This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
WE have referred more than once to the labour-saving device of the "Silver Print," which is much employed by professional pen draughtsmen, particularly for commercial work, and which is well known to all who draw for newspapers. It is especially serviceable in making, for reproduction, sketches from snap-shot photographs of persons, scenes, or incidents having only a transient or news interest. But the silver print enlargement may also be used for facilitating the copying in line of a photograph which it may not be desired to reproduce by the half-tone process. One simply draws over a very lightly printed photograph, and then removes all traces of the photograph.
Our double-page illustration, after a painting by Mr. F. A. Bridgman, is a good example of a pen drawing made in this fashion overan enlarged photograph. As we give it very little reduced from the size of Mr. Piton's drawing, it may be studied with advantage by the young illustrator for its excellent qualities of technique. Lacking the inspiration of an original composition, and the artist having been handicapped by having been required to draw over a photograph, naturally it has not the spirit of an original drawing by Vierge, whose technique has evidently been the model of the clever draughtsman. But the pen handling is so simple and direct that the student will find it easier to analyse than the usual reproductions one sees of pen work by Vierge, which is so much reduced that the lines close up and darken, quite destroying the characteristics of the original drawings.
We would particularly call attention to the excellent effect of atmosphere and of transparent shadows that are found in this drawing by Mr. Piton. Most of the textures, too, are well differentiated. It is, for instance, easy to distinguish between the material of the stiff, rustling silk of the lady visiting and that of the soft, cotton or woollen draperies of the person to the right of the picture. The treatment of the component parts of the building, too, is very satisfactory.
On artistic grounds, the use of the silver print can hardly be recommended; but an artist may make it yield artistic results, for he will exercise-great reserve in availing himself of it, and will only use the photographic base for its suggestion, as Mr. Piton has done in our drawing, virtually translating the artist's oil painting into a picture in pen and ink, endowing the work with all the new interest consequent to the change of the medium of artistic expression. The chief danger is to the incapable student, who will be apt to rely too much on the aid suggested by the record of the camera.
The silver print may be described as an enlargement of a photograph made on "plain" - that is, non-albumenised - paper, so that one may draw upon it with pen and ink. It may be the same size as the original photograph; hut it is nearly always an advantage, in the case of a pen-drawing that is intended for reproduction, to make it larger than the desired printing-block of it is to be, because in photographing down, the outlines will become liner and the parallel and cross-hatched lines of shading may be brought closer together than would be feasible in the drawing. It is printed fainter than the original photograph, which, however, should be distinct enough for 'one not only to follow with the pen all the principal masses and outlines, but also to make out such details as it is desired to put into the drawing. Except in the case of catalogue or other trade illustrations, the draughtsman is usually satislied to put in only the essential facts.
The bleaching process is simple and rapid. It consists of floating over the drawing a preparation made by dissolving one ounce of corrosive sublimate in half a pint of alcohol and half a pint of water. The photograph disappears almost immediately. When the paper is dry it should be dusted, and one may then carry the drawing further. A good draughtsman usually does most after the photograph has been washed out, for he can get a clearer view of what his pen work will look like than was possible while it was obscured by the photograph underneath it.
Before drawing on the silver print, it should be mounted on stiff cardboard, otherwise it will curl so that it will be difficult to manage it. It will be an economy to pay a trifle to a photographer to do the mounting for you.
As has already been intimated, one must be a a good draughtsman to use a silver print to advantage. By its aid one may save time in getting the proportions and outlines of objects correct; but it does not follow that a better drawing could not have been made by copying the photograph free hand. You may work over a silver print and utterly distort the features of a portrait, or falsify the values in a landscape, unless you have had the academic practice, and the artistic sense that will teach you how to avoid this.
It is advisable for the beginner to have his silver prints made for him at first, although the professional, with plenty of commissions, might find it to his advantage to get a camera and make his own prints. One may buy the silvered paper from any concern dealing in photographing materials. But it is important to state for what pur pose you want the paper, and that it is plain and not albumen paper that is required.
Great care must be taken not to expose the silver paper to the light, otherwise it will darken and be worthless. Give your photograph to a local photographer, and tell him to enlarge it for you, making an ordinary negative, and print it upon the "plain" paper which you give him for the purpose.