ever, I doubt if a close imitation of his style would sell today. McClelland Barclay used strong outline in his later work to good effect, as did Herbert Paus, but the appeal in the work of these men really came from design, pattern, and color. There are many styles between true painting and good drawing which are used by commercial artists. The danger lies in being tricky, rather than doing work of basic excellence. Tricky approaches can be easily copied or plagiarized, whereas pictures based on sound knowledge and the individuality of the artist are hard to imitate.
In order to train the eye toward arrangement, pattern, and good composition the artist can begin in a more or less abstract way to play with patterns in miniature. Without worrying about subjects, he may simply try to spot masses and shapes of three 01 four different values within a squared off rectangle. Everyone has an inherent sense of balance and order which varies immensely with the individual. But this sense must be developed by experiment, just as vision is by practice. You are the only one who can do it. Reading books on composition can be helpful, but in the end your own taste and selectiveness will plan your pictures.
The eye must also be trained to organize what it sees in terms of a composition. Nature has a way of strewing her material in a haphazard fashion around the surface of the earth. With wind and water, frost, and all the other elements working over the surface it gets to be a rather mixed-up affair. But an intelligent approach can be developed as we come to understand nature. What we see arc effects due for the most part to causes that are often less evident. If we can grasp the cause, it helps us greatly in understanding the effect. Pictures are really effects.
Suppose we are looking at a landscape. Assume for the moment that it is a desert scene. Before us is a profusion of forms, surfaces, and shapes of light and shadow. We can analyze the scene in a way that greatly helps us to paint it. First let us try to determine the causes that pro-
duccd the effects we see. Understanding them will give character and a convincing quality to our picture. As we look at the ground we can trace what water courses and floods have done to the surface. Here they have made grooves and channels in the surface. There sediment has been deposited in shapes that still define the flow. Rocks have been scraped and torn away, others show grinding by water, wind, and sand. We follow the slope by which the water came, back perhaps to the distant mountains where melting snow even more than rain must have carved the effects we see. We look for desert growth: is there still some green, some vitality in it that through ages has learned to survive drought. What color is it? Are there lesser plants that are parched? What is the nature of the soil and its general color? How docs it differ from the buttes and terraces which rise above it? Does the whole scene seem lighter or darker than the sky?
Now we begin to look for arrangements. How can we utilize that sweep of the dry wash? Would it be better if we were to move those bushes and trees a little to the left or right? Have we nice patterns of light and shadows? We note the direction of the sun, and the brightest planes which must stay at right angles to the source of light. We list our values from the lightest to darkest by comparing them and realize that we must stick to this sequence. If we are looking into the light, the sky will probably be brighter than we can paint it. So we must make all the values a tone or two darker than we see them, to establish the same scale but in a lower key.
Wc know the distant mountain is cool in color because the same atmosphere which appears blue in the sky is between us and that mountain, dropping a veil of blue over the actual or local color.
Now if the scene is crowded and "busy," with rocks, forms, lights and shadows, we seek to simplify the profusion by actually eliminating some material, and grouping the rest of it into patterns. It takes very little to make an effective picture—nature usually provides too much. We get out a pencil and pad and rough out several small compositions. If one of them pleases us, we are ready to make a sketch.
This is educating the eye by means of the material before it and the brain behind it. We have thought about something more than outlined shapes and paint strokes. Each time you study nature you will gain additional working knowledge if you insist upon sizing up causes and effects, and then set them down, instead of slavishly copying what you see as you might copy a photograph. You cannot put into the picture everything that is there before you, in all its overa bundance of irrelevant detail and literal fact, and still paint a good picture. You might better use your camera. You are making a lens of your eye and an empty box of your head, doing the same thing the camera does.
To help in the process of elimination, first paint a very small color sketch. This should be so small that you cannot possibly include all the intricate detail, but must settle for mass and general planes. Then make a larger sketch, checking with the small one and leaving out much of the material you were forced to omit from it. Start with the masses. When the mass becomes identified enough to be convincing as ground, foliage, rock, or cloud, try to leave it. You can always see more detail than you can paint, and you can watch a picture that started out as a striking and positive approach deteriorate into a commonplace, overworked nothing! How many times have we all done it? And we will keep on doing it until we learn the hard way that nature should be used as a source only, and that enough detail is enough.
There are a few tried and true and generally accepted facts about outdoor painting, and to look for them helps train the eye. The sky is ordinarily the lightest pattern or mass, unless there is a very bright pattern of buildings or other material that is white or nearly so.
The next lightest mass is usually the ground. This gets the direct light of the sun, on a more or less flat plane. The third value will be found in sloping planes, slanting away from the light source, such as mountains, roofs, banks, and so forth. The darkest patterns for the most part are found in the uprights, such as trees, cliffs, or anything that casts a shadow toward the ground.
You will usually find that all shadows go down in scale relative to the lights. This means that the lightest tone in the shadow will be found next to the lightest tone in the light, the next darker tone in the shadow will be on the next lower tone in the light, and so on down to the darkest object in the light, which naturally has the darkest shadow. The lightest shadow ordinarily starts about the middle of the scale or very little above it. This means that white normally has a shadow about middle tone, or only slightly above, and that all the lights and shadows scale down from there in proper sequence. We must not forget, however, that some shadows may be lightened from their natural sequence, because of light reflected from the ground or cast from some light surface nearby.
Setting up a scale of values for your picture helps you to train your eye to see color in a pictorial sense. We all can see colors and tlicir tints; we all can name them fairly accurately as long as they are more or less pure color. But pic-tor ia I ly we get into many nameless colors which are muted and softened as a result of the kind of light or atmosphere in which they appear. Pic-torially color is true only when its value is right, when its warmness or coolness is right in relation to the neighboring color. We cannot mix sky color or ground color, foliage color or even flesh color and put it into a tube. Flesh under a blue sky and within the shade appears totally different from the same ilesh seen in warm sunlight. The reflected blue light of the sky, or the warm light of the sun, has altered the local or actual color of the flesh and made it relative to all its surroundings.
We look for cause and effect in color, as well as in form and other pictorial qualities. If there is
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