The great difficulty in giving advice to the beginner in what are known as the Fine Arts, especially in a written form, is that, while, as in any other kind of teaching, a system is necessary to get a good result, to be useful it should not be of that hard and fast nature that makes no allowance for temperament, but rather a guide pointing steadfastly in the direction of the goal and giving warning of traps and pitfalls by the way. This, of course, is easier to do with personal instruction, when the teaching may be varied as circumstances arise. If anything said here appears dogmatic I would ask some indulgence, considering the form the statements have to take. The road itself is a well-worn one, but there are many side-tracks, especially at the start, in which the novice may easily go astray. In this respect I cannot do better than quote the wise words of Ascanio Condivi, the pupil and friend of Michael Angelo, as true to-day as when they were written, nearly five hundred years ago: "If anyone desires to bring forth a great work in A rt, worthy to be read or seen, he must work in the same way as the first great example, or, at least, similarly, and go by his road; for if he does not his work will be much inferior, the worse the more he diverges from the direct path."
In the following papers I do not propose to set out an elaborate scheme such as could be followed out only in an art school. I shall pre-suppose some knowledge of freehand drawing or ordinary copying, and set down some rules and observations which I have found of practical use to mysell, which I am most likely to explain best for the use of others. I shall also endeavour to point out some of the commoner errors into which beginners fall.
The first thing that the student of drawing and painting has to do is to learn to see.
When representing the appearance of an object on the flat surface of paper or canvas it must be remembered that only what the eye receives from one given point of view, and under one given set of conditions of light and shade, can be represented at one time. Nothing that the mind knows beyond what the eye can see counts in this representation.
People in these days, when nearly everything printed is illustrated, do not, perhaps, expect to see the four sides of a house shown in a drawing at one time; nor, like the Red Indian, to have both eyes appear on a profile; but quite intelligent people are capable of criticising while looking at the sitter from in front, a portrait done in profile, and see nothing wrong in it.
The eye receives the impression at once, much as a scene is projected on the sensitive film of a camera, but then the working of memory with its store of acquired facts steps in, confusing the relative values of them, and the picture in the untrained mind becomes rather a collection of facts, colours, and incidents in succession; of the importance of each as compared with one another he has no means of judging until the attempt is made to set them down on paper.
The faculties of women have long been acknowledged to be particularly acute in this direction.
Many readily remember, in an extraordinarily minute way, details of dress seen quite
The Arts casually, or peculiarities of someone or something that have interested them; but these impressions, no matter how vivid they may be. are of little use in conveying to another a picture sufficiently faithful to be depended on.
Fig. 1. - This is a frame of cardboard (say 6 inches by 4 inches) through which to look at the subject to be drawn. Aa and Bb represent threads intersecting one another at right angles, cutting the opening up into squares. Beginners will find these lines of assistance to the eye, in keeping the uprights, judging different proportions, and the directions of inclined or curved lines, by noting how far they depart from the right angle formed by any thread that may cross them
Again, Hamerton, I think, has pointed out that the most eminent literary geniuses have been unable to describe the appearance of a character so that anyone could recognise the man in the street; nor would any two readers picture him to themselves as of exactly the same aspect.
But from even a slight and comparatively rude sketch any person or place can be recognised at once. So we see that it is not the number of facts gathered, nor any succession of images that is of importance.
In what, then, does this learning "to see" consist. First of all, in perceiving that it is impossible to see anything by itself, but always in relation to at least one other object, and the result of these two or more things seen together makes a whole scene or picture that can be put down on paper. According as this is done well or ill so will the illusion of reality or the reverse be conveyed to the spectator.
Slowly, by constant watching and comparing, the mind acquires the power to grasp this idea, and to retain in the memory what has been seen as a whole:
First a few facts, with instinctive measurement of their component parts and sizes when compared one against the other; then the different angles at which they incline to one another, and from which they acquire their special characters, till the scene can be built up mentally and remembered. With practice, more and more will be added, together with a more subtle synthesis of the whole. It is a memory, however, that is rapidly fatigued and needs constant refreshing, so it is as well to look twice at the model for every line set on paper.
I suppose that the commonest remark that is made to an artist in company is, "Why, I cannot even draw a straight line." As a matter of fact, this is not so easy as the speaker wishes to imply. If he could do so it would show that his eyes had acquired one of the first requisites of learning to draw - the power to judge accurately the shortest distance between two points, and the power of obedience in his hand to put the measurements down on paper exactly. This brings us to the second difficulty of the beginner, the training of the hand and eye to act together with that perfect sympathy which means precision in drawing.
Fig. 2. - It will be found better at first to make all drawings in the same proportibns as the frame (Fig. 1).-i ne irame itself can be any size one pleases - 6 inches by 4 inches, 5 inches by 3 inches, 3 inches by 2 inches, etc. Mark off on the bottom corner of the piece of paper on which you propose to draw, a square abed. 6 inches by 4 inches, or whatever it may be. to represent opening of frame. Draw a line diagonally through bd in direction e. Project base be as far a* desired (/), and draw a line at right angless to meet bde. Complete the square bfeg, which will always be in the same proportions as abed.
This demands great patience and persistence as well as no little natural aptitude.
So much so, that few who have not practised it from early youth acquire the facility necessary for the best work. Yet much pleasure and a great widening of the interests, with the resultant educational benefits, can be obtained with reasonable practice.
One of the simplest studies one can suggest as a preliminary exercise in training the eyes to see and the hand to obey will be found in watching the skyline from the window or from the street when the outlines of buildings tell boldly against the light.
If looked at through a small square frame of cardboard (Fig. 1, easily made by oneself) held up at a few inches from the eye, the scene will be shown as a picture or whole in its simplest form. Of course, the amount of landscape contained by the frame will vary with the distance it is held from the eye. Seen through this frame the main proportions of the picture can be more easily analysed.
Proceed from the general to the particular, beginning with the great division of the mass of light in the sky from the dark mass of the houses; then the size of one set of buildings as compared with another, the inclinations of the various roofs, and the serrated edges of the chimney-stacks. This would be about the order in which to think of the different parts before attempting to set them on paper. The drawing should be made as freely as possible with an F. or H.b. pencil in a sketchbook or on a piece of paper pinned securely on a board. Then test it by measurements for correction; the squares on the frame will be a help in this, as so many squares will include so much mass, and an idea formed of its exact proportions. The drawing should not be made too small, but about 14 inches by 10 inches in size. Set upright about 20 inches from the eye, so that the pencil be held almost at arm's length. In this way the whole drawing and the whole scene in nature can be looked at together with the least possible trouble. The ideal would be that the drawing is fixed at just such a distance from the eye and object that mentally the natural scene might be taken down and placed on the drawing, when the lines would coincide. It does not matter if the result at first looks shaky and clumsy; practice will soon put that right; and this method persisted in will result in greater freedom in the end. To be continued.
Fig- 3 - This is a silhouette of buildings in the simplest terms of sight. the division of light from darkness. Observe how the great mass of the buildings and the space of the sky make two great shapes in the picture. Then the variety given to them by being broken up by the tower, spire, chimneys, etc., ami the different proportion* these parts make with each other, and the angles at which they incline. On the observing and setting down of these correctly to one another the likeness of the picture to the scene depends. One realises how much can be done by these simple means when one remembers the little old-fashioned portraits that used to be cut out of black paper, many of them conveying a far more perfect idea of the actual appearance of the individuals they represented than a thousand pages of writing would do
Fig 4.-A second more complicated silhouette, showing several sithouettes giving their proportions to one another. By this means the idea of perspective and distance will be conveyed