This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
IN selecting brushes, let the sables be rather full, in order to avoid dryness of touch, particularly in the drawing of branches. Both bristles and sables should be placed in water for an hour or so before work, which makes them more easy to clean afterward, and tends to preserve them. Short bristles are most useful in landscape, nevertheless, a few long, slender, and very elastic bristles are useful to introduce touches of colour into masses already laid and still wet. The badger-hair blender is also useful, but has its inconveniences. Much used, it gives a soft and weak appearance to the work, and is destructive of firmness and relief. It is best to restrict its' use to the skies and water. The blender should be very soft and supple, and should have a strong handle.
Wipe your brushes out on a paint rag and dip them in oil when your work is done for the day. When you want them again, wipe the oil off. Brushes so treated will last twice as long as those washed every day; but the washing is, after all. the best method of treating them to secure the certainty of clean tints.
After scraping the palette clean, never leave the wood bare. Rub it well with linseed oil before mixing colours on it again. Otherwise it will absorb so much that you will find yourself continually betrayed into false combinations by the differences between the colours on the palette and those on the canvas.
Palette scrapings should not be wasted. There are two uses to be made of them. Either smear them over an old canvas, and amuse yourself by watching the suggestion of forms which accident builds up with them, or plaster them over a pickle jar or a common earthenware jug till it is covered. In the one case you will have a fine ground to paint over; in the other, a rich bit of pottery to fill a corner of your wall.
In all the range of the floral kingdom, nothing affords as noble a study for form and colour as the sunflower. You will learn more in drawing and painting by making it your original than you could through a score of its less regal fellows. There is about it a grandly sturdy power. Its strong stem, its powerful leaf, and its great rich crown of seed and blossom give it a robust beauty no one can appreciate who has not given it the study it deserves.
For painting in black and white I find it most convenient to make my own colours. I grind up zinc white with a muller on a glass slab, mixing it with gum arabic and glycerine, the latter in just sufficient quantity to keep the colour from cracking, as it would with gum alone. Very little glycerine is necessary. Too much prevents the colour from drying. You can test it by drying a little on a bit of paper. For black I use bone black, warmed up with a little Vandyck brown, and mixed in the same way. With these colours it is possible to obtain a brilliancy and crispness of touch which is impossible in oil, while the objectionable greasy gleam which characterises an oil black and white is avoided.
No line of art is unworthy of study. If you have the talent for historical painting, and have to paint fans, paint them. The time will come when you will be able to paint the pictures you wish, and meanwhile your fans will be better than those of the man who has no talent beyond the painting of fans.
It is as bad to attempt too much as to be satisfied with doing too little; but it is more honourable to fail of achieving an impossibility than to succeed in accomplishing a commonplace work that anyone could carry out. Try to measure your powers, and always endeavour to advance them by doing to-day what you would have shrunk from yesterday. Avoid over-ambition in order to escape being disheartened by failure, but cultivate an ambition governed by intelligence, for by it done will you make definite and permanent progress.
Next to a sensible criticism from an expert, a looking-glass is as good a critic as you can have while at work. The defects in tone, colour, drawing, and balance of composition a reversed view of your picture will reveal to you, must be learned by experiment to be credited.
There is no better muscular exercise for a painter than fencing. The practice gives the wrist a wonderful strength and suppleness, and the exercise of the rest of the body is an admirable tonic for a system necessarily somewhat enervated by close mental and physical indoor application.
In retouching, or in doing work which is to stand, it is best to use siccative for lakes only, not for ochres or other earthy colours, nor for white.
A student who has come back from Munich says: "When I went abroad I had the reputation of being a good draughtsman and a fair painter in the sketch class. When I entered the school in Munich I found that I knew nothing. Instead of making crayon drawings from the model on a sheet of charcoal paper 1 was called on to do them life-size; instead of little sketches, I had to paint my models six feet high, and not being exactly a six-footer myself had to mount a box to paint the heads. I had, moreover, to finish work on this scale in the same time that I had been accustomed to give a small drawing or study. At first I was in despair. At the end of the first week I seriously thought of throwing it all up and coming home. At the end of the month I was disgusted with myself; at the end of the second month I had become interested, and by the commencement of my second quarter I wished my life would last for ever. I acquired the power of working on a large scale slowly, for my eye had become used to seeing things too small, but while I advanced in it, I was amazed to see how strong and ready my hand became at small work, sketches and drawings from life and memory and compositions. It is a great school, that of big work. Now that I have been through it I wonder, sometimes, how I got as far as I did before I found it out."
Plaque in Repousse and Chased Silver.
Diploma Work of a Student in his Fifth Year of Study (done in confinement). (See article on "The Geneva School of Industrial Arts," page 277.)