This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
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"When is a Painting Finished?" Canadian. - There are differences of opinion on this point. Whistler said that a picture is finished when all means used to bring about the end have disappeared; other distinguished artists go to the opposite extreme, and make the paint itself as noticeable as the picture. It may be said that smoothness, except in the case of highly elaborate work, is a sign of weakness as a general rule, and usually imparts a tame, mechanical look to even good work.
The Terms "Tone" and "Values." Two Puzzled Students write to us as follows: - "You would confer on us a great favour if you would settle a dispute as to the exact meanings of the terms 'tone' and 'values.' They seem to be used interchangeably by some writers on art." - We understand your difficulty, for we have remarked ourselves that a well-known critic commonly speaks of a touch of colour regarded as relatively darker or paler than other colours as "a tone." This is certainly not the way in which French writers on art use, and correctly, we believe, the terms "tons" and "les tons." They apply the term "ton" to the separate touch or passage of colour in a picture considered in all its relations with the other such tones, not only as to depth or intensity, but also as to purity or luminousness. The term "general tone' would properly be used in reference to a picture as a whole. In our opinion, "values" should refer only to the relations of dark and light.
The Use to make of Sketches. Home Student. - You probably have been less successful than you suppose. It seldom answers to attempt a landscape composition by simply taking the foreground from one sketch, the middle distance from another, the distance from a third, and a figure or a group of figures from a fourth. All sorts blunders in perspective, both linear and aerial, and in the effects of times and seasons are likely to result from this easy mode of composition. The painter must start with a conception containing all the essentials of his landscape. This he usually jots down quickly with charcoal, pastels, or oil colours, then turns to his sketches, or to nature, for the details that will give precision to what may have been vague and ill-defined in his idea. It is true that every object in an artist's composition is likely to be one that he has sketched or studied from nature, but imagination works much more correctly than reason in these matters, and makes better use of the same materials. There are men who destroy their sketches as fast as made, sketching only for study. Others paint directly from their sketches, trusting to memory for the facts not noted in them, and to instinct for composition. The best plan, perhaps, for most, is to look over one's portfolios occasionally in order to refresh the memory, but not to copy from any sketch or study in making a composition.
Drawing from the Cast. Solitary. - (1) There is no reason why you should be discouraged in continuing your studies alone, but the drawing from the cast you send for criticism suggests a few general observations that may help you. For instance, in shading, do you know that one side of the crayon should be cut or worn rather broad and flat ? To represent the difference in tone between the background and the cast, you should cover the former completely with light strokes of the flat of the crayon, crossing them a little to get an even tint. You will then, if not before, see in the cast itself many delicate changes of tone, it being in some places darker, in others lighter. Next, you should cover down the darker parts as you did the background, first outlining them as exactly as you can. But there are also differences between dark and dark, and between light part and light, and you will find ultimately that there is but one " high light" somewhere on a projecting part of the leaf, and hut one strongest dark somewhere in the hollow under it. By the time that all these lights and shades have been attended to, the leaf, in the drawing, will probably have become darker than the background. It must once more be given its true relative value by going over and darkening the background.