This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
There is a school of art where the students are invited to send in questions, which the principal reads out in the class-room with his answers to them. We give some of the answers; for they will interest a much wider audience than that for which they were primarily intended. - [Under the above heading the Editor will cheerfully answer similar questions from month to month.]
Q. Must one have talent to attain success, or can it be acquired by hard work and application ?
A. What is talent ? There never will be an exact definition of it; but application, love of the work, and natural aptitude go largely to make it up. Genius is only recognized in people who succeed.
Q. If one is able to master the construction of a figure, is it not as advantageous to develop it in paint as in charcoal ?
A. If a student can construct, get the action and proportions correctly; then it is time to paint. Of course with different temperaments there should be different rules; but 1 believe that we all see things in colour and form, not in black and white. Form should be associated with colour, not separated from it; studying first for form in the charcoal drawings, then learning colour afterwards, is a waste of time, and disconnects the sense of colour and form, which should be inseparable.
Q. For one wishing to paint (not illustrate), how far is it necessary to carry charcoal studies from life ? Is the acquirement of fine finish necessary ? Is there not clanger of losing colour sense in long-continued study in black and white ?
A. Abbey told me that since he has taken up painting, he regretted his work in black and white. I thought at one time that he would never learn to paint, but he is an exceptional man, and all students cannot expect to succeed in both as he-has clone, and I urge them strongly, instead of learning charcoal technique, to learn the technique of the brush.
Q. Is it well to work when one does not feel like it ? Even enthusiastic workers at times tire of drawing; is it right to carry it to drudgery ?
A. We are learning also at other times than when actually at work. Go out into the fields, and see and think. Mental work is necessary, and what is thought and felt at quiet moments is what brings success. Do not overwork. Keep alive the artistic instinct, and put clown all that interferes with it.
Q. Can technique (brush-work) be taught ? Is it a desirable thing to acquire the technique of a master ?
A. If litterateurs require style and finish, if technique is necessary in music, how much more does a painter need it ! Fifty years ago the paintings of Franz Hals had little value in the picture market. But since the marvellous power of his brush-work has come to be recognised his work is above price. That is the triumph of technique. We constantly hear cleverness sneered at, but when you meet clever people, watch them, and consider before you drop them, for cleverness means ability. Fine brush-work is equivalent to fine oratory; it is the means by which our thoughts are expressed, and without the means of adequate expression the best work of the artist is lost.
Chalk Study. By Charles Sprague Pearce.
Q. What do you consider the ultimate object in art?
A. Self-expression. To represent yourself, your individuality in your work. In a Rembrandt, for instance, it is Rembrandt I see, his view, his feeling, about the man he has painted.
Q. How would you compare Velasquez and Whistler ?
A. They were too unlike to be compared; but if Velasquez had lived in Whistler's time, he would have grasped him by the hand. They are utterly different in technique, but alike in their great sympathies for nature.
Q. Please explain how a picture differs from an illustration. For example, I have heard it remarked by an able critic that the large works of Gustave Dore are merely enlarged illustrations. How should they have been treated in order to be classed as pictures ?
A. I should say that a picture differs from an illustration in that the illustration is the expression of another's idea, and a picture is one's own. In the past, historical painting was considered the greatest. " High Art " was somehow supposed to have relation to the size of the canvas and number of the figures. Everything in time gets weighed at its full value. Dore was a vigorous illustrator, but not a painter. He had an ill-regulated kind of mind; no sense of colour, no idea of its quality.
Q. What is true " impressionism ? "
A. To render your individual impressions as you feel them.
Q. I see colour as my instructor sees it, and am accused of imitating. Shall I keep on in my present course ?
A. Yes; even though you had a number of instructors, let each one seem to be, for the time being, the only one. Keep yourself in a receptive-state.
Q. Would you advise studying from the antique longer than is necessary to acquire a fair knowledge of drawing and construction ?
A. Students are required to begin too soon to study from the antique. It should be the finishing touch. The beauty of the antique cannot be justly appreciated until the living model has been studied. When I was in Venice I frequently saw an old man, at least sixty-five years of age, drawing from the casts in the galleries; he told me that for eleven years he had been in the habit of coming there for a time to draw - that each year they seemed more beautiful and necessary.
Q. Is modelling an aid to drawing ? Am I correct in thinking that it gives one greater knowledge of form and more vigorous style than one would have otherwise ?
A. Modelling is not an aid to drawing, because there is always a tendency to over-model already in drawing, and going too much into detail is just what we have to fight against. In most of the painting one sees, there is too much projection.