It is the varying densities of the film that cause the image to appear to us, when we hold the negative to the light. Our art begins with the alterations we produce in these densities to harmonize the parts. We should be able to produce at will, dark or light lines, sharp or soft lines, also tones of any degree of light or dark. Medium A will produce the dark.
The Size of the Background Screen or Curtain.
Dissolve one part Red Prussiate of Potash in fifteen Medium A. parts of water. Wrap the bottle in yellow paper to protect the solution from decomposition by light. Prepare a solution of one ounce of Hyposulphite of Soda in fifteen ounces of water. These two items are from the Cramer Reducing Formula. It is not our object in artistic photography to subject the whole negative to a bath of a combination of the prussiate and the soda, for that would reduce the plate evenly, producing no change in the artistic arrangement. Our principle is based on local reduction, and it is important that the reducer be so mixed as to attain its greatest strength. By taking six parts of the dissolved Red Prussiate of Potash to eight parts of the solution of Hyposulphite of Soda the limit of strength is attained. If more prussiate is used the soda will not have the power to remove it, and the etching ceases. The negative when fixed and thoroughly cleansed may be worked upon with this mixture.
Washing the negative with the hand will not clean it. Pour some of the solution of hyposulphite upon the film of the negative, and with the aid of cotton rub it gently, then subject the plate to running water. The plate is clean if the water remains evenly upon the surface when it is held horizontally.
In illustration 59 there is an architectural line extending from the shoulder to the upper frame. It is sharp and straight. The hand cannot easily attain to this precision and accuracy, therefore, taking a broad rubber band, we will stretch it over the negative at the place desired. It will adhere firmly to the film. A large camel's-hair brush is dipped in the reducing solution and passed over the plate along the edge of the rubber band. The solution gathers along the line of the rubber and at its edge acts most vigorously, making a sharp line, not unlike that produced by a pen. By the use of rubber bands varying in size, architectural lines of any width may be made.
To Cleanse the Negative.
Procure a sable brush having a fine point. It should be large enough to make a line of any breadth. Charge this brush well with the reducer and pass it lightly over the film in any direction. By holding the plate to the light we can guide the brush perfectly, making a freehand stroke. Care should be taken to apply the royal blotter quickly, to prevent excessive biting. The blotter is an improvement over the use of water in checking the activity of the reducer, as it absorbs the liquid, and the film area remains in condition for protracted work.
A number of sable and camel's-hair brushes should be kept in vessels of clear water. Taking one of these brushes, play the water over the surface of the film near the intended line. Remove the excessive moisture with the blotter. Now make the line with the reducer and immediately tap the one side of it with a brush holding water. This connects it with the moist area, blending it. A great variety of lines can be made in this way.
How to make Architectural Lines.
Lines with one sharp and one soft Edge.
With a brush rather long and thin, such as the Japanese use, the most graceful lines can be etched over a medium dark ground or over a film of considerable density. Such lines can be made to represent grasses, foliage, tree trunks, in fact any form, if the hand is skilful.
In light backgrounds small spots of dark are often advantageously placed as a foundation to the light flowers to be painted over them with Medium B. We can make these dark shapes by using the brush strongly charged, then quickly applying the royal blotter.
A certain Rembrandtesque depth results from the following treatment: Take a plate having a well-lighted head, reduce all of the picture with the exception of the forehead, mouth, and chin. The royal blotter and the pure water brush must be skilfully used with the full strength reducer to get rich results. This yields an effect not unlike that of a painting in which the lights are put on thickly to produce the appearance of substance and plasticity in the flesh.
Procure finely ground oil colors in tubes. Mix with flake white enough ivory black to make a light gray, add to this a little yellow ochre. A piece of Medium b. glass will serve as a palette, and a palette knife is required for the mixing of the colors. Short, flat, wide camel's-hair brushes, some pieces of linen, and a silk pad stuffed with cotton are necessary for the work.
This medium is applied upon the glass side of the negative. It makes "light." Considerable experience is necessary to read the densities correctly, when the medium is painted upon the negative. Applied over portions of the negative that are already dense or "light," as we say, it will act more forcefully than where the film is thin. Therefore, in dark places, Medium B can be painted with considerable body. It is most effective for bringing life and movement into bust portraits. For instance, the original plain dark background of Fig. 64 has been changed from the inert to a series of delicate movements, sympathetically supporting the head. By painting over the area of the coat, its objectionable rigidity gives place to a more subtle quality. Medium B has also helped to model the face, — give it force and character — while to the hair it has added lustre.
In painting over the flesh portions of the head, neck, and bust, the medium is spread with our finger tips.
Over forms of body and accessory draperies, it is spread with the palm of the hand by gentle pattings. Frequently a soft bristle brush will help to play out the gradations satisfactorily.
If strong blacks are desired in such passages, a cloth dipped in alcohol may be passed over the spot, removing the medium entirely. The same method will increase the depth of the eyes. For instance, if over the face, hair, and other parts of the picture Medium B is applied, causing a greater general density, and if the eyes are touched by a brush dipped in alcohol to clear away the pigment, the print will show eyes possessed of greater depth, but not in the least changed in the drawing.
In applying Medium B the brush stroke should have decision. If perchance too much medium has been used, we do not alter the shape of the stroke, but remove the surplus by pressing on it the royal blotter; when this is lifted it carries with it the excess of paint. We can add to the delicacy of stroke by patting it with the palm of our hands, as already described. In that way its margins keep their character and the intention is preserved.
When it is desired to have the whole area lighter, we paint with the brush such gradations as are wanted, then we arrive at the right densities by using a silk pad and patting the surface. Velvet is preferable at times.
A clean flat camel's-hair brush will soften the edges of the stroke, and a clean flat bristle brush can be used to drag over thin passages to add character to it. When thinness and delicacy of tracery in one's design is the aim, Medium B can be thinned with linseed oil or turpentine. Practice along the line of these suggestions will reveal a rich field of possibilities.
In a Portrait of an Old Man, Fig. 28, Medium A A was used to reduce almost to clear glass the background and the forms of the body, and the treatment was extended, though less violently, over the hands and most of the head. The photographic image is not lost in this extreme reduction, indeed it persistently holds and may be brought back to whatever degree of accent we desire, by the use of Medium B. Sometimes we may wish certain definitions of form to remain practically obliterated, and then to invent by means of the brushstroke new forms of more pictorial value. As an instance, we notice that the complicated lines in the coat of Fig. 27 have not been considered essential to the picture expression. They have been replaced by lines and tones representing very possible drapery and creating movement from the lower interests of the picture indirectly toward the head. The emotional quality possessed by these lines greatly affects the facial expression. As balancing features, vigorous brush thrusts have penetrated the background, and sections of it have received a tender tone made with elaborate care.
Mediums A and B used in Combination.
The flesh quality and picture value of the hands have been brought back by the skilful use of Medium B, and the life-giving accents appear in the face. Medium B has also created the white touch representing the linen.
By reducing to blackness the full area of the shapes of the flowers in Fig. 66, a condition was prepared for the application of Medium B, by which means the creating of the light and shade of the complicated flower forms was fully in our power. We may facilitate our painting of flowers by adding pure linseed oil or turpentine, and we may obtain crispness in the petals by touching the Medium B in thin solution on the film side. The combined use of these mediums will soon show that while Medium A is fine in gradations, it also brings a certain dead quality into the print, which is counteracted by the life introduced by Medium B.
A still greater refinement of the technique is possible when we use Medium B on the film side wholly. It is applied thinly, having been rendered rather liquid by the admixture of turpentine. After the proper effect has been attained, the medium is allowed to dry; a quick-drying varnish is then poured over the film side of the plate. The varnish prevents the oil from adhering to the printing paper.
Treating the Film Side of the Plate.