. Make up your mind from the first what form the hair is to take. Note carefully the direction of each tress. How well Helleu understands this in his water-colours and etchings ! I believe that his wonderful success in rendering women and children is due as much to his careful study of the hair as to anything else.
"We must not put on the full strength of any part yet. So far, all is relative," said Mr. Praga, as he drew in the line of the cheek. " We must so work that, at any time when we leave off, everything will be found in harmony. No one part must be carried any further than the rest. .. I am putting in shadows very squarely at present," he added, as he put in those of the neck.
" Our drawing now is fairly satisfactory, and we may consider the colouring. In doing so, the first thing to bear in mind is that ivory is not absorbent. It is not as with ordinary water-colour painting, when you can float off superfluous colour, nor as in oil-painting, when you can remove it with a palette-knife or paint over it. You must make up your mind what you want to do, and remember that the colour you put on is there to stay - at least, as far as the general effect is concerned. Up to now I have only blocked in the shadows and forms; it is time to put in a general flesh-tint.
" ' What flesh wash am I using ? ' you ask. This is carnation and yellow ochre; for our model, you will observe, has a very delicate complexion. For a darker complexion 1 would probably use light red and Roman ochre. You see, I wash or float the colour on in places where the shadows do not appear, washing around the features, being careful not to wash up the drawing of the features we have already indicated. In the earlier stages the colour should as far as possible be floated on.
" ' What colour will the background be ?' Well, as the background is going to be cool in tone, I shall put in a delicate wash of cobalt. A faint wash of yellow ochre would do equally well if it were going to be of a warmer tone. Either of these tones would be safe as a groundwork, for either could be worked up afterwards as might be required.
"Do not make your nostrils too red. It is a convention. I am using cobalt and brown madder, qualified by yellow ochre - in variation - for all shadows; but I do not say that this should be used indiscriminately. I am opposed to any hard and fast formula of colours. I am only saying what it is you see me using. It is no good telling students overmuch about mixing colours. One can only say use the smallest possible number, and use them according to what you see. Take two students and tell them what you are using, and you will find that though they may employ the same colours they will get different results.
"A miniature may be carried to any degree of completion. The difficulty is to know where to leave off.
"In this connection one is influenced very much by the wishes of sitters or their friends, for unless they happen to be artistic, they want the work carried to the most microscopic and mechanical point of finish, losing thereby all breadth and freedom. If they can examine it through a microscope they think you have reached the highest attainment of excellence."
"I notice that you do not stipple ?" observed the Scribe.
"No, I do not, by means of dots," said Mr. Praga, decidedly.
"You object to the practice ? "
"Yes; any technical means are perhaps justifiable that may bring about a desirable result, but the result brought about by stippling in dots I do not consider desirable; for, say what you will, in my opinion stipple of this nature is mechanical: there is no spirit in it. Any other kind of touch may develop into a style. You do not find such stipple in the best period of miniature painting - not in the work of Cosway or Plimer. If your work is started properly from the first, there will be no temptation to stipple in this way. Breadth of treatment is what should be aimed at from first to last. This is really more necessary in a miniature than it is in a large painting. The employment of stipple is supposed to impart finish to a picture. That is nonsense. It does nothing of the sort. Stipple of the kind I have alluded to has nothing to do with finish. It is simply conducive to weakness."
"I have observed, Mr. Praga, that you do not use your smallest brushes much ?"
"Not more than I can help. I begin with my largest brush (No. 4), which, however, has a fine point, and I work down to the smallest, No. I or No. o."
"Is it not very difficult to keep the brush just moist enough to be workable and yet dry enough not to work up the under painting ?"
"Yes, to maintain the happy middle course is half the battle. I find a small pad of white blotting-paper very useful for removing superfluous moisture from the brush and giving it a point. It obviates the necessity of putting the brush into the mouth, which, of course, is a very objectionable practice, although often it becomes unavoidable in finishing.
"You see, I am strengthening up all the forms as I go along. The touches should become closer towards the finish. Great attention must be paid. of course, to the 'values' of the flesh. You have to make up your mind now where the high lights are to come - they are usually on the nose and forehead. In this case, the hair softens down the forehead, leaving the principal high light on the-nose. We must subordinate all the other gradations to that. Having advanced the head and drapery, we must now let the background receive attention - no part of the picture must be left behind.
Diagram showing the proper way to cut the oval from the sheet of ivory.
"At the first stage, you will remember, we washed in the preliminary neutral tint (composed of blue and red). We find now it wants helping forward, to balance the strength of the head. Of course, the background is very important as a support to the head and must be worked in conjunction with it. We must not fail to carry it forward with the painting of the flesh, as it affects the tone of the flesh by contrast, and often when the flesh appears too low in tone or dirty in colour, it may be heightened and improved by lowering the tone of the background. If the flesh is too warm, it may be cooled in appearance by adding warmth to the background, or vice versa.
"I have already called attention to the mapping out of the forms of the shadows. We may now lose
"Painting a Miniature/'
The Portrait, by Mr. Praga, finished and framed.
(For illustrations of the three intermediate stages of the painting, see page 167 ) these somewhat in the moulding and gradations of the flesh."
" I see you are going to have the usual cloudy sky background."
" Yes, it is very hard to beat, if not over-elaborated. You see, I am all for simplicity. In the bad days of miniature painting they used to have curtains and columns too. The most difficult kind to manage is the delicate, light background."
" How will you treat the pendant and chain ? "
" I may consider it advisable to leave them out altogether in this study, but if I decide on introducing them, I shall put them in lightly, with a very finely-pointed brush, just sketching in the dark side of the chain and pendant, using Roman ochre, with a very little sepia - leaving the high-lights untouched. Later on we may touch them in with a little Chinese white and yellow ochre in the highest lights.
"Attention must be paid to the delicate shadow cast on the flesh by the object. This is particularly noticeable when the chain or jewel encounters
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