For the past few years a great improvement has been made in the execution of portraits in black and colored crayons. Crayon painting is much easier in its execution than oil painting, and pictures may be completed at one sitting, owing to the fact that dry colors are used instead of oil, which may easily be removed or changed at will, left and resumed again at any time desired. In this department of art crayon takes the place of brush and paint, in all the different places where colors are used.
Crayon painting is said to have been practiced for a century or more after it came into use, and during the past few years it has had a "big run" in this country.
Crayons, or Pastels, can now be purchased by the box, in all varieties of tint, each box containing a graduated series.
The Paper upon which the drawing or painting is made, is manufactured for this purpose in such a manner that the texture becomes loosened and forms a woolly surface, which assists the blending of the tints, and receives the crayon.
As soon as a crayon picture is completed it will necessarily have to go under glass, for so slightly tenacious is the crayon, in some placea where it may have been repeatedly applied with a view to brilliancy, that it may be blown from the surface of the paper.
Exposure to the Sun, which may brighten pictures painted in oil, will in a short time destroy the delicacy of crayon colors. They must also be kept free from moisture or dampness, as it is sure to change the color and produce spots on the face of a portrait, or the sky in a landscape.
Colors. The colors employed in pastel painting are about the same as used in oil painting, with some exceptions. The best for crayon work are the following:
Oxide of Zinc, White Chalk, Spanish White, Naples Yellow, Mineral Yellow, Chromes, Cadmium Yellow, Gallstone, Soft Red Chalk, Chinese Vermilion, Venetian Red, Chrome Red, Carmine, Lakes, Indigo, Prussian Blue, Smalt, Cobalt, Terre Verte, Cobalt Green, Brunswick Green, all the Greens from Copper, Green Oxide of Chromium, Lampblack, Umber, Ivory Black, Blue Black, Black Chalk.
Color of Paper. In regard to the use of paper, any color may be used, it being wholly a matter of taste with the artist.
The prevailing colors are Blue, Drab, Grey, Straw, Buff, Olive and Stone Colors.
A yellowish tint, you will find, produces the best results.
Mounting the Picture. Before commencing upon the drawing it must be mounted upon a stretcher, after which, with a firm crayon, trace the outlines, with either red, brown, or grey color. The beginner will find the Pentagraph of excellent service for outlining where you are working from a copy.
Sketching in the Outlines. This must be done lightly, in order that the crayon does not enter into the texture of the paper, so as to render the marks difficult to be superseded subsequently by the necessary colors. When the outline is completed, the breadths are made out by means of a brown crayon, and a stump, working for the degrees of shade.
Applying the Crayon. When the likeness is satisfactory in the sketch, the complexion may he commenced on, beginning with the lights. The whites, yellows, reds and greys must be worked in, and blended to an imitation of the reality of nature. From the highest lights, proceed in regular order to the deepest shades, and, in order to secure substance, these must be put in equal in strength to nature; after which the middle tones must be carefully blended, so as to unite the lights and shades by imperceptible gradations. The markings must be definitely made out, and the reflexes also, if there be any. As the fresher tints occur principally in the lights, it would be well to keep the color rather high, and of a warm tone, in order to reserve the brightest and most effective tints till the last.
When all the tints have been laid in, and the head is in a satisfactory state as to form, color and expression, then, with the finger, pass over the whole, working and blending the colors in harmony. In this operation the finger is used instead of a stump, and nothing else will answer better. When this operation is concluded, the crayons will be again used to bring up the colors, and tone to those of the life - to modify and correct those which may require retouching.
Those parts which are heavy must be relieved, and those which may be too cold or too warm, must be reduced to harmony. Working with the finger will be found the most available method of managing the crayons.
Having laid in the tints, according to the natural complexion, it will be necessary, before touching the work with the finger or blender, to be certain that all are laid in the proper places; a little experience will enable you to judge; there remains but little work for the fingers to perform, and the less the colors are worked upon the more fresh and transparent they will remain.
Colors and the Composition of Tints. The shades of flesh tints are warm or cold, according to the warmth or coldness of the breadths of the light. If the lights be of a healthy hue, the shades may be warm, inclining to brown mixed of various colors, broken with light red, carmine, yellow, blue or grey. Some artists represent nature as violet or green, in shade; but this is untrue and must be guarded against. It is advisable generally to follow the Italian feeling of leaving the dark passages warm. When the complexion is strong in color, the effect is most agreeable; if worked without hardness, opacity or blackness. In feminine portraits the work must be brought up to the utmost brilliancy of color, by the brightest and freshest hues, composed of White, Naples Yellow, Vermilion and Madder, mellowed with Yellows, or slightly purpled with Lake or Carmine, according to the prevalent tint of the subject. In the masculine subject the colors will be stronger, and the half-tints more positive. Great care must be observed, lest the high and delicate passages be soiled or stained. They must only be approached by, and blended with, other shades at their extremities; and these shades are, in most cases, half tints.
It will be clearly seen by the artist, that if the intermediate tint be too cold, it must be treated with the reds or yellow; if too warm, reduce by grey or blue. The lights and shades should be carefully graduated, and harmony prevail throughout the work.
Backgrounds. - For backgrounds there is no established rule; a head may be relieved by a light, or dark background, either producing good effect. A dark background is not always suitable for female loveliness.
Backgrounds are not to be rubbed in mechanically, with the idea that any dark shade will relieve any light, or that any middle tint will suffice. As a general rule, the background around the head should be lower in tone than the half tints of the face, and lighter than the shades - to disengage the head.
Where the paper becomes greasy or glazed by the too frequent application of the pastel, or the finger, it may be necessary to rub it with pumice pounce, or with cuttle-fish, lightly.
If the paper stretches by constant pressure on it, you can remedy it by wetting the back with a light solution of alum water.