ANIMALS, including birds and insects, are excellent material for study, because, by reason of their rapid movements, they quicken the eye. The student who can fallow the changes in position which even a captive dove makes, will find the movements of the larger quadrupeds and of human beings comparatively slow and easy to record.
The bird's plumage is at once a complexity and a simplification. The feathers, by reason of their continuous overlap, unify the contour, but, on the other hand, tend to hide the bodily structure, which, however, may be discerned by careful watching.
A common dove, which requires only a small box or cage, a handful of dari, or other seed corn, daily, and lives for years in captivity, apparently in perfect health, is one of the easiest of creatures to keep. It has none of the nervousness of most other domesticated birds, and may be fondled and examined without fright or suffering. In its plumage it is a model of the beauty of order, and its movements being more sedate than those of smaller birds, render it eminently suitable for study. (FIG. 33).
FIG. 32-A memory drawing of a figure in strong action. The upper figure indicates the movement by establishing the long curve running down the trunk and right leg.
Fig. 33--Sketches of a dove showing the arrangement of the plumage.
It should first be impressed upon the student that birds in their structure approximate to that of animals-- are more like than unlike. The wing, for instance, is a specialized arm, and if a dove is handled, the humerus, radius, wrist and thumb can be detected. The butt of the wing corresponds with the human wrist, but it is capable of doubling or flexing more fully than the latter, so that the bird when at rest can pack the wing into a small compass, the humerus, forearm and hand taking the form of a Z. The hand and fingers have coalesced, providing attachments for the strong pinions or primaries which beat the air; the secondaries, softer and weaker in structure, grow from the fore-arm and the so-called scapulars from the humerus. The bases of the long feathers are covered . by smaller plumes or coverts, the whole being bound strongly together by ligaments, so that the removal of the flight feathers from the wing of a large bird demands great force.
Especially should it be noted when handling a bird, that the feathers are not distributed all over the body but occur in tracts, leaving naked areas. If the dove be turned over carefully and its breast feathers blown aside, the large area of the breast, void of feathers, will be seen. Again all the feathers of the upper surface, with the exception of the smaller wing coverts, overlap like the tiles of a roof, so that the uppermost feather might be said to be that next its beak and the lowest the outermost tail feather. As regards the wing, it should be noted that the first primary is the lowest in point of overlapping, and if one watches a bird close its wings the secondaries will be seen folding over the primaries. In examining the living wing care should be taken to hold it by the wrist, and not by the tips of the flight feathers, as a sudden movement on the part of the bird might dislocate a joint. The elbow may be distinctly felt on the reverse side of the wing, but is never seen from above. The thumb may be felt, and its little group of feathers noted. (FIG. 34).
What is known as the leg or shank is a specialized foot, the joint above corresponding with the human ankle. The knee cap may be felt higher up under the skin of the flank.
The back claw is more like the human thumb than the big toe, acting as it does in opposition. It should be noticed that this claw has two joints only, counting its articulation with the foot, the second claw three joints, the third four, and the fourth or outside claw five joints. This is usually the smallest and weakest digit, like the human little toe.
FIG. 35-A drawing by J. M. Swan of a puma walking. The feeling for structure should be noted. The lines of the legs are carried right up connecting with their corresponding girdles. The right scapular is raised above the other because its foreleg is nearer the vertical than the left. From behind, the pelvis would appear depressed to the right. [British Museum].
Fig. 36--A drawing of the Dielytra or Bleeding Heart, showing how the plant conforms to a main curve, while the leaf clusters and single leaves follow the same rhythm, the whole being an instance of subordination. The arrangement of the flowers illustrates the same principle.
The neck of the bird commonly takes an S shape, slipping in and out of a notch in the sternum. When at ease the S is emphasized with a corresponding fulness in the neck, while when alarmed the neck is stretched the S losing its curvature and the neck its fulness. As everyone knows who has carved a fowl, the lower back or dorsal area of a bird is determined by a fixed bony framework, and hence is quite incapable of change of shape.
The anatomical structure of mammals corresponds more closely with that of man. As in birds, however, the hands and feet are specialized. What is called the knee of the foreleg of the horse corresponds with the human wrist, the hock of the hind leg being analagous with the heel of man. As in man the shoulder girdle is connected with the trunk mainly by muscular attachments. Hence the horse jumping off with the force afforded by the bony continuity of the trunk, and pelvis, lands with an impact of, say, four tons, on its fore feet, which, by reason of the elasticity of the attachment of the shoulders to the trunk, sustain the shock without injury.
This freedom of the shoulder girdle shows itself very markedly in loose limbed creatures like the cat when walking, the slinging of the body between the front legs causing it to sway. When a fore foot is advanced the shoulder on that side is depressed, because the foreleg on the other side is supporting the weight, the arrangement reminding one of the slant of the hip-basket when a person rests the weight on one leg. (FIG. 35). In the case of broad backed animals as the horse, when a hind leg is advanced or raised from the ground the tilt of the pelvis is very pronounced.
When studying quadrupeds in motion, the student should first try to represent the walk of a slowly moving animal like the cow, which uses its limbs exactly as a crawling child would do. A hind leg moves forward followed immediately by the foreleg on the same side. Then the other hind leg moves, followed by its foreleg. (FIG. 35).
Manuals of comparative anatomy should be consulted for detailed statements of the bony and muscular structures. Here it will suffice to point out that just as in man the arm is continuous with the shoulder and the leg with the hip, so with quadrupeds. The legs should not be considered merely as those parts which protrude from the trunk, for the foreleg includes the shoulder blade, which moves with it, and similarly the hind leg is involved with the pelvis. In both cases structural lines reach to the back. (FIG. 35).
In the case of shaggy and hairy animals like the bear and wolf the set of the hair and the influence of the hair whorls should be studied.
Speaking generally the mental attitude of the student is often shown by the too irregular lines of his drawings of animals. He aims at depicting a large content of forms, where he should look for controlling lines, orderly arrangement and structure. This is especially true in regard to birds and insects, creatures which fly. The power of flight implies regularity and symmetry. Not seldom a drawing of a bird purporting to be alive, shows, by its raggedness, and by the feathers sticking out in odd places, that it has been drawn from a stuffed specimen.
DRAWING from still life from the living figure, and from the antique, gives practice in construction, line and tone, but these subjects all suffer from the defect of being relatively small. When students work out of doors, whether at buildings or landscape, new problems crowd upon them. The difficulties of estimating relative proportions, of, as it were, dilating the eye to embrace a large object such as a tree or tower, have to be grappled with, as also the question where one has to begin, what area is to be taken in, and whether the angle of vision is to be wide or narrow. For example, Degas, in his interiors with dancers, embraced a large area, so that one feels oneself amongst the figures, whereas Corot kept his figures much of a size, that is, he surveyed the scene from a distance. Then there is the difficulty of aerial perspective, as it is called, quite wrongly, the weakened accent and blurred detail of distant forms as compared with those nearer the eye. A distant cow, for instance, should not be drawn as a foreground object in miniature. At a certain distance the legs and horns disappear. Lastly, there is the more prosaic but immediately pressing problem of the vanishing of receding parallels of building, etc., especially those above the eye.
For discipline in all these matters, buildings afford excellent material. Turner, by his early studies of country mansions and ruins, laid the foundation of his facility in handling masses of architecture.
It has often been remarked that the most difficult thing to draw out of doors is the earth's surface--the horizontal plane. Upright things are comparatively easy. Houses, trees, mountains and people correspond in position with the vertical plane on which in theory one is drawing, but fields, roads, rivers, clouds, flights of birds, etc., at right angles to this plane are apt to give trouble. The bias of vision causes such objects to be drawn as if they were oblique planes sloping upwards to a high, vanishing line. Clouds suffer especially, and a "vertical sky" is very common in student's work.
In this connexion a flock of sheep would be a good test of a student's power to depict a horizontal surface. Their backs form a level plane which persists although the individual elements move to and fro. Anton Mauve and Jacque drew sheep well constructed, both anatomically and in the mass.
In reference to this question of the representation of the horizontal plane, it should be noted that ancient art, such as the Egyptian tomb paintings and Assyrian bas reliefs, ignored it in favour of the processional form of composition, in which the feet rest on what corresponds with the ground line of formal perspective. One often finds children doing the same thing; their figures walk along the bottom edge of the paper, the ground plane being assumed. Some of the great Italian decorators adopted this device, which gave dignity and loftiness to their compositions. It is to be seen in Mantegna's "Caesar's Triumph," at Hampton Court.
One of the most fruitful causes of a failure to obtain horizontality is beginning the foreground too close to the eye. Corot should be studied in this respect, for, as remarked above, he generally began his foreground some distance ahead. In this way his figures are much of a size without the enormous disproportion between foreground and middle distance figures, which constantly startle us in modern work, and which the layman instinctively resents,--and rightly, because such work betrays a failure to understand the necessity of a convention of representation.
Art students too often think of landscape not as material for study of form and composition, but as a mere sketching ground. Incidentally they add to their difficulties by working outdoors only in fine weather, and generally in July and August, choosing also the middle hours of the day. They should remember Corot, who, soon after the sun had risen, shut up his painting box, remarking that the beauty of the scene had vanished. Painting in bright sunlight and heat tax the powers of a well-trained artist, but these very conditions lend themselves to drawing, to a certain precision' and fixity of form, and yet few art students are seen drawing out of doors, compared with the numbers sketching with water colour.
Masters of landscape have studied out of doors with the point from Claude onwards. If composition is the theme, washes of grey or black will give opportunity for study, which the gay water colour pigments the student loves to dip in do not allow. They divert his attention from the fundamental masses of his composition. Such material as trees, rocks, the surface of water, rough or smooth, the varying aspects of cloud systems, often confuse the student because its appearance, while based on well-defined structural laws, yet in its apparent irregularity of contour, or its fugitiveness, presents great difficulties, and he often fails to discern the underlying structure and order. But if the student is to realize the meaning of draughtmanship, which, however, is of no value unless one has something to say, a message to express, all visible natural phenomena are profitable exercises.
The landscapist, for instance, must make himself intimately acquainted with tree structure, must know one species from another, and must devote much time to drawing rather than painting, because by drawing one arrives at a clearer analysis of structure, the bones, or branching structure as seen in winter, the way this is clothed in summer by foliage, the masses of which have a characteristic form for each species. Even the kind of stroke by which the edges of the masses are expressed must be sought, for example, the saw-like edge of the oak or the more lobate edge of the walnut or horse chestnut. The old drawing books of trees were not so much off the mark, though now considered out-of-date when they began their study of tree forms with a page of scribbled foliage--a recipe as it were for each tree, but which the student will arrive at as a result of his own striving.
The study of rocks, hills and mountains, of reflections in water, and the forms of waves and tumbling water must be studied by the same searching eye, always watching for structure and orderliness of form. Ruskin's "Modern Painters" contains much that is of great value in this respect and, apart from its art philosophy, should be studied for its practical art teaching. Ruskin was a great art teacher, and his exercises were always well conceived.
This is not a manual of perspective, and indeed students who use their eyes, and occasionally hold up their paper to cover the scene they are working from, will not make outrageous mistakes.
Much of what is known as parallel perspective is worse than useless, but a course of formal perspective on common-sense lines, the conditions approximating to those of ordinary vision and including reflections and shadows, will be of the greatest assistance, because the student's attention will be drawn to the broad planes which form the surfaces of the earth, sea, and sky. These planes being the groundwork of pictorial composition perspective enables the student to define their relations and interpenetration, under the simplest conditions.
MR. R. G. HATTON, in a passage in one of his books, speaks of the difficulty he finds in conveying to his pupils his own sense of the peculiar beauty of flowers--a beauty all their own and quite distinct from that of children or women.
Students' drawings of plants often betray their lack of appreciation of the beauty of the form they think they are depicting. Like trees and shrubs, they are invested, by a careless eye, with the same untidy irregularity. Yet this is merely the superficial view. If we consider the delicacy of a seedling, so frail and so liable to all sorts of accident, the wonder is not that it is irregular, but that a plant's appearance is in any way orderly and beautiful. Exposed to a careless foot, cold winds, attacks of insects or plant parasites, and, above all, to the accidental development caused by varying distribution of light, yet it always shows itself true to the laws of its growth, arranges itself according to its order among plants, and in spite of caterpillar holes or broken stems it succeeds, for only a careless eye fails to see this order, and beauty of growth, which we call structure.
A plant in flower may be compared with a beautiful woman putting on her most alluring raiment, and certainly to succeed in expressing this beauty we must allow the plant personality, almost we must imagine that we ourselves are plants, that we desire to ignore the ravages of insects, etc., so that we may see the flower as it desires to be.
To ensure some measure of success in securing orderliness, we must understand that the method of drawing previously used is here of the same value. It is drawing bit by bit, flower, stalk, leaves, as they happen to come, that produces irregularity and ugliness ; and unfortunately flowers lend themselves to this method or want of it. The plant rather invites a separate scrutiny of its parts and seems to remain quite like a model sitting passively, prepared for a long pose. It should be noted, however, that the flower is not really passive, that it exhibits energy of growth in all its structure, in the unfolding of its leaves and flowers, in the new growth from the axils and in the line or curve of its stems, which varies in each species. (FIG. 38).
This energy in the most delicate of plants is often unheeded. For instance, the springing forth of the petals from their base is often rendered with a slack curve quite unlike the vigorous form of the corolla which the flower reveals, just as in the case of human action we have seen that often the drawing makes it tamer and more inclining to the passive. In this connexion Japanese drawings and prints should be studied. Their renderings of the chrysanthemum, for example, have all the vigour and movement that can be desired. The petals unfold and twist, and yet show the subordinating power of radiation. A student's drawing of the same flower often misses this, the dominant impression being that of slack untidyness.
Therefore, as the first strokes of a drawing of the human figure should show its inclination, and the directions of the torse and limbs, so here the characteristic line of stem and general contour of mass of foliage or flowers should first be set down. (FIGs. 36-38). Mr. Walter Crane once called this the "invisible" line, to which the blossoms or leaves conformed. It is a remarkable fact that if the hand be passed over the flowers or leaves of a plant, it describes a curve varying according to the type, exemplifying the law of growth that parts of a living structure tend to merge into a single form. The authority just mentioned was fond of drawing a bunch of downy ducklings squatting together in the farmyard, producing in the mass a strong resemblance to a full-grown duck. The rounded lines of the elm and chestnut produced by myriads of small leaf forms, and a similar curve formed in winter by the leafless twigs are further examples of the law.
Given a drawing of a plant commenced with main structural lines, it should proceed to the expression of the details in the same manner. The groups of leaves being set down, each leaf may be seen to have its main shape, no matter how many lobes or divisions into which its edge breaks up. Each flower, too, has its type form, often cup-shaped, like the buttercups and wild roses, and no matter how tormented by wind, etc., the separate petals, nor how irregularly they are turned or twisted, the main lines of growth should be carefully looked for, if one dared to say it, a drawing of a plant should at the commencement be more orderly and regular in its forms than the plant appears.
ASS to a knowledge of botanical structure, it may be as valuable to the student as artistic anatomy when drawing from the figure, though, as Lewis Day once wrote of plant drawing, if the eyes are well used the structure will not go far wrong.
For purposes of study of form, how far should one take a drawing? There is some difference of opinion here, but one may say that the limit is reached when the student's observation fails him. One sees sometimes plant drawing full of shading that is not so much the result of observation as of industry.
Drawing from the plant in outline is an attempt to express the form as it may be required for purposes of design. But this flat, would-be decorative treatment, defeats itself, for such a drawing is of use only for certain kinds of work--flat pattern. A study can never be bodily appropriated for design purposes. Every etcher knows that his drawing must contain much more than the needle can use.
Therefore the suggestion is made here that the plant drawing instead of being expressed by outline merely, however careful and deliberate, should be carried as far as the student's powers allow, first because as an exercise it is beneficial, showing what degree of refinement and detailed structure is possible in a drawing, and secondly because the more completely a student expresses his drawing, the more likely is he to have mastered the structure of the plant, and the more useful will the drawing be for reference.
FIG. 37--This sketch of a branch of the tulip tree shows that leaves apparently irregular and wayward in arrangement, conform to underlying rhythmical shapes, in this case ellipses. The flower is beautifully cup-shaped.
Fig. 38--These sketches of plants show that each species has its own curve or line of growth, too often disregarded by the designer.
Design and composition can be treated here only incidentally, but it may be said that the principles underlying these studies, while they may be discovered in all natural form, may perhaps be seen most clearly in plant form. The principles of repetition, contrast, radiation, continuity of line and variety are all clearly exemplified, which perhaps accounts for the instinctive way in which assent is given to its appeal to the sense of beauty, and the general acceptance of plant form as the universal motive for design.
To take one principle, that of radiation, as an instance, it will be noted how the lines of the plant seem consciously, as it were, to obey this law, which is clearly seen in the arrangement of the stems, flowers, leaves, etc. The structure takes cognizance of all the principles, but the plant seems to acknowledge radiation as its first law of beauty in form.
Speaking generally the student of plant form is apt to produce snippets of detail rather than a carefully composed rendering. Without taking liberties with the plant the space at one's disposal and the arrangement of the forms on the page should be carefully considered. Every drawing should be an exercise in composition.