The first condition that the beginner will be wise to seek for, when sketching out of doors, is that she shall be comfortable at her work; the difficulties that will arise in any case will be found sufficient to test most of her resources. The second condition is similar in its aim - namely, that she shall choose for a subject a scene which is not too complicated either in drawing, tone, or colour. When a student myself, a well-known landscape painter, who happened to find me, in ignorance, sketching an obviously formidable subject, said at once that he always could tell an amateur or a beginner from afar by the nature of the subject before which he was seated. As the great man put it : "It is invariably something that requires two men and a boy, at least, to tackle it." This was a pointed piece of criticism from which I have endeavoured to profit, and I now hand it on.
A subject suitable for the novice to attempt. The bridge itself should be drawn first, then the banks of the stream and the reflections in the water; finally, the lines of the fields and silhouette of the banks of trees against the sky
Let the student give herself all the chances she can, then, in the direction of success, by-selecting, to begin with, a motive she can start on with confidence - say, some large object with its contours and tones well defined, such as a building, a boat, or a bridge, against a plain background of a field or a band of trees. Of course, the more picturesque and attractive the object, the better; but the immense views with complicated masses of woods, mountains, and waters, all in various distances, are best left alone for a time, as well as those tempting flower-beds with gorgeous masses of colour which Nature harmonises so cunningly, but which are traps for all picture-makers but the most expert.
This, by the way, especially in the case of ladies, should be light in weight. It is quite impossible to make a good sketch if the artist arrives on the spot with her energy exhausted by physical exertion.
Good drawing or painting means clear thinking, as I have tried to explain before, so one must be as fresh as possible in order to concentrate one's mind alertly on the sketch. Any hesitancy in aim, or trusting to the fingers alone for inspiration, will betray itself at once in the work; and, in so much as it is present, will affect the force of the appeal it makes to the consideration of others.
For water-colour painting, I recommend that an easel should be chosen with a movable top, so that it can be tipped back flat, to act like a table, with the sketch on it. By this means it is much easier to lay the large, flat washes which are often necessary. There are several of these in the market, and most tricks and dexterities of handling, which are especially attractive to the beginners, but of which I would earnestly advise them to steer clear in endeavouring to acquire a really sound method of painting.
Better far to take as a model such simple little notes in water-colour as those of J. F. Millet in the Ionides Collection at South Kensington Museum. These have in them the real spirit of the seeker after truth, while the sentiment of things seen out of doors is conveyed with astonishing force in spite of the apparent artlessness of the means used. With such a model before her, the student may go any distance.
To come to material facts. It is very important that the student should accustom herself to having all the material she may need for her sketching compactly together, and so arranged always beforehand that she is not likely to forget her water-bottle or other necessary parts of her equipment.
of them are excellent; they also can be used quite as well for small oil sketches if desired.
In teaching beginners, I believe it is usually best to lead them back, first of all, to the earlier methods which were used in any particular school or medium, pointing out the practice of the masters in these; and, as far as possible, how it was that they arrived at their success. From these beginnings it is then easier to go on and explain later developments, which naturally grow out of the earlier.
A Good Method for Beginners
For this reason, I propose, in this paper, to begin with a method that was largely used in the earliest school of English water-colour painting, or water-colour drawing, as it more strictly should be described. The real painting methods did not come into being until iater.
In this method, the first duty of the artist was to draw the large forms of his subject boldly in outline, paying great attention to mass, and the general character of each silhouette as it came up against any other one. These outlines were then usually inked in with a pen in brown or watered ink, and so fixed.
Afterwards, the general tones, brighter or darker, appropriate to each silhouette were mixed in neutral tints and laid flatly over each outline until the various planes in the picture were established with the utmost truth the artist was capable of, care being taken especially that there should be no doubt in the onlookers' mind as to which plane came in front, and which went behind. Finally, over these neutral tones, when dry, simple washes of local colour were passed; different greens and yellows for the fields and trees, and various blues for the distance.