Crayon portraiture, to one who knows nothing of the method, seems not only very difficult, but almost unattainable, except after long years of study and practice. Even then many suppose artists are born, not made. The writer of this article has been employed in teaching the art for several years, and could refer to many pupils who, after comparatively few lessons, were able to execute finished portraits of real merit. Any one who can learn to write can learn to draw, but a special method is necessary to enable pupils to work intelligently. Most other branches of art have been elaborately treated by able pens, but crayon drawing as a study, has been hitherto neglected. A cared preparation of written instructions cannot fail to enable one with ordinary ability and taste to master this most beautiful art. One of the first requisites for successful work, is to have proper material, and of the best quality.
Paper. The best and only paper that should be used is Whatman's imperial, or double elephant. It should never be used by tacking to a drawing board, but must be mounted on a stretcher. All Art Stores have a ready supply of these, but for the sake of economy they can be made in the following manner. Take a pine frame 20x24, or any desired size, lay a sheet of Whatman's paper upon a table, face side down, dampen it with a sponge over the entire surface: lay the frame upon it, and trim the edges of the paper with a knife, about one inch larger than the frame. Cut out the corners, then with a small brush put a little flour paste upon the paper beyond the frame, and also upon the edges of the frame; turn this paper up on to the edges of the frame, drawing it a little with the fingers to take out the larger wrinkles, and make it adhere firmly. Put away in a cool room, to allow the paper to dry, and a stretcher is ready for use. Do not moisten the paper on the side upon which the drawing is to be made, as this would occasion spots, which would spoil the work. In selecting materials, buy the small paper stomps, which come in packages of a dozen or more ; one soft rolled chamois stomp (avoid the hard stiff ones); a stick of square Conte crayon No. 3, a piece of Conte rubber, which can be sharpened with a knife when it becomes too blunt, a few sticks of the round glossy Conte crayons, a crayon holder, and a few sticks of soft charcoal. Take a small block of wood, about 3x5 inches, paste a piece of fine sand paper carefully over one or both sides, and let it dry. This block is useful to sharpen and clean the rubber and paper stomps. Upon another block of the same size, or a little larger, paste a piece of Whatman's paper, smoothing it down carefully, allowing this to dry thoroughly. Take the stick of No. 3 square crayon, rub it over this block hard, to make the pulverized crayon to be used with stomps, or use a fine file, and allow the crayon thus pulverized to fall upon the block. Keep this free from dust when not in use. These are all the materials necessary to execute a crayon portrait.
The next step will be to make the enlargement of the photograph from which a copy is to be made, providing a solar print is not used. There are several ways of doing this. The best method is to have a good pentagraph, unless one is able to draw the outline enlargement free hand. In either or all cases make the outline upon a piece of manilla wrapping paper, cut the size of the stretcher intended. When this enlargement is made, thoroughly blacken the back with a piece of charcoal by laying the paper upon a smooth drawing board or table; turn it over and lay it upon the stretcher, being careful to place it so the drawing will be in the center of the stretcher, securing it with tacks or pins at the corners, in order that it may not slip. With a stylus, or hard lead pencil, trace over all these outlines again, being careful to follow them accurately, omitting none. Remove the paper with care, and a definite outline of the picture will be seen upon the stretcher. This will rub off with the slightest touch, therefore take one of the paper stomps, rub it on the block of pulverized crayon, holding it in the hand as a pencil, trace lightly over these outlines in order to prevent losing them while at work upon the picture. Be careful, however, to do this very lightly, if not, the lines will show when the picture is finished, and spoil the effect of the work.
The first step to be taken is to put the crayon on the darkest part of the features. Rub the paper stomp on the block of pulverized crayon very hard, turning it around between the fingers in order to get the crayon on the whole surface of the point and tapering end. Apply this lightly but firmly, and with a broad stroke to the lines or lids above the eyes, the nostrils, the line through the center of the mouth, the dark shades in the ears and the eyebrows, following the outlines already upon the stretcher. Put in the pupils of the eyes very black and heavy. The stomp has now cleaned itself somewhat. Next darken the iris of the eye, put on the shadows under the eye, the curves of the nose from the eyebrows to the end, and the curves around the nostrils. Next the upper lip, tinting it lightly. Now define the outlines of the cheeks, working in light strokes inward, and hatching them, or crossing the strokes at an acute angle (never at right angles). Work for the expression, and hold it.
Having gone thus far the stomp will be quite free of color. The blending process comes next in order. Work slightly upward from the lines around the eyes, borrowing from the color already there for the shadows desired. The same from all the features above mentioned, watching the photograph closely and leaving off such shadows gradually.
Tint all the darker shades on the entire face in the same manner, not as dark at first as they will be required. Leave all the strong high lights perfectly white until the picture is nearly finished. In putting on these shadows the hatching process will be found the most effective, not, however, by making strong lines, but simply have the strokes of the stomp made in such direction, very soft and indistinct. If any large white spots seem to remain, thus destroying the evenness of the tone, touch them over lightly until the tone resembles in quality a wash with India ink or water color, gradually growing lighter and lighter until lost in the high lights and half tones. The beauty of the finished portrait will depend very largely upon this blending, as there must be no abrupt ending to any shadow. Leave the face for the present, and take the chamois stomp, rubbing it on the block of crayon until the end is thoroughly covered. Lay it very flat and lightly on the parts of the hair which are the darkest, commencing at the deepest part of such shades, and ending toward the high light. Leave these high lights as in the face perfectly white for the present.
Try and follow the direction in which the hair is combed, but mass it. No attempt should be made to show individual hairs. It is simply light and shade in masses. Next take the clear end of the chamois stomp, borrow from the darker shades to tint the high lights, making broad strokes. If this makes them too dark, lighten with the rubber. All rubber strokes in the hair should also be broad, not fine lines. The drapery comes next in order. A black silk dress or a broadcloth coat should be worked in the same manner. With the chamois stomp put in the darker places in the drapery first, following the same general rule of hatching only in broad strokes, not lines. Tint the higher lights in the drapery with the clean end of the same stomp, borrowing from the darker places as before. The same rule should be observed in ending the drapery, as in the shadows of the face - let it become lighter and lighter, until lost entirely.
Note carefully the collar and shirt front. Generally there will be seen light shadows upon them. If so, tint lightly with a clean stomp, borrowing the color necessary from the drapery, not from the block.
If the drapery now appears spotty it must be cleaned up in the following manner. Fill up the lighter places with the paper stomp, rubbing lightly in different directions, while the spots that are too dark can be cleaned off with the rubber in light strokes. In this manner the drapery can be worked up very smoothly, and free from spots. The background should be worked up in the same manner as the drapery, only not as dark. Do not put a background around the entire head, only from the shoulders up about half the distance to the forehead. If the subject is a lady, and lace work is desired, make this with the paper stomp. Do not work for details, but in an indistinct manner, following the original design somewhat, but in soft strokes, taking out the high light with the rubber, if necessary. The drapery, background and hair are now supposed to be finished, the above directions having been followed carefully.
The finishing of the features must now be attended to. With a paper stomp, not too black, strengthen all the darkest shades in the face, borrowing color again, working the shades off upon the high lights, preserving the half tones and reflected lights. Unless the high lights are very strong in the original, tint them over slightly with a stomp fairly clean. It is hardly necessary to say the subject, or original photograph, must be studied very carefully. If this is done, and the outlines accurately made, a perfect likeness will be the result.
If the pupils of the eyes, or any very deep shadow, need a little strengthening, it can be done with the round Conte crayon, sharpened to a very fine point, and hatched lightly over such shadows.
The finishing touches must be made by using a clean paper stomp, going over the entire picture, a little beyond all the outlines, to soften them, thus producing a soft and natural effect. Last of all, take out the catch light in the eyes, with a sharp pointed knife, scratching it slightly until it is of the desired shape.
In closing these instructions, the writer wishes to impress upon the pupil or reader the necessity of working at all times, and upon all parts of the picture, very lightly, if not, a muddy effect will be the result. The hatching should be tolerably open, but not too much so. This produces the effect of transparency, which is very desirable.
If the above instructions are carefully studied, and patient labor put forth, any one may reasonably expect to obtain excellence in representing life-like and natural portraits.