This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
In painting a bit of spring landscape, one will find rare and delicate tints that are never repeated later in the year; a rare freshness seems to pervade everything, which gives its distinctive character to the season. I would advise the student to mark these tokens, and select such subjects as will best represent them. Choose,
Pen Drawing By Kruseman Van Elten for example, apple and cherry orchards, massed with pink and white bloom, rather than pine woods, whose aspect, "ever-green," monotonous, changes but little with the seasons, like the moss-covered rocks at their feet; and here I would suggest some separate studies of leaves and blossoms, made in the studio, to familiarise one's self with their individual forms in detail. Look for colour everywhere, and you will find it - overhead, under foot, on the right hand, and on the left. Those who live in the country now are fortunate, indeed; but even in our trim parks in town, all the wild beauties of nature have not been quite eliminated. Fringed dandelions, shiny yellow buttercups, and daisies, decorate the grass; new moss and crisp lichens adorn the old trees.
In composing a subject for your sketch, it is well to work with a definite intention (which shall be distinctly carried out) in regard to the arrangement and balance of the flowers, in relation to the trees. Decide, therefore, before you make the first painting, where the interest of your composition is to centre - whether the wild flowers are to occupy the principal position, with the trees accessory, or vice versa; and let this impression be conveyed with sufficient clearness to concentrate the attention of the beholder, and to indicate the artist's point of view - in fact, it is always better to formulate some such idea in regard to the work, as a matter of practice in composition. There is a certain amount of perspective in the drawing of grass and weeds, with wild flowers scattered among them, which should be carefully observed; such perspective is seen both in form and colour, and has an important influence upon the composition. A mistake here is more than unfortunate, for it will render an otherwise carefully painted picture absolutely ludicrous; it is not necessary to place in the front of a composition, dandelions the size of a teacup, contrasted with tiny greyish yellow dots in the distance resembling pin-heads, to distinguish the foreground plane from the background; strongly defined contrasts of colour are also unnecessary where such large masses of bloom are handled. A few light, brilliant touches here, a wash of tender grey there, some salient details carefully drawn, which will attract the eye where the}' should be most evident, well-suggested hints of colour, mingling with the masses of verdure - that is all; but it is just this careful observation of nature which gives charm to the picture.
In painting such subjects, transparent washes are used with particularly happy effect; the pure colour, whether the blossom be yellow, pink, crimson, blue, or purple, just toned with black and yellow ochre, often serving to represent a brilliant cluster of flowers relieved by fresh green leaves. Study the stems and leaf forms in connection with the blossom to which they belong; and even though perhaps few details will be actually visible in the general effect, yet the impression.of these characteristics, intelligently suggested by wise touches of your brush, will give fitness and harmony throughout the whole.
In getting ready for work, look over the colour-box, and prepare it for the delicate tints of spring foliage; bring out your store of warmest greens, your softest reds; yellows, pale and deep; cadmiums, vermilions, madders, blues, zinobers, light and dark; you will need them all. In the country all is radiant: here the awakening fruit trees show like a line of pink and grey mist along purple hills in the distance; while on a warm, sunny day delicate trunks and curved branches of shining reddish brown are traced in faint interlaced lines against the pale turquoise sky. Nothing is hard, dark, distinct, or too prominent. A delicate haze softens and envelops everything that is far oft.
Water-colours used in the transparent rather than opaque method seem naturally to suggest themselves for painting the delicate richness of nature at this season; and let me remind you that no heavy tones should be used in laving in the young trees and foliage. We are seeking to represent delicacy and freshness rather than the strength and richness of the later seasons, and this effect is best secured by beginning on a light key. The following suggestions for combinations of colours will be useful as a guide for the inexperienced. To represent the trunks and branches in the distance, mix a wash of sepia, cobalt and light red, adding lamp-black and rose madder in the shadows, and a little yellow ochre in the high lights. The deepest touches in the shadows may be added at the last; thin washes of cobalt and lampblack are run over the edges in parts, to soften the outlines against the sky. These colours will also be found available in giving a certain vague effect to the budding trees in the background, where delicate pink and purple tints abound. M. B. Fowler.
When transparent and opaque colours are mixed their effect depends very much on what is beneath them. On a light ground they are seen mainly by transmitted light, and they appear of an orange cast; on a dark ground they are seen by reflected light, and they appear bluish. The same thing occurs in nature. Smoke, which is composed of transparent air and opaque particles of carbon, is orange brown when seen against the sky and blue-grey when seen against dark foliage; similarly, clouds are warm-coloured where the light strikes through them, comparatively bluish where they reflect the light; and so with everything else of the sort - opals, turbid water, pearls, mists, foliage itself in some lights. Such effects are easily imitated by mixtures of opaque and transparent colours, but very difficult to imitate if the painter confines himself to one sort of pigment. Thus, if one has to paint the smoke rising from a chimney against a dark hill, and a bright sky above it, it can be clone with a single stroke of the finish if the painter will use a mixture of transparent brown with opaque white and just a point of opaque blue. This will appear blue against the dark hill and brown against the bright sky, just as the smoke does, and for the same reason.
Pen Study By J- A- S- Monks