Every object under the influence of a single light receives it only upon that surface which is exposed to its direct rays. No better example of this can be given than the effect of the sun upon the earth, half of which is at all times enveloped in darkness, modified only by reflections from other bodies. The angle of reflection is the same as the angle of incidence; that surface therefore will appear brightest to the eye which forms an equal angle between it and the light.
From this the light gradually decreases until it merges into the shadow; this is termed the tone of half-tint. The broad shadow is modified towards its extremities by partial light, reflected from surrounding objects; this may be called the reflection. Between the reflection and half-tint a small portion, unaffected either by direct or reflected light, remains in total darkness; this is termed the depth.
There is another shadow which is cast from an object in light upon the surface beneath it, to this is given the name of cast-shadow, characterized by its flatness and cutting edges. This comprises the whole principle of light and shade, whose invariable laws may be observed, more or less modified according to circumstances, in every object in nature.
The modifications to which they are subject are owing to the opacity of the medium through which objects are seen and to reflected lights.
Density of atmosphere renders distant objects less distinct; therefore those lights and shades which are nearest to the eye will be the strongest. For the same reason a body will appear in half-tint towards its extreme edges, near which the high-light and depth cannot be.
A round body, if of the same color as the background, will appear darker at its extreme edges; if lighter than the background, will be lost in it. Some rub in the shade with a stump and powdered chalk, touching up the darkest parts with the point; others use the point and rub it down with the stump or finger or a piece of rough paper; others shade with the point from beginning to end; which latter mode is preferable for beginners, as it is cleaner and demands a greater degree of care and knowledge. There may be other methods and modifications or mixtures of these which can be used as they best suit the object to be represented.
The use of charcoal for landscape or figure drawing is becoming more and more popular every year. Its use is easy to learn and the results are very satisfactory. It is one of the modern arts; the old masters employed it for sketching principally, although there are in existence a few examples in simple charcoal.
The paper is of a different quality or grain from that used of crayon work. It should be of a yellow white tint and a fine and even grain. If too rough the charcoal will catch too strongly, while on the other hand if it is too smooth, it will not produce a good shading. Like paper for crayon work, it should be stretched. Although the tones of charcoal are more opaque than crayon, yet they possess a velvety richness and softness which crayon will not give and for landscape drawing it is especially valuable. It has other advantages over oil or watercolors; being dry it necessitates no delays and therefore a landscape can be drawn with wonderful rapidity.
Any part that is unsatisfactory can be easily effaced; in fact the drawing may be a succession of alterations, changes, modifications of tone or shade, until it meets approval. It is often used in portrait work and especially it is adapted for the portraits of children, where delicacy and softness are essential.
The entire process of working in charcoal is so simple that scarcely any instructions are necessary. All charcoal drawings must be fixed and if care is used, the most convenient method is direct fixation. It may be necessary to repeat the operation several times, waiting each time for the paper to dry. Charcoal drawing, it should be remembered, must only render effects, not details
The amateur will find this the most difficult lesson to learn. To illustrate this point we quote the following from a celebrated teacher: "You see a beautiful sunset and a barn comes into your picture. Will you grasp the whole at once, in a grand sweep of broad sky and a broad mass of dark building, or will you stop to draw in all the shingles on the barn, perhaps even the nails on each shingle; possibly the shady side of each nail? Your fine sunset is all gone while you are doing this."
Forget the little things in a picture and try to see only the grand broad masses and put off all details until the last; and if it should happen that every feather on a bird was not in exact position, or one leaf lacking on a tree, it will not be noticed.
In closing, it might be well to say, do not become discouraged after the first few efforts; if the desire to learn to draw is strong, rest assured success will come by patient practice. Do not confine yourself to the instructions contained in this work. Do not be afraid to try experiments and see what the effects may be. In this way one's own individuality will show in the results and such results will be valuable because they are original.
Our aim for simplicity and clarity must logically start with the subject itself. In choosing our subject we should first consider how effective it would be in a small sketch, say no longer than 5 by 7 inches. Could the material be set down in a sketch of that size? Could it be done without using a very fine brush or would some of the important details be too small? If it is impossible to make a small sketch without infinite labor, then we can be pretty sure we are starting off on the wrong foot. It is safe to say that any subject that will look effective in an exhibition gallery or on the wall of an average-sized living room is also definable in a 5 by 7 inch sketch at a distance of 6 feet or more.
Even though in a small sketch we would normally only suggest the outlines and form of a subject, the patterns should be simple enough to make the design carry ten feet or more. If the small sketch will do that, we may be sure larger canvas will be effective under any circumstances. This is a very good reason for making a small statement of any subject before we invest effort in a larger once.
Assuming that you usually do most of your oil painting indoors, you will need sketches of outdoor scenes for reference. Make a small sketch for color aloe. This, coupled with pencil sketches for detail, or photographs of the spot, will provide much better source material for the final work than will an attempt to make a larger and detailed preliminary painting in the limited time at your disposal outdoors. If your sketch box is large, try using large brushes. Concentrate on color, tone and pattern. Leave the detail for pencil and camera.
If you try to paint too long and then have to go back over your sketch to "warm it up" because it looks too cold in the later light, the original color relationship will be thrown out of balance and the sketch will become progressively worse and inaccurate.
Since we are going to have to simplify most subjects anyway in the finished work, it is better to start eliminating in the sketch. If you take photographs for reference you can always put back a detail here or there in the final composition, should it seem to require it.
Sometimes a subject improved in the warmer light of late afternoon. In this case don't try to work over your original colors; start again or take some color shots. The point is not to mix two separate color versions in your final painting. Choose one or the other and stick to it. The one-o'clock lighting and color will never fit a five o'clock version. If you are seeking late afternoon effects, we can sometimes extend your time limit for the sketch by starting out a little earlier and purposely making your colors a little warmer than they appear. However, this takes considerable experience and skill, especially as allowance should also be made for lengthening shadows. Just as colors change, so do shadows, as the afternoon wears on.
There can be little doubt that the chaotic condition of art today has caused confusion in the minds of artists, young and old. We are all asking: By what qualities, according to present standards, can a painting be judged? Is there still a solid foundation on which to base the teaching of art? Is art deteriorating, or is it being revitalized by new concepts?
It would seem that most important problems now facing the artist are to achieve a clear personal understanding of what art is, to hew a pathway for his own creativeness, and to concentrate his efforts toward individual goals. He must realize that art can no longer be bound by theories other than individual theories; that is, it cannot be pigeon held into prescribed methods and practice. Art is having its own pains. At long last, art has flung open its doors to individual creativeness in a way it has never done before. It has become a broader means of individual expression.
If we choose to become practicing artists today, we must widen the scope of art itself to take in all forms of creative expression. Art is no longer limited to traditional forms of painting and sculpture; it must be made an integral part of life as it is lived in the present and will be in the future. Art is also architecture, ceramics, industrial design, weaving, and textiles. It is a means of expression closely related to a new way of life.
Let us at once clear our minds of the concept that art is an "ism" or a cult. Such things exist within the complete concept but are only facets of a whole movement. When we can grasp the idea that art is an integral part of mankind itself, we need only to look back to see that it has existed since the dawn of intelligence. We find it in all peoples. Art is an expression of mankind's effort to make a better world, and to bring beauty into life in one form or another. It is a creative force, and such will naturally align itself with the condition and circumstances of the world in which man finds himself at any time. The present revolution in art is a logical result of a period of general revolt against traditions of all kinds.
At the bottom of the national and political crises today is the struggle for individual liberty and freedom of expression. It is therefore no coincidence that art has moved with the times and given the artist more freedom of expression than was ever known in the history of art.
There is always the danger that freedom can be abused. In art this means that the man without knowledge or ability is granted the same freedom as the skilled technician. Freedom is based on the assumption that the individual is morally and socially responsible, and to grant it to irresponsibility is like opening the doors to everyone who ever perpetrated a crime against society. The new-found freedom in art has set the pendulum of creativity winging widely. There are painters wielding the brush who do not possess one iota of the fundamentals of art. We have "art" that would make the old masters jump back into their graves, were they to see it.
The good seems almost hopelessly mixed with the bad. Yet, in spite of all that, art is now in a healthier state than it would have been if nothing had changed. Art cannot and should not stand still. That is stagnation. There is little danger that art will perish; only form of art die. Confusion will eventually give way to order, and here and there new concepts of unquestionable value will develop. Meanwhile, instead of throwing out all the concepts and procedures of the past, let us search them for values that can be put to use today. Let us assemble a whole stock of knowledge gleaned from the past and add newer concepts, and in turn join these to the concepts that will come out of the future. Let us give art the benefit of the techniques of scientific exploration. The scientist does not throw away a theory until it has been proved false or valueless. To condemn the past because it is not part of the present would be as short-sighted as to stick only to the past for the sake of tradition.
Though perhaps no one can give a complete definition of what beauty is, we do come to understand that there are certain elements which combine to make beauty, whenever or wherever we find it. To recognize these elements and learn how they can serve us will greatly increase our prospects of achieving success as painters.
The elements of beauty are so well integrated that it is often very difficult to separate them for purposes of analysis. In discussing our principle or element it may be necessary to embrace another or even several others at the same time. Nevertheless, the attempt should be made to bring each other, separately, under our scrutiny. These are basic twelve:
1. Unity. The "oneness" which brings all the pictorial qualities together into a single or whole expression; the organization of design, color, line, values, textures, and subject into a combined and total expression.
2. Simplicity, or Clarity. The subordination of all material and detail that is irrelevant to the main thought; the reduction of the subject into the fundamentals of design, form, and pattern.
3. Design. The over-all relationship of areas, form and color. Design makes the picture
4. Proportion. Harmonious relation of each subject and each part of the picture. Distortion is the opposite of proportion, though some distortion may be legitimate, where an idea or an emotion might need greater emphasis.
5. Color. This is one of the strongest elements of beauty, and in using it the artist can not simply be guided by tastes, likes or dislikes. The relationship of color to values must be understood, as well as the basic principles of mixing and producing colors for realistic and harmonious effects.
6. Rhythm. Though this is often underestimated or misunderstood, it is a quality that contributed greatly to the beauty of a painting. There is rhythm in all animate and inanimate life, from the smallest forms to the cycles of the universe. Without it, form is static and lifeless. The repetition of similar colors or of lines or shapes of increasing or diminishing size will crate rhythm in a painting just as it does in nature. For instance there is rhythm in the repeating lines of trees with their branches and leaves, or in the lines of a zebra's back, or in the petals or markings of a flower.
7. Form. The structure of form in relation to the whole is a fundamental art principle, Everything is either form or space (solid or void) and neither can exist without the other. A painting is said to have "form" when the shapes of the objects contained in it are well outlined, well composed and properly contrasted with the open areas - such as a tree against the sky.
8. Texture. The rendering of surface. There is characteristics surface to all form, and this is as important as its structure. We can not achieve true beauty by painting all form with the same type of surface, as if all things were made of the same material, which is precisely what happens too often in otherwise good painting.
9. Values. Values and color are inseparably dependent upon each other. Neither can be true or beautiful alone. The proper relationship of values creates the effects of light and contributes to the unity of the picture. Incorrect relationships can do more than anything else to destroy beauty.
10. Quality of Light. An element of prime importance. The quality of the light in a painting blends with the actual light falling upon the picture and becomes part of it. There are many kinds of light - indoor, outdoor, sunlight, diffused light, reflected light. The source of light must be related to the modeling of form, to the kind and brilliancy of color and to the texture. Without a true understanding of light in a picture can become mere planes of paint and canvas.
11. Choice of Subject. This offers the artist his greatest chance to exercise individual taste. The limitless sources of life and nature are his to tap and form them he can select, design and produce a concentrated example of his own appreciation of beauty.
12. Technique. The means of expression rather than the expression itself. Technique includes understanding of surface and texture, knowledge of medium and its many methods of application. It is the personal rendering by which all the other elements are brought together.
When we find the elements that combine to create beauty in life, we can try to analyze and apply them to create beauty in our paintings. Beauty is not the special property of the artist. Beauty is perhaps just as evident to others, who may lack the knowledge and ability to re-create it. The rhythm and grace of an animal must be just as apparent to the lover of animals as to the artist. The difference is that we try to find out what makes the rhythm and grace in terms of line and proportion, so that our renderings are true and convincing.
The artist will do well to direct his efforts toward pleasing the viewer rather than the critics, for the viewer is the ultimate purchaser and I assume that most artists are interested in selling their work.
The artist's first step toward the ultimate beauty, unity and organization of painting is learning to see everything in pictorial terms. This will mean the closest possible unification between the eye, the hand and the medium with which we have chosen to work. In time, most artists find tat hand automatically works with the eye even to the mixing and application of medium. In fact, artists often are surprised - and delighted - to discover that they have unconsciously used a certain technique to express exactly the impression they had intended. The artist either puts down a suggestion of what he sees, or the object as he sees it, being at the moment unconcerned with technique. Technique is thus a result rather than a conscious manner of stroke. Yet every artist in time develops a technical approach, if he is patient and has faith in his vision and emotional reaction.
Of course, we all see shining examples of technique, some of which we admire very much and which the young especially - and sometimes the old - are tempted to copy for technique's sake alone. As a result, technique actually gets in our way and we end up by not seeing the subject we are painting truly and often overlook many of the other essential elements of painting as well.
When a man is thinking in terms of technique, he probably is not giving his best attention to values, relationships, or even color. He is thinking about the strokes he is making and not very much else. Technique is a strong indication of individuality and if you allow it to do so, it will get into your work subconsciously. It is much like handwriting, of which no two specimens are exactly alike.
The best advice I can offer is to paint what you see as you see it. And if you can suggest an object or a scene so that it is convincing, that may even be better than completely boning it out. In a landscape, for instance, a lightly sketched-in figure can often look more alive and real than one that has been painted in great detail. The truth is that we can quite easily train the eye to see as we want it to see; in fact it has already been trained to do this. We can skim through a crowd and spot the face we are looking for, and hardly be conscious of any of the other faces there. If we are painting warm sunlight, we may see it warm, possibly warmer than it actually is. If we are drawing in outline we see in outline, and are only faintly aware if anything else. If we are rendering a subject in tone, we begin to see values and relationships that we had noticed before. In the first case we are really looking primarily at outline and see everything else as secondary; in the second case, mass and tone become of primary importance to us and edges and outlines more incidental. When we look for color, we must somehow also keep values or tone very closely associated with it, and here is where training of the eye begins.
The tendency to see only one thing or aspect of a scene at a time is something we must educate our eyes not to do. Too many pictures are started with line only, then the outlines are filled in with tone, without regard to the real edge, or what the tone is doing, or what its relationship is to other tones. Tone and color are applied in a more or less schoolbook manner, simply by filling area between outlined limits. This is not painting in the true sense.
The experienced painter studies his subject in all its aspects. The more he can see the total effect before he starts, the better the painting will be. He will look at mass with its edges or outlines, seeing the mass in its value and color and according to its relationship to other masses and colors. He does not single out one thing at a time, for all these things are closely connected and belong to or affect one another.
We may start a picture in outline, but only after we have carefully noted where that outline is going to merge and lose itself in other tone. We may even indicate this on our drawing with short lines across the edge, which means that this edge is to be soft or lost. If we draw a hard outline around everything, the chances are that we will forget all about the true edges and accept the hard edges we have set down. Then we end with a tight, hard picture with no freedom of approach, one that is unimaginative and not particularly creative. Such a picture is really a colored drawing. Working from photographs has a tendency to increase this tightness and hardness. We can not see the life image; we simply copy what a sharp lens has recorded, putting in every detail.
Before you look at your subject, before you lay a hand on the canvas, stop and realize that any picture starts as a flat tone (the canvas) which is eventually broken up into more tones. Thus a pattern of arrangement of masses and spots is created. This is actually the first thing you should train your eyes to see - the picture as a whole with as much identification as possible of the pattern of design. You should decide where the borders of the picture will be and its shape and dimensions. The habit of roughing out patterns or composition in miniature is a good one.
Learning to see your subject in terms of simple masses with a general relationship to one another in color and value is the first law of good painting. We can train our eyes to see mass without detail by deciding what the general value and colors are to be. Then, later on, we can raise the value for the highlights and lower it for the shadows. What we are really seeking in this manner is the approximate middle tone of the area or mass and this we set down quite flatly in simple poster terms. In cases where you want to maintain the under drawing, which is usually done with charcoal and fixed, or is a light drawing gone over with waterproof India ink, you can use thin turpentine washes over the drawing so that it shows through. It is even better to learn to draw within the mass, establishing planes, halftones, accents, highlights or texture as you develop the picture.
To see the general tone of the mass with less detail, try squinting the eyes and looking through the lashes.
From the very beginning, line up the values in order in which they appear. Look for the lightest value and label it number one; the next value will be number two and so on until you establish about eight gradations. Here we are training the eye to see values in relationship to one another in the black and white scale. Areas of the same value may appear lighter or darker than they actually are because of a neighboring color. A light yellow may seem much lighter and brighter than a light blue, although they have the same black and white ration in the value scale. To recognize this takes a certain amount of training.