"Tinted Drawing " a Primitive Form of Painting - Difference between Drawing and Painting - How to Learn the Comparative Values of Tones - Some Old Masters and their Methods - How to Paint a Picture - The Value of Still-life Painting correct drawing forms the basis of good painting, whether in oil, water-colour, or any other medium; but having said so much, it is well to remember that there have been painters who were not good draughtsmen, and vice-versa. The truth is that the plastic sense is largely a gift, and cannot be taught.
As is to be expected, the more primitive forms of painting will be found less complicated; tending to be, in fact, what painters call tinted drawing - that is to say, an outline has first been found, and then colour applied, either flatly in local tints up to its edge, or if relief is desired the colour is made dark on the shadow side and light on the light.
This is the method the elementary student must go through, until he acquires some power of matching tints and putting them down in pigment.
But in true painting, as in nature, there is no such thing as an outline: there are merely two tones of differing degrees of brightness or darkness drawn up one against the other, and so affording relief from one another, until the appearance of reality is obtained. For this sort of drawing the artist does not work by the contour, but rather from within outwards until the boundary of a new tone is reached, and a new mass of tone begins. All fits together, somewhat like a puzzle; but all sorts of overlapping may occur, as film after film can be added to convey the subtleties of intervening light and air.
To avoid much disappointment and disastrous experiment, it will be found best for the beginner to simplify his processes deliberately as much as possible by starting to mix a number of tints, say, three or four, approximating to the brightness or the darkness of the chief parts of the object he wishes to depict. Let him begin by mixing one for the background and another for the most important object relieved against it. It should be remarked that the background tone is one of the most difficult to depict, because no tone is likely to be correct until the true value of the background has been established. This fact is very often lost sight of, and not by students only, whence follows, naturally, much tentative work and consequent added labour, as well as failure to get the desired effect.
By holding up on his knife some of the pigment when mixed, and comparing it with the particular tint in nature which he desires to match, the student can obtain a rough idea of its accuracy of tone. By following up this process with a few of the tones desired, if he is able to draw at all, he should acquire a sound basis on which to work.
He should now continue to correct these tones until they as closely resemble the nature before him as he is able to achieve.
In these tones he will find that it is the main half-tone of each colour in the object depicted that is the important one. By this I mean the colour which would be meant if one described generally a dress, say in light, as light blue; and in shadow, as in grey, blue, etc., no notice being taken of the high lights or deep shadows. If the student adds a little light pigment at one end of this halftone and some dark at the other he has two more tones which will assist him greatly to gradate or model the object completely into the round. A very small quantity of pure pigment from the palette, added to the mixed tones, will vary them to a surprising degree.
A first study of plain flat tone values
As he attempts a still more perfect matching of the tints before him, however, the student becomes aware of another condition - namely, that the colours on the palette, besides making a gradation from light colours to dark colours, show also another gradation, from warm colours (yellow, orange, red) to cold (blue, green, black).
This is a matter of vital importance to his work; for, in painting, nearly as much relief, and consequent expression of form, may be got by opposing warm colours to cold as by the contrast of light and dark. Indeed, the colour reliefs will be found to "carry" better - that is, can be seen at a much greater distance from the eye.
All colours are dominated by light, to that the apparent colour of an object is not its actual local colour, but its local colour as affected by the condition of lighting.
Reason, as has been well put m a little pamphlet, "Elementary Propositions in Drawing and Painting," by
Henry Tonics, of the Sladc School, and Ceorge Clausen, R.a., "the difference between a particular colour in light and in difference between light and dark tones of the same colour, but the difference between a colour inclining to warm of one intensity, and a colour inclining to cold of another intensity, and vice-versa." For example, in ordinary indoor light the lights are cool and the shadows warm; in sunlight, the lights are warm and the shadows cool.
Lay in the whole picture quite thinly, diluting the pigment with turpentine, either in one warm tint, such as an umber, or, if preferred, in the simplest local tints, paying special attention to drawing and light and shade. This coating will dry practically at once, and cannot affect later paintings; also the white of the canvas being covered out it is now easier to judge the intensity of all tones in the next painting. The second painting should be laid on boldly with a full brush, and as correctly as possible in tone, colour, and drawing, and to be perfect without any medium. It will be found wiser to allow this coat to dry thoroughly.
With the third, fourth, or later paintings the colour may be thinned if desired by a mixture of oil and turpentine, or oil, copal, and turpentine in equal quantities. Each painting should, if possible, cover the whole canvas at one time. Especially is this desirable with the last, so that the final surface may be all one film.
A study in colour values
Up to this point we have been considering methods of painting which aim at and produce realistic effects. The various degrees of brightness or darkness of the colours in the model having been matched as truly a.3 possible, the painting is made up of what are technically known as "values," because the exact value of each brightness or darkness to each other and to the whole have been obtained by the selective skill of the artist.
But there is another type of painting, and a most magnificent one. We find it in Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne," in the National Gallery, and in the work of Gorgione and many other great painters. This kind of painting is dependent on quite other conditions, for here is the arrangement of certain great harmonies of colour and their opposition, which are imaginary and of the painters' own creation, though suggestive of and based on those of Nature. In the "Bacchus and Ariadne," for instance, the sky is made deliberately much darker in tone and fuller in colour than it would appear in nature, or in a naturalistic picture; but being opposed by masses of dark warm colour in other parts of the picture it appears luminous, and gives the onlooker the feelingof a sky.
These methods belong to the poetry of paint-ing, and the technical processes on which they depend, with their under paintings and glazes, are hardly to be taught. Unless the artist is born with the instinctive gift of thinking out schemes of colour - harmonies which will convey his emotions and be convincing to others, he will have no basis on which to build. Therefore it is wiser for the student to learn to paint in a direct manner first of all; then, if his nature so impels, he will soon find out the means of expressing himself in this second manner.
Of all the practice that a student or trained artist can give to painting there is none that will repay him better than the study of still life - that is, the painting of inanimate objects. He can arrange objects of various colours, textures, and surfaces under conditions which do not change, and thus study them thoroughly until he gains the power of stating them in the simplest terms possible. As I have said before, in art the best is the simplest. The beginner may think still-life painting dull and uninspiring work, but a little experience will soon convince him of its real value.
A painting study from life
My own practice with beginners in painting is to set them first of all to paint an interior in the school; by preference, a large class-room used at night by plasterers' apprentices. Part of the room is divided off by an arcade, which puts it into shadow, thereby giving two large tones opposed to one another in light and shade, which can be readily seen and appreciated by the student. There are, besides, in the room a large number of white objects, portions of ceilings, mouldings, etc., the different intensities of which in light and shade are obvious when brought up one against the other, and therefore good for the student to study. Any objects, such as paint-cans or pieces of fabric with local colour, show with great distinctness in the midst of so much negative colour, making it comparatively easy to judge the values of their places in the picture. For the next exercise I try the student with an ordinary plaster cast of a head or figure, so that he may study thoroughly the modelling of an object in practically only one colour with its background. From this he proceeds to simple exercises with a few coloured pots or vegetables; and so on, to the more complicated arrangement of objects of different colours and textures in light and shade. When he can handle his materials fairly well in such subjects he can then attempt the astonishingly difficult matter of painting flesh.