This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Landscape painters are often indifferent as to the accurate representation of the foliage of particular kinds of trees; but, in a broad way, they are careful to indicate the general character of the family to which the trees belong. In his preliminary studies the conscientious artist will, as a rule, secure an accurate portrait of the oak, elm, ash, beech, or willow, as the case may be, that is to appear in his picture.
To convey the idea of the species of a tree by means of a sketch, be careful to represent the peculiarities of its trunk conformation and bark-markings. As a rule, the skeletons throw out branches, beginning by sweeping downward, and gradually tending upward toward the sky. Of course, however, there will be a great diversity of length, direction, and sweep in the branches toward the centre of a tree; and they will all generally ramify out into smaller branchings, like the outspread fingers of a hand, especially at their tips. They will also decrease in thickness from the lower part of the tree upward. Note well the ramifications of the branches - where they are angular, where they are curved, the manner in which the foliage hangs upon them; and of the massiveness or the looseness of the foliage, as well as of the angularity or roundness of the leaves.
The student will not have been long at work from nature before he will of himself have made the observation that the foliage of trees is almost always darker than the ground at their base. The reason is that not only are the leaves of trees generally of a darker colour than grass or the bare earth, but we see much of the shadow side of leaves and branches, while of the earth beneath us we see the principal masses lit by the sun or sky. That this simple principle, however, is not always borne in mind by artists is shown by many of their sketches, which are unsatisfactory, even to themselves, they do not know why, and which would be quite successful if they had attended to this general truth, that the sky is usually the lightest space in a subject, the ground next, and upright objects, if full of detail, like trees or the more rugged sorts of rocks, the darkest. As these last are commonlv found in the middle distance, it may be laid down as a general rule (with many exceptions) that the middle distance contains the principal dark masses of the landscape. It is bad to erect this rule into a formula, as some French landscape painters do; but it is even worse to ignore it where it applies, as many of our landscape painters do, in their less finished work. Because rules of this sort, founded on nearly universal experience, may be misapplied, it does not follow that they are useless. Young artists, who sometimes regard them as empirical "recipes," only display their own ignorance in so doing. We will give as many as possible of those "recipes" without always taking up the space that would be required to explain the natural facts on which they are founded. Our readers will understand that they are intended to guide observation, not to supersede it.
An Old Mill by a Graveyard.
In water-colour sketching, we advise that the distance be painted first, the sky next, carrying its dominant tone over the distance, and perhaps a little into the middle distance. It may be remarked here that a modifying tone in water-colour has a much stronger effect when placed over the local tones than when these come over it. The decided grays of the distance are best got by covering down the local tints with the blue or gray of the sky; the broken tones of the middle distance, by painting the local colours over this pale sky colour. Similarly, it will be found by experience that the foreground, if of the same nature as the middle distance, will partake largely of its coloration; but there will be, here and there, touches of stronger and purer colour. Of course, the middle distance may be grass and the foreground a ploughed field; the sky may be overcast and the foreground of snow or white marble; a rocky hillside may come in full sunlight against the sky, while the level ground at its base may be dark with the shadow of some other hill; but these exceptional effects, interesting as they are when well done, may be neglected, at first, by the student and amateur. Those more customary, to which we have referred, are also, as a rule, more impressive and easier to manage.
Back of the Beach: Sand Dunes.
Sketched at Etretat: Washing Clothes on the Beach.
R. J. (To be continued.)
The difference in technique between oil and water-colours is especially noticeable in the painting of trees; and it is a rather curious fact that while preparatory studies in water-colour are useful in suggesting a breadth of treatment with the denser pigments, the oil study, on the contrary, gives no hint of the management of transparent washes on paper, and is even diametrically opposite in its practice of handling colour with the brush.
When painting in oil, the artist depends upon a certain amount of impasto combined with variety of brush work for interpreting the details of his foliage, branches, and tree-trunks: to achieve this he will employ more or less pigment, applying it in such a manner as to indicate the textures he is endeavouring to reproduce. In water-colour, we have no impasto to depend upon; instead of piling up our lights, we leave them out, or run a thin transparent wash of the required tint over the white paper from which it gains its brilliancy. Again, for representing the subtle differences of surface in leaf and branch: between the rough bark of the oak or silvery covering or the lurch, the water-eolourist relies upon his skill in manipulating the washes so that they shall run in the direction he leads them, forming as they go boundaries rather than outlines of the objects they represent. An equal variety of treatment is required in the painting of foliage, which is almost a separate study in itself, so strongly marked are the differences in form and texture to be observed. Take, for example, the smooth surface and precise outlines of the laurel, in comparison with the serrated edges of the maple leaf or the needle-like spikes of the pine; each has its distinctly individual characteristics, which must be observed and followed.
Never make a drawing out of doors and colour it from memory. The effects of light and shade upon the spot are invaluable, and cannot be produced with accuracy at a distance. It is bad practice even to touch up or deepen tones away from the objector at another hour from the one originally selected.
The French animal painter, Philippe Rousseau - not to be confounded with Theodore Rousseau, the more famous landscape painter - used to say that he never got a more valuable bit of advice than that from his teacher, who told him to bear in mind that in the blue of the sky it is necessary to put in for a morning sky some lake, for mid-day some brown red, and vermilion for the evening.
A Street Arab. By J. G. Brown.