"God has diffused beauty, and ARt has combined it." - Houssaye.
A sketch is a graphic memorandum. "The field of labor is the wide world of nature - her beautiful truths the lessons to be learned by heart. Once fairly within her school, Art awakens to a life of sympathy with its teacher that lasts forever." A capacity for drawing means more than producing a linear representation. The sculptor draws when he models the plastic clay into imitative or ideal creations. The painter draws when he disposes his pigments with like impulse. The stalwart smith draws when he shapes the heated metal into form. He that cannot draw a crooked line, cannot draw a straight one, and he who cannot draw a straight line, the simplest, easiest, and most comprehensible, has certainly much to learn, and should begin with it.
In Making a Drawing from Nature, we start out with one of two things in view, a desire to make a perfect copy of the scene before us, or a wish to make a choice selection from the whole, and arrange it to suit our fancy. The first is historic, from the fact of its being a true and faithful copy. The second is called poetic, as the effort is for beauty of arrangement and general make up. In the latter, the artist is generally better satisfied with his effort when the picture is complete, than if he followed closely to the laborious work of perfectly copying that which is not altogether interesting. But at the same time the first, that of picturing facts, must form the basis of the art. By it we acquire a knowledge of detail, and store the mind with true nature, which is essential in good work. A true and faithful copy is what is sought after. In following our own fancy, we go out into the field and select from a combination of objects, and make up our picture. We find a log cabin standing beside a rocky stream of rippling water, which is spanned by an ancient log bridge; in another place we find cows grazing; and again a horseman is coming down the road. We combine the three. The cattle are driven into the stream, the horse and his rider are brought into and form a part of the picture, which is now complete.
In sketching from nature it is first essential that we should be trained to some extent in a course of perspective drawing.
Linear Perspective is the application of the principles of geometry to the accurate delineation of the principal lines of the picture. Drawing on a plain surface an object as it appears, or as it would appear on a pane of glass, held between you and the object.
Perspective is absolutely necessary in drawing from nature, not only in perfecting finished work, but in all circumstances. Theoretically, as well as practically, it bears more or less upon all the great requisites of perfection in art. We can by its aid, select our own point of observation, even though it be imaginary.
Materials. Of the variety of instruments and materials for drawing and sketching, there is the lead pencil of different degrees of hardness, and tint; then there is the French crayon, tinted crayons, etc.; French sketching boards, prepared of various tints, with skies, and suggestive effects ready laid in; "solid sketching blocks," bound as a portfolio, will be found convenient. Paper for "cartoons" can be obtained of most any size, up to six feet wide.
In a Picture we have Six Terms, the center of the picture, or center of view, the distance of the picture, the base line, the horizontal line, the perpendicular line, the point of view.
Lines in Nature. It is a remarkable fact that all the lines in nature are curve lines, the body of trees, the branches and their leaves, and the fruit that grows thereon; the blades of grass, and flowers in the field; the swells of the ocean, the hills and hollows, are all composed of curved lines. Nature is all loveliness and perfection, all her effects are true, and the desire of the student should be to realize them thoroughly, and let nature, and nature alone, be the teacher, following her faithfully, in the full assurance of the attainment of truth, whatever else he may fail to accomplish.
Then let the pencil, the servant of thought, Copy the lessons which nature has taught; For the skillful hand of the artist entwines, No garland more fair than her beautiful lines.