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 sec 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. Tn a landscape, for instance, a lightly skctchcd-in lig-ure 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, wc may sec it warm, possibly warmer than it actually is. If we are drawing in outline we see in outline, and are only faintly aware of anything else. If we arc rendering a subject in tone, we begin to see values and relationships that we had not noticed before. In the lirst case wc 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 the 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
•r-yViiSi our eyes not to do. Too many pictures are started with line only, then the outlines arc 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 sehoolbook manner, simply by filling areas 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 docs 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 cannot 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 sec—the picture as a whole with as much identification as possible of the pattern or design. You should decide where the borders of the picture will he, and its shape and dimensions. The habit of roughing out pat terns 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 arc 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 underdrawing, 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 the 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 ratio in the value scale. To recognize this takes a certain amount of training.
Though we do and must draw as we paint, let us think of drawing as associated with outline, and painting as associated with mass values and color. We do not want a painting to turn out to be a drawing, nor do we want a drawing to become a colored-over excuse for a painting. Much poor art is neither true drawing nor true painting, but an unhappy confusion of both. A good draw-
1. If wc copy nature as we find her, our drawing will be something like Number 1. Tracing an actual photo would be much the same.
2. Block in the forms in simple terms like this, eliminating detail.
3. This shows what the masses would look like if Number 1 were to be accepted with every form "as is."
4. In finishing Number 2 more thought is given to pattern and design, less to edges and outlines.
6. Here realism is abandoned for the sake of pure design. Only a slight identification of subject remains. We may call this an abstract interpretation.
7. In this rendering, edges are more clearly defined.
8. With vertical and horizontal lines the design becomes even more abstract and in some respects even more effective.
Figure With Shawl by George Grosz, walker galleries, new york city. Art training usually starts with drawing, for the student must first train his eyes to proportion, and go as far as he can with form in a simpl black and white medium
ing should remain drawing by having the structure and outline very much in evidence, and leaving it at thai. A good painting should stress tone and pattern with an intermingling of forms and edges, with some edges stressed and others subordinated. Line as line docs not belong in painting, for outlines do not actually exist in nature, which is what a painting, or a classical painting, at any rate, attempts to represent as closely as possible. In nature we see only contours and edges.|Forms are defined by values appearing one against another, and there is no need to rep ■resent these divisions in any other way. However, in drawing we have no other way to define an edge or the limits of the forms before us, except in line.
This difference between drawing and painting should be firmly understood. Good drawing, of course, underlies good painting, but the essence of good painting goes beyond edges and contours into the rendering of the solid form as it appears in a given light, in its color and texture, surrounded by space and atmosphere. Such qualities cannot be reached in a subject where all units and parts are separated by hard outline, or completely identified edges around everything.
Art training usually starts with drawing, for the student must first train his eyes to proportion, and go as far as he can with form in a simple black and white medium. But he will not see true values until he starts to paint.
We train our eyes to perspective largely by learning the rudiments of it, and recognizing the perspective before us as belonging to the law of optics. Perspective is actually the science of drawing form and space as it appears to the eye, as opposed to mechanical projection drawing which renders form on a flat plane or planes in actual dimension. JLn order to paint we must know how-to scale form and proportion in space; we musf?" understand the complete principle of the eye-level i or horizon which is the cornerstone of all accu-rate representations involving perspective. ^__)
Tn order to differentiate painting and drawing to his students, the late Charles Hawthorne, one of the great American painters and instructors, made his students start their canvases in reverse order. Instead of drawing the usual outline, they started with patches of tone and color and fitted them together in the best proportion they could. His idea was that they could eventually learn to draw and get subjects designed within the canvas shape, but that the ability to see things together, in relationship of tone and color, was far more important. It really did not matter loo much to him if the subject got onto the canvas minus hands or feet; the main thing was to learn to paint by educating the eye.
It is not a bad idea for the artist to make this kind of experiment. Set up a still life, and without any preliminary drawing, start painting in areas and masses of tone and color; then in these masses develop the form. Drawing can be easily corrected in oil when it is dry. Where edges merge or are very close in value, keep them lost or soft. Where they stand out in contrast, make them so. If you have never worked this way it may seem difficult, for there are no lines to work up to; they will have to be established later as edges, or lack of edge. This is one of the best ways of training the eye.
There is an in-between approach to drawing, which can be beautiful and which still qualifies as drawing. That is combining massed shadow with outline. While we do not attempt all the subtleties of modeling and light and shadow, we do delineate a strong effect of light and shadow, more as it would be seen in very strong light, the lights being white or the tone of the paper, and the darks or shadows in simple areas being very dark or black. If the drawing is made on tone paper, white may be added with startling effects. Actually this means drawing in about three or four tones.
There have been illustrators and commercial artists whose work was basically drawing in paint, and definitely on the side of drawing. Outstanding among these was J. C. J.eyendecker. How-____
Was this article helpful?