God has diffused beauty—and art has combined it " — Hoobrayk.
extent, give it intelligible expression, its practical value and service rest in the reserve of higher capacity, only attainable by severer study. The one, therefore, leading more directly to that great highway of art, by which excellence is most surely reached, and capacity in the other more certainly, advantageously, and naturally, following as a result, leave little doubt upon which the greater reliance should be placed as a beginning.
2. However true it is, that a certain degree of aptness in sketching may be often found preceding more substantial acquirements, especially in cases of active sensibility to artistic impulse (not unfrequently thus first developing the inclination of genius), it can lead of itself but a very little way to excellence. This faculty, therefore, should never be overrated as a reliance, nor suffered to mislead to habits of superficial observation, or carelessness of manner, to which it has a tendency, unless res'rained and directed by judicious cultivation.
3. The value of careful study, and drawing from nature, consists, not so much in the production of an elaborate work, as in the familiarity thereby obtained with the object of imitation. It is this familiarity with the truths of nature, stored upon the memory in continued accessions, that forms in time the reliable capital of the artist, upon which he may draw with confidence in all emergencies. It is this strength that fortifies him, not only in the truthful imitation of realities before him, and in their absence directs to available expedients; but, quickening and sustaining the imagination, emboldens its flight—secures it against the errors of inconsistency, and renders the language of art as easy and fluent as if traced by a poetic or historic pen. Herein lies the commonly-considered mysterious power which guides a master's hand, impressed upon all that emanates from it — from the faintest impromptu sketch to the most finished work; while he, who holds no such reserve, may attempt in vain to disguise the doubt and feebleness which embarrass all his efforts.
4. It should not be imagined, however, that in the importance attached to the closer and more minute study of nature, the practice of sketching should be disregarded or neglected. Capacity in each may be most, happily cultivated together. It is by the habit of sketching that the eye and mind are made sensitive, while more careful study secures such advantages to available results. Both should be trained together, in quickness of perception, in aptness to the discovery of beauty and effectiveness in nature, and in forming conclusions with rapidity and decision: while the hand receives an equal training in obedience to their direction, following and recording their impulse almost instinctively; wasting no time or effort in trembling indecision, but aiming so directly at truth, although often by lines, strangely few, and dashed off apparently at random, yet leaving little doubt or uncertainty in their meaning.
5. It is a common error with beginners to imagine that facility in sketching may be gained by the imitation or copying of sketches. Many are the injurious-influences of this delusion. The apparent ease with which a seeming carelessness of line or hand may be imitated, may be tempting to the gratification of a small measure of ambition, but should not divert from higher purposes than the mere counterfeiting of even a master's hand. If it were possible to gain, by such successful imitation, the impulse, knowledge, and certainty, by which it was guided, the effort would be worthy of the utmost pains that could be bestowed ; but emulation of the power by which such masterly works have been produced must be sought in capacity beyond the imitation of individual manner or peculiarity, however excellent, and least of all in such as are developed in sketches. This comes with the strength acquired by earnest study and familiarity with nature, in readiness of hand in the expression of truth, thus gradually but certainly secured, and in independence of method or material to which it may be restricted.
G. However severe may appear the ordeal to the attainment of this desirable end, it will prove the surest as well as the easiest. The learner, therefore, should start and persevere in the deter mination of pursuing his way with steady devotion of purpose, leaving as little as possible unse cured as he advances. The work before him is no business of an hour, and there is no time to spare for insignificant trifling. The field of labor is the wide world of Nature — her beautiful truths the lessons to be learned by heart. Once fairly within her school, Art awakens to a life of sympathy with its teacher that lasts for ever. It should be ever borne in mind, that there is no object upon which the learner can direct his study, or practise his hand, whence may not lh> derived wholesome lessons, worth remembering, and that it is far better to accomplish one careful, well-studied, and accurately-finished drawing a month, than a hundred loose sketches a day. Let it be clearly understood that we do not mean, by " finished drawings," mere perfection of mechanical elaboration, minute idling with textures, or ostentatious display of labor, but accuracy of line and truthfulness of expression, be the means or method employed what they may. In. the presence and palpability of error in these important points, no drawing, especially in the implied consideration of its being a study, can be said to be finished. Even when we may imagine our efforts to have reached their utmost in the attainment of this degree of perfection, careful revisal and comparison of our work with the model may lead to the detection of faults, the correction of which it can never be too late to effect 5 nor should the fear of " spoiling our work" ever deter from tne attempt. Such records of error, and evidences of research for truth, may, indeed, be worth as much as the results of more successful labor. Teachings of experience, thus brought home, are, of all others, the most wholesome in their influence, longest and most profitably remembered; and the master, which the learner may thus secure to himself, by severe self-investigation and trial, will ever prove the most reliable.
7. Brief as may have been the hints which have been given, in former chapters, with regard to drawing the figure, as well as more simple objects — if they have been practically applied, with that care and thought so often and earnestly urged, there remains but little more to add, beyond offering such assistance as may appear best calculated to render that knowledge effective in bolder attempts. Although he who can draw the most simple object perfectly, possesses all the secret, worth knowing, of drawing anything; to combine and arrange — to reduce to harmonious unity the various parts and elements of a work of art — is yet to be acquired, and only by study, trial, and practice. Not that sort of hand-mill practice which is satisfied with mere mechanical employment ; but that which carries with it a constant spirit of investigation, overcomes all difficulty, and by which the eye and mind are enlivened to the perception of truth, and the hand trained to instinctive readiness and decision in its expression.
8. It might appear that in drawing from nature, with the object before us, no more could be required than to copy what we see. This would be true, if all really exhibited in the model were sufficiently evident to unassisted observation for its faithful delineation. The eye may be a safe and faithful guide, as well as critic, to a certain extent; but, like too many critics, however apt in the detection of error, it is not always equally ready and reliable in supplying the means of discovering causes, or directing to available remedy. The most unlearned in art may be able to discover that there is something wrong in its representations, but it is rarely that other than the educated can identify that something, detect its cause, and suggest means of correction. Every one is familiar with the divisions and markings of the face of a watch; but it requires at least some knowledge of the principles by which the circumference of the circle may be accurately divided, to delineate it with precision. Every one knows that a hand has four fingers and a thumb; but, to draw the hand with anatomical accuracy, to express its outward appearance correctly, requires a knowledge of the general principles of its internal structure — of the bones that form its framework, and define its proportions—of the muscles and tendons that direct its action, and of the effect produced upon its exterior by such internal arrangement. A similar knowledge of the whole human figure, extending to all animated nature, and descending to the most insignificant work of creation, is equally important, whenever their faithful representation is attempted. To draw the humblest weed or flower with care and fidelity, at least some knowledge of its qualities and conformation must be possessed, beyond that presented to unenlightened observation. This comes as no insignificant part of the business, purpose, and meaning, in an artistic sense, of study of nature, and marks the distinction between the tame and spiritless attempt at merely copying all that the eye, unaided by superior intelligence, discovers, and the more decided and truthful expression which alone can satisfy it, when thus sustained. It is a familiar truth to every one, that in all pictorial representations, as objects are intended to be expressed in more or less remote positions from the point of observation, they should be reduced more or less in size. The eye of the most common observer readily receives and acknowledges the truthfulness of a happy adjustment of these proportions, and is impressed as readily with error therein; but it is only by the laws and principles of perspective that they can be justly regulated. Hence, it is evident that, to judge correctly of objects in nature, as they really appear, the eye requires assistance ; and, therefore, such assistance should be sought early, assiduously, and continually. If the learner starts rightly, he will go on safely. Every investigating look bestowed on nature, every line he traces, will bear him onward. Happily, it is not requisite, in doing this, that his progress, in perhaps more pleasing and less laborious ways of art, should be interrupted or impeded. He may, and should, learn and gather as he goes — ever mindful that the gathering of knowledge in the pursuit of artistic excellence is endless, and neither weary of the way nor recoil from the pains or labor by which it may be gained.
9. It should not be understood, by what has been said, that no one should venture to draw the dial-face of a watch without having previously secured the thorough qualifications of a geometrician 5 that, to delineate a hand, the anatomical knowledge of a surgeon is prerequisite — a plant, a perfect comprehension of its botanical characteristics; or that every line and portion of a picture should be laid down and measured by perspective calculations. Were such the extent of requirements by which truth in artistic imitation could alone be attainable, no measure of a single life, nor amount of capacity of endurance, would be sufficient to accomplish more than a beginning. Our purpose is to impress the student with the importance of starting in the surest, and therefore, as will be found by trial, the easiest way 5 to show the value of study and investigation; to point to the only reliable resources for discovery and correction of error, and the means by which it may be avoided; to disabuse his mind of every idea that " well enough'1 should ever do in art 5 and that every effort should command his utmost exertion. Thus every attempt and every achievement will be advanced, nearer and nearer a degree of perfection, which, although it may not he reached, is nevertheless approachable, and that by a sure and well-tried course, the study of nature.
10. Many are the pernicious consequences to be dreaded by injudiciously overburdening the Art-Student with preparatory studies; and, not least among them, the diversion of a pursuit, that should ever bear with it lasting love and willing devotion, into one of toil, and perhaps fatal disgust. In all cases where excellence has ever been attained in art, love for it has been the first, continued, and abiding impulse. To cherish this love, therefore, should be ever an important consideration, whether its impulse lead to the devotion of life to its indulgence, or we seek its consolations as relaxation from more toilsome ways of life, or its purifying influence on our hearts and thoughts by the cultivation of that privileged intimacy with nature to which it leads. The progressive attainments of the Art-Student, nevertheless, require a certain degree of practical preparation for their advantageous acquirement. Where a want is felt, its supply becomes at once an enduring benefit. When we are sensible of the nature and amount of our deficiencies, we seek more earnestly and profitably their supply than if made in anticipation. Were art worthier of no higher consideration than a mere trade; were there not so much better and more profitable work to be done; could labor expended in preparatory studies be secured as a safe investment, to produce return in figures against figures — all this might appear but provident and proper. But, as this can not be; as no one, in the beginning, can either comprehend the amount or nature of the knowledge he may require; as there is no cool-headed calculation to be made in the matter, beyond the certainty of encounter with difficulties; as these difficulties will be found rarely, if ever, beyond the ready strength of the learner to meet and overcome as encountered ; as thus the way is made one of delightful progression, for ever hopeful, and onward, and sure — one well tried and verified by results — it may be pursued with confidence, at least until a better is discovered.
11. There have been many "who, by their genius, grasping in its might its aims with a seeming independence of will over all ways and means of art, have produced wonders in their way, which seem to defy all trace of the means by which they were produced;" but let us rather profit by the fate of those who have vainly and often fatally endeavored to follow such eagle-flights, and place our confidence on surer guidance. It is very certain that no one was ever born with genius that could grasp instinctively, and at once, the first principles of art. All have learned, and all must learn, to draw. In this is involved all of art that teaching can impart. It is the letter and grammar of its language, without which genius is but an ignited exhalation, that may excite
•momentary wonder, but soon burns out for want of that cherishing which education alone can supply.
12. There may be something incomprehensible to the uninitiated in the freedom and certainty with which an experienced artist expresses himself—whether it be the imitation of a model before him, or a creation of the imagination ; but the mystery ceases when we know the methodical process by which it is effected. Guided by secured knowledge; practically familiar with all the expedients of his art; seeing clearly what he has to do, and knowing well how to do it; losing 110 time in hesitation, or feeling, as it were, his way—his work, from first to last, from a few apparently random lines to the utmost degree of finish, is always masterly. Those who would emulate such skill, must learn as he has learned.
J3. It matters not what may be the limits of excellence which the aspirant to knowledge and practical skill in design may prescribe to himself. That which is available to the more restrained and less ambitious pretensions of the amateur, is equally and indeed absolutely necessary to the professional Artist. The one great purpose, paramount to all others, in the beginning, should be, to learn to draw. Hence is derived the faculty of just observation and appreciation of Nature, as a faithful teacher and reliable resource, leading to an uncompromising love of her truths that constitutes the soul of art, thereby maturing to our possession a standard of excellence upon which we may safely rely, in profiting by the productions of others, as well as the experience of our own failures or successes.
14. I11 insisting upon the importance of learning to draw, more may be meant than may appear in the common acceptation of the term. Capacity for drawing means more than the power of producing a linear representation. The sculptor draws, when he models the plastic clay into imitative or ideal creations. The painter draws, when he disposes his pigments with like impulse. Still further, the stalwart smith draws, when he shapes the heated metal into a given or required form. Thus upward might we trace the application of the word, in its true sense, until we reached the brightest creation of poetry or thought that art ever yet embodied, or ever will — all resting and governed in their practical application by either mental or palpable linear operations. It is by lines that the sculptor preserves his proportions, disposes his masses, and assimilates his accessories into harmonious unity. Equally so does the painter, in the disposition of light and shadow, in the regulation of his masses of color, even in the adjustment of their balances, reliefs, and effects; which should be as subservient to the preservation of accuracy of form, and consistency of action and expression, in a picture, as in a statue or linear representation. The rudest cross-road smith never shaped or fitted a horse-shoe without the aid of governing lines of direction and comparison, and without being as much a draughtsman, in his way, to do so successfully, as ever sculptor or painter in theirs—however applied in an art that, if admitted among the Fine-Arts, might extend the family connexion to a limit alarming to the unnecessary if not reprehensible fastidiousness of the sisters. If the connecting links could be brought only a little closer together, and knowledge of the rudiments' of design could be more generally and generously diffused among the inferior arts, they, with mankind, would be all the better for it, and the more dainty-fingered community of the muses the gainers thereby — if in no other respect, in a more general appreciation and acceptation of their real and practical value.
15. Among the many errors of beginners, there is none more common than a disposition to find fault with anything rather than themselves — especially with their materials. Chalks, pencils, paper, colors, canvas, bear in their turn its brunt 5 and even their models, be they the best in the world, are never what they should be. If they go into an artist's studio, they shower their questions upon him without mercy: "Where did you get it?"—"Can I get some like it?"—"If I only had it, I should require no more!" — when they may have the same in use, if not abuse, every day. Then, "Where did you get the model of that head? that hand ? that foot?" Give them the same, and most probably as deplorably deficient will be their work with it. He who has his perceptions of truth keenly alive, his mind and capacity properly trained, can find good materials and models anywhere. It is this that constitutes, in an important point, the independence of the educated artist. It is this that expands his mind to look beyond the personal and temporary in Nature to her permanent and universal characteristics 5 which brings him to leel rightly, to reason clearly 5 which fortifies him in analyzing and deciding upon possibilities, in distinguishing degrees, resemblances, and differences 5 which imbues his mind with a sensibility to the perception of beauty, a judgment refining all that passes within its range, and a love for truth, in all and every thing, which to art is its religion. It matters not what means he may select for the expression of an idea: an humble bit of charcoal and a scrap of wrapping-paper may be thus employed, in exhibiting the higher attributes of true art, more effectually than the choicest materials of a London or Parisian magazine would ever help an inferior and uneducated hand to achieve.
16. Another and still more common mistake with beginners is to be in too great a hurry, and not to bestow sufficient consideration and study upon their subject previous to a commencement of their work. Instead of first making themselves familiar with its motive, or action, mentally, and then slightly indicating its leading points and lines, they dash headlong to work, and most probably in a very few minutes get their drawing into a hopeless tangle of confusion and inaccuracy. Then comes the vexatious work of erasure and correction; and, worse still, error is added to error, until failure and self-disgust end the effort, with that consequent, dread of a repetition of the trial so fatal in its consequences. Thus have we seen, for want of proper forethought, and the practical knowledge obtainable by a well-regulated course of training, many, possessing in other respects most substantial artistic qualifications, driven almost to hopeless desperation, profit-Iessly groping in darkness, when the light that might be had so easily would have insured success. For want of method, this little knowledge, and practical experience, it has been with pain that we have often observed them labor in error. Thus have we seen a figure, started in the middle of a sheet, run off", through every variety of distortion, into a corner: another, thus cut off and crowded into its limits at bottom, while the head had abundant space to spare at top for its due proportions: a landscape with no room for its foreground — a foreground with no room for the landscape, and, if brought in at all, out of all proportion, and in violation of every law of truth and nature: streams running up hill: and any number of false vanishing-points, governed by equally false horizons and points of distance. A tenth part of the time wasted in vexatious attempts to amend and correct errors thus committed, devoted to careful consideration of the subject, aided by proper intelligence, would not only save all such misapplied labor, but insure the most easy and gratifying results. Even in sketches, where rapidity of execution may be unavoidable, in order to secure as rapidly as possible some transient effect or impression, or where the artist may be restricted, as to time, in producing a memorandum, such errors will rarely occur with one trained to habits of accuracy. In everything that takes the higher rank of a study, they are inexcusable.
17. The errors to which we have particularly alluded lie at the root of many others, which are the prevailing causes of difficulty almost universally experienced by beginners in sketching, drawing, and painting, from nature. We constantly hear the complaint from them that " their models will not hold still." The gentlest breeze that stirs the leaves of a tree or plant, or drives too rapidly the flying mists over a morning sky, or that rolls the storm-clouds in piles of grandeur, annoys and puts them out. For them the glowing tints of evening pass away unrecorded and unappropriated, save perhaps by a faint and profitless momentary impression. The playful loveli ness of infancy, the riper flush and elastic gracefulness of beauty, the breathing life and animation of Nature, are all to them forbidden themes. It is not so with him who encounters Nature pre pared, in the strength of his art, to receive and appropriate her suggestions. He requires her not
Was this article helpful?
Realize Your Dream of Becoming a Professional Pencil Drawing Artist. Learn The Art of Pencil Drawing From The Experts. A Complete Guide On The Qualities of A Pencil Drawing Artist.