This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
By Edward R. Taylor, Late Headmaster of the Birmingham School of Arts.
Oppressive ugliness dominates our daily life in most of our towns. Some lay the blame on the invention of machinery, but surely it is rather our misuse of machinery to satisfy greed and foster a love of sham and pretence, for among the modern productions of the loom is some of the best work of to-day. Good handicraft, being personal work, is without doubt more beautiful and precious than machine work, but bad handicraft is more repulsive, being more pretentious. Machinery is not the chief cause of this love of ugliness, and handicraft alone will not cure it; but the sordid surroundings caused by the criminal way in which our large towns have been allowed to grow, the love of sham and pretence, the trend of education even, and the false aspirations which have divorced work from life, must share the blame.
The exclusion of art education as an essential in school life has increased the evil. The opposition is still active. One educationalist is alarmed at the flood of art students which such a system would let loose upon society - is it feared that Art will become a rival in society to racing and bridge ? - and the headmaster of one of our most important secondary schools states that he profoundly distrusts a musical or art education of any kind because they are emotional. We glory in that art is emotional, but this emotion is only gained by earnest insight and strong training. This emotion has gone to the building of our cathedrals, and reveals beauties in a sunlit English meadow, and in our literature, too, which are hidden from those who have not gained for themselves this second sight. It is not of much use dilating on the beauty of colour to the blind, and I will only quote Ruskin: "Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts; the book of their words; the book of their deeds; and the book of their Art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the other two, but of these three the only one quite reliable is the last."
Notwithstanding apathy and opposition, Drawing, and the powers of heart and mind which it only can evoke, will soon be the birthright of every boy and girl. Its value is recognised in a few of our great public schools; there are secondary schools in which this subject is thoroughly incorporated, and in many others it is tentatively received, while hundreds of elementary schoolmasters are honestly striving to do their best, from a firm conviction of its educational value.
It would be amusing, were it not so sad, to watch the fight between the humanist and the scientist, with art as a little boy looking on, too small to be considered, while commercialism runs away with the education over which they are fighting. Both combatants have right on their side, and might work in harmony if the world were agreed on the object of national education; its first purpose is not to make a ladder to the University, or to make captains of industry, but to remove the moral and physical ugliness of our lives by increasing the number of those to whom a love of the beauty and order of nature and art, of literature and music is an essential in their lives.
Earnest and able artists and educationalists are helping, and also, unfortunately, the theorists, each with his one panacea, see their opportunity in the coming greater recognition of this subject, and teachers are distracted with their cries, and the frail bark is in danger of being wrecked in the flood.
Art teaching is going through a similar experience to that which befel secondary education some years ago, and which is well described by Mr. H. O. Wells in "Mankind in His Making." Speaking of certain secondary girls' schools he says: "The subjects of study in these schools come and go like the ravings of a disordered mind; 'Greek History' (an hour or so a week for a term) is followed by 'Italian Literature,' and this gives place to the production of a Shakespeare play that ultimately overpowers and disorganises the whole curriculum; a triennial walk to a chalk-pit is 'Field Geology,' and vague half-holiday wanderings are ' Botany Rambles.' Art of the copper-punching variety replaces any decent attempt to draw, and an extreme expressiveness in music compensates for an almost deliberate slovenliness in technique."
Art teaching is going through a similar volcanic period. The cry of one is for "free arm drawing," another for "ambidextrous drawing"; one condemns all drawing from copies, and would abolish the blackboard, which is the one most useful bit of apparatus in a school, except a good teacher; another swears by " brush drawing," and already in some schools it has become the end instead of the means, and we have seen technique only equalled by the Japanese with no real drawing. One in authority says model drawing is wrong, but object drawing is right; another that you should only learn drawing on wood, metal, etc, and not on paper. One despises careful work and encourages dash and speed; another decries line drawing, forgetting that children and child nations always draw in line; one says never draw a simple thing (fatal advice); another that the drawing should be from archaic examples even if mutilated, but reading is not first taught from Chaucer, and a broken nose will hide the most beautiful face from a child. And some go as far as to say that you should not teach a child at all, for he knows better than you what is his impression. Most of these have a grain of right in them - just enough to keep a teacher thinking; but they retard education by hiding the unity of aim and simplicity of means in Art training from those who, though not experts in this subject, hold the destinies of teaching.
One of the latest and most serious heresies is that there is a distinction between the teaching of drawing and the teaching of Art. I do not say that all drawing teaching is art teaching, but it should be, with the exception of drawing with mathematical instruments, which is scientific drawing, just as the other is or should be artistic. If it is not so, it is like a class of little children droning after their teacher the words of a fairy tale; the children know the words, but the sentences convey no meaning, and yet the same tale in the hands of a good teacher will be full of life and imagination, and the children will be entranced and educated.
The aim in teaching drawing is to waken the imagination by developing the innate love of beauty and work, teaching to see the beautiful in nature and art, and for the developing and exercise of this, a certain craft power is given, if only the use of pencil on paper. The exercise of this little craft power not only reveals to the pupil hidden beauties, and to the teacher the weakness of the child, both in seeing and expression, but also its individual sympathies, which the true teacher encourages and directs instead of repressing. The pupil unconsciously emphasises those qualities with which he has most sympathy, and the teacher by this finds what and how best to teach; and this, whether the pupil is translating a beautiful form into line and colour, or making use of these in ordered sequence in a design, creating new beauties of combination and developing the power of memory. It is something more than mechanical copying, or the untrained expression of the child's impression.
Art training should begin with the first lesson in drawing. I have seen in an infant school class some half dozen quite beautiful arrangements on squared slates; the beginnings of young pupils are better than the first attempts of those who begin later - less self - conscious and less contaminated with the surrounding ugliness, and almost the finest acting I have seen was a scene from "Alice through the Looking Glass," by very young children. To postpone the development of this power of expression is to cause it to wither from atrophy; rather try to make this teaching more general.
Preparation of Working Drawings.
(Concluded from page 194.)
IN stained glass, artistic marquetry, and other work of the mosaic sort, in which the separate pieces are large, it is customary to prepare two full-size outline drawings on brown paper, in all respects alike, and differing from a mere tracing from the cartoon in that some lines of the latter may be omitted, and others not in the cartoon are added. The cartoon may show, for instance, the figure of a soldier or a saint, with his features strongly outlined and the various colours of his costume indicated by washes melting into one another. But the working drawing will omit the features, since they will have to be supplied after the work is put together, and will sharply bound the spaces to be occupied by different colours which must be cut out of different materials. These two drawings are numbered to correspond, each space surrounded by lines bearing a number, and the corresponding spaces on the two drawings bearing the same number. One of the two is also lettered with the names of the requisite colours, following the cartoon. This is what is called "colouring" a working drawing. The one that is so "coloured " or lettered is laid face up on the table or bench. The other is cut up into pieces of the shapes indicated by the lines upon it. If the work in hand is marquetry, each piece of this " cutting drawing" is pasted or glued on wood of the proper grain and colour, which is then sawed into shape by following its outline. If stained glass work, the " cutting paper" is merely laid on the glass, and the glazier's diamond is run around it. When the various pieces of wood or marble or glass are all cut out they are each marked with the number of its cutting paper, and are assembled in their proper places on the working drawing, which, as will be remembered, also bears the same numbers. Then the effect is criticised, and the work proceeds.
At the present time most of our artisans in the various artistic trades are capable of making their own working drawings from a neatly drawn cartoon. But as they will occasionally make mistakes, and can seldom be depended on to return the cartoon uninjured, it is often preferable for the amateur to make the working drawings himself. R. Jervis.
The conquest of white is a problem every painter yearns to solve. It is regarded as the highest technical achievement to render white textures in high light and temperate shade with approximate truth. The slightest deflection in the one direction will produce the crude and chalky effect of mere paint and in the other will end in muddiness and opacity. Copying a plaster cast or white draperies will be found of the greatest use to the student. It may not produce such agreeable effects of colour as easier subjects made up of the bric-a-brac of the studio, but it will teach the student to make pictures sooner and more skilfully.