A brilliant chalk drawing b) Corregio. The modelling is broad and sharp accents of dark have been avoided. The downward direction of the strokes from right to left should be noted, the simplest movement for a right-handed person.
In the first place I must offer humble apologies to my students, past and present, whose failings I have so ruthlessly exploited for my own purpose. They will, I trust, pardon me for holding them up as horrid examples rather than shining lights.
Next I must tender my acknowledgments to my master and friend, Mr. F. Morley Fletcher, to whom I owe everything in art, and especially for his teaching, as I understand it, of the use of expressive line.
I have to thank Prof. Edith Morley for reading a very untidy manuscript, and Mr. C. C. Pearce, A.R.B.A., for suggestions. I must also thank Mr. A. S. Hartrick, R.W.S., for allowing me to reproduce two Paris life studies (FIGs. 16 and 25A), Mr. E. S. Lumsden, R.E., for several drawings (FIGS. 18, 28 and 44), Miss Dorothy Johnston (FIGs. 21 and 31A), Mr. C. C. Pearce (FIG. 12), Mr. H. Hampton (FIG. 43), Miss Agnes Forbes and other students for various drawings and sketches which are only intended to serve as indications of method.
My thanks are also due to the Hon John Fortescue, of the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, for permission to reproduce the Holbein drawings, to the British Museum authorities, and to Mr. W. B. Paterson, who obtained Mr. W. A. Coats' consent to use his Crawhall drawing.
The line blocks, as can be seen, are mere scribbled diagrams with no pretence to draughtsmanship.
Lastly, in a book planned as this is, there must necessarily be a certain amount of repetition. Perhaps this is not altogether bad for the student ; as all teachers know, important matters need more than one telling.
A. W. SEABY.
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, READING.
II. THE BIAS OF VISION
IV. TYPE FORMS
VI. TONE STUDY--PRELIMINARY
VII. TONE STUDY--EXERCISES
VIII. THE FIGURE--INTRODUCTORY
IX. THE FIGURE--THE SEARCH FOR FORM
X. THE FIGURE--TIME SKETCHING
XI. RELATED FIGURES
XII. EDGE STUDY
XIII. ARTISTIC ANATOMY
XIV. DRAWING ON TONED PAPER
XV. EARLY AND MODERN REPRESENTATION OF FORM
XVI. DRAWING FROM MEMORY
XIX. PLANT FORM
XX. DRAWING AS A PREPARATION FOR PAINTING
XXII. DRAWING FOR ILLUSTRATORS
XXIII. THE DRAWINGS OF THE MASTERS
IN these days, when daily prophecies are made concerning the art work required in the near future, in the shape of pattern and costume designing, poster and advertisement work, illustration, etc., when one sees in the press a great campaign of correspondence teaching with the promise of remunerative employment to every student who "completes the course," with the implication that no long training in art study is necessary, and that there is a royal road to art, it becomes necessary to insist upon the importance of draughtsmanship in the classical sense, as understood by Holbein, Velasquez, Ingres, Menzel, and Degas. This technical power or faculty, call it what we will, is not a conjuring trick, a mere sleight-of-hand to be learned as a series of "tips," but must be acquired, if at all, by severe training, and by intellectual visual effort. It must be searched for rather than picked up, and learned from one whom the student trusts, putting himself in his teacher's hands with confidence, not regarding him as one standing behind a counter ready for a fee to cut off a small snip of the fabric of art teaching, to show, say, how tricks with a watercolour brush are performed, or how to draw a pretty face. When the student has arrived at some measure of the knowledge of art, he will press into his service all the refinements of technique which he can acquire from any one who can teach him, but without that, he is the more a charlatan, the more dodges and manipulative processes he can command.
The following chapters, therefore, are concerned with drawing as a study, and an attempt is made in them to emphasize the importance of a student-like attitude of mind, and a wise docility in carrying out tasks not perhaps in themselves very interesting, but necessary if the draughtsman is to be well equipped. Nor should readers cavil at such a term as "tasks," for though the emotional side of art is now-a-days insisted upon, and rightly so, yet it is all the more necessary that the artist shall be absolutely the master of his instrument, if he is to possess the souls of his listeners. And if this striving and study is necessary in music, still more is it in pictorial art.
On the other hand the study of drawing cannot proceed without the active interest of the pupil. The notion still lingers that drawing is a discipline, that students should be made to do it because they do not like it. But when the eye loses its interest and pertinacity, a particular drawing is better laid aside, for further work will resolve itself into tinkering, embroidering or stippling, mere occupation without observation. If the study has been made on right lines, if placing, proportion, movement and construction have been grappled with, the drawing has earned its place in the stairway of art study, for it has raised the student a step above his previous attempts. A real responsibility rests on the student, who should ascertain for himself how far he can take a drawing, though, the art teacher can do much to help him by exhortation and even example. Many students are slow to recognise the necessity of testing their powers of observation and expression in any one drawing; some artists have only forced themselves to this long after their school days were over, as witness Degas, who shut himself up for two years while he searched his powers of observation to the utmost in producing his exquisitely finished pictures of Paris street life.
After some experience of teaching drawing it seems to the writer that certain essentials of study, not only perhaps in drawing, but in all art are :--(i) the development of the sense of proportion, and by this is meant more than getting one's measurements right, but a, feeling for good proportions, such as is generally admitted was innate in the Italians to a higher degree than in the northern peoples, and the reason lies at hand, for the former never lost touch with the classic canons of proportion, while the architecture and sculpture, which formed their environment, showed them proportion embodied. (2) Hardly less important is the quality of sincerity, of being oneself, of not apeing another's style. Art Students, from their very temperament, are quickly impressed, not least by the work of the cleverer students. Later on they follow the manner of their master or of artists they admire. There is not much harm in this up to a certain point, and indeed art tradition has been built up in some such way. On the other hand the student with character and individuality, while showing in his work admiration for others, will feel within himself a wish to follow his bent, to do things his own way. From this comes character, a quality in art work, which is spontaneous, and not to be striven for consciously.
As for "style," that comes only to a few, and an art teacher has to leave it out of his calculations, happy if years after, the work of a former pupil is seen to possess that elusive and rare quality. But one can show one's students to some extent what style means in drawing; the rhythmical line of Botticelli, Ingres and the Oriental masters, the veracity and clarity of Holbein, the structural drawing of Durer, to name only a few masters. Certainly every school should have reproductions of drawings by masters, early and modern, not in order to frighten students, or even that they should copy them, but to instil into their minds the qualities that the best drawings possess.
The student should study such reproductions, or better still, the actual drawings in the British Museum, at Oxford and elsewhere. He will see that each master has a rhythm peculiar to himself, not only a conscious rhythm, such as the marshalling of the masses as we see in Rembrandt's Hundred Guilder print, with their pyramidal or wave-like forms, all leading to the central group, or a similarly conscious effort to achieve a calligraphic flow of line as seen in the Chinese and Japanese masters; but a sub-conscious rhythmical stroke or accent, by which we know the artist as we might recognise him by his handwriting. The ample curves of Rubens, the sweet flowing line of Guercino, the staccato rhythm of Fragonard, the square cut forms of Rembrandt, as seen in his brush drawings, are examples.
But this rhythmical movement of the hand cannot be taught, and the student should not consciously strive for it, or he may acquire not rhythm, but merely a mannered touch.
Composition has been dealt with incidentally, but this is a subject which demands full treatment, while the following chapters are concerned with how to draw. In practice, however, the two are interwoven, and as composition comprehends all the subjects of art study it stands easily first, and should be given a corresponding position in any art curriculum.
Too long has art teaching been concerned with mere imitation, whereas the first stroke on a sheet of paper involves attention to other things. It implies a choice, for it fixes the dimensions, determines the placing and the movement; in other words the first steps of a drawing have to do not so much with imitation as composition., It might be put this way, that the student who studies art mainly through composition and allied subjects will draw well enough, while the student who does nothing but copy may miss the very kernel of his art.
The opening sentences of this introduction show that the writer is on the side of those in authority who advocate sustained effort as against slick sketching. It happens that he has had to deal with art students from all parts of Britain, and from abroad, and of but few could it be said that they had been put upon the right road, that ideas of proportion, of construction, and of movement had been steadfastly pressed upon them, and he has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the teaching of drawing is often wanting in clearness, that what may be called the rudiments--how to set about a drawing, how to carry out the successive stages, have not been inculcated. Too often the student shows by his muddling attempts that he has not been taught to draw, and this applies with equal force to the more brilliant students. This is a serious matter, and no number of gold medals for overworked, or, on the other hand, tricky drawings, will put the matter right. The kindness of heart which fears to criticize with faithfulness is cruelty in the end, for students are often so wrapped in their own manner of work and way of seeing that only the plainest speaking will shake them free.
Of course no teacher can command "good" drawing from his pupils, but their work shows clearly enough what sort of teaching they have received. Perhaps a great part of the truth lies in this, that the teacher may be thinking more of the drawing than of the pupil, more anxious for the successful completion of the work than that the student should proceed by logical and artistic steps. A study abandoned because of wrong method may lose a medal, but it may be for the student's welfare, for while a drawing may be tinkered into shape, may be "pulled out of the fire," yet during the process the student is learning to draw badly, to attach importance to dodges and contrivances for making a bad drawing appear better than it is.
THE BIAS OF VISION.
FOR good or ill the invention of perspective gave an enormous impetus to art study, as distinct from practical apprenticeship in the studio or workshop. When the science is held to include reflections and the representation of shadows, it occupies the same field as that study we call Drawing. Photography, erroneous as is its perspective, judged by human eye standards, gave a fresh lease of life to the subject, or as the Post- Impressionists would put it, riveted the perspective fetters yet more firmly on pictorial art.
That is to say, the study of form in the Art School is necessarily based upon appearances, and at once the art student parts company with his brother in the street who has an absolute contempt for appearances in the sense in which the term is here used. In order to establish the relation between reality and experience gained by the eye one may observe as far as it be possible an infant's visual sensations. Shortly after birth it evidently notices a light as marked by the movement of the eyes and head. A little later it tries to reach brightly coloured objects presented to it (as the saying is, it cries for the moon), and the observer will note how tentative and uncertain are its efforts, the difficulty it has in reaching with its hand the exact position of the object.
If with one eye closed small objects are picked up from the table, the adult will appreciate the infant's difficulty, for with this handicap it is not easy to estimate the exact distance the hand has to travel to grasp the object.
The child has perforce to continue its investigations. It hurts itself by knocking against objects, or falling over them, until by dint of practice and sad experience it has become at a quite early age what may be called "distance perfect." It has learned to look into space as compared with the artist's way of looking at space. This power of measuring distances is essential to the preservation of life, and the knowledge is being used throughout our waking moments. From the appearance of things the actual is reconstructed.
Hence a Philistine, sub-conscious contempt for appearances, for light and shade, change of colour caused by shadows or distance, and apparent changes of form owing to foreshortening. To the non-artist these are illusions, deceptions making the daily walk in life more difficult perhaps, but easily to be overcome by wariness, by the determination not to confound the "shadow" with the substance.
Hence the teacher finds that all beginners make their drawings, in a sense, too like the object; their ellipses are nearer the circle, and their horizontal surfaces wider, than the position of the object warrants.
Again, every art teacher knows that in a junior class practising object drawing, there will be at least one case where the pupil has not drawn the appearance of the object as he sees it from where he is, but as it would appear if he were in another position. Sometimes two drawings of an object may be found almost identical in appearance, yet made by students several feet apart.
In this case the student, who has evidently expended some intellectual energy in thus projecting himself into an imaginary position, does so because he feels that the view he actually has would give but an imperfect idea of the shape and function of the object, and this gives the clue to so-called errors that we see in old work. The Egyptian symbol of a man shows the head in profile, the shoulders in front view and the legs again in profile. The Assyrian bas-relief makes the king twice the size of his attendants, while the mediaeval illustrator causes his hero to appear several times in the same picture among houses, trees, etc., rather less in height than himself. Children, for the same reason, depict a profile view of a face with a front view of the eye, and often add another eye, nose and mouth as well, or they depict both ends of a house in one drawing. In all these cases appearance is ignored. The delineator is obsessed by realities, and is occupied in presenting the largest possible content of the objects depicted.
Similarly, if an object with which a young pupil is familiar, such as a kitchen bellows, is laid upon the table as an exercise in the drawing lesson, the apparent change of shape due to foreshadowing is apt to be ignored, with the result that a view is given of the bellows in plan, with the side view tacked on as it were. The students see by a kind of mental vision, the ground plans of objects as a bird's eye view, because that imaginary position enables them to visualize objects more easily. Such drawing cannot be called wrong; it merely denotes an early, and in these days of realism and photographic vision, an inconvenient convention. It is not a question of difficulty in the sense that the lines are intricate or hard to follow, for these may be of the easiest, but rather a misunderstanding between teacher and students, the former being concerned with the modern or sophisticated aspect of art, the latter still making use of traditional conventions.
And indeed the historic art periods of greatest charm came before perspective and light and shade had been treated scientifically. One might cite the splendidly alive and characteristic animals of the Egyptians, the Greek vase forms with their linear purity, the early work of the mediaeval illuminators, Chinese and Japanese drawing, and the detailed vision of the naturalistic painters of the quattrocento. In all these periods the vision was artistic, and triumphed over inconsistencies of representation as judged by later standards.
Consideration of this deference to the claims of reality enables the art teacher to appreciate the difficulties his students have in grappling with the figure. Beginners make the head too large for the body, the face too big for the skull ; the hair like string or wire, pre-occupied as they are with realities, which cannot be compassed on a plane surface. Their vision may be said to be anthropomorphic, for they regard everything from the human standpoint. A house at the end of a long avenue of trees, for instance, is likely to be drawn much larger than it appears, because it is the home of man, and as such is unconsciously emphasized.
In this connexion it may be noted that there are no such beings as pupils totally untrained in drawing, for all have been taught to draw in early childhood, but by means of a series of recipes or symbols. How to draw a man, horse, tree, etc., are questions freely asked by children with the expectation of an immediate ready- made answer. In later stages of drawing practice these old symbols or images re-appear, and hide or fog the object set before the students, who often draw, not what they see, but the object coloured or biassed by this sub-conscious image of long ago which, as it were, they behold with an inner eye simultaneously with their vision of what is before them.
This sub-conscious image plays strange pranks with the drawing. Sometimes the student substitutes his own features and physical proportions for those of the model, or may be the features of the previous sitter appear on the drawing.
Students' figure drawings often betray to an amusing extent the type they fancy in the opposite sex, while equally common is the inability to portray an alien racial type. The usual Italian model is transformed into a square-profiled Englishman. When one looks for it, "the English look" on students' drawings of foreign models is quite ludicrous. The physiognomy of even an allied race like the Dutch is absolutely differentiated from that of the English type.
Much concentrated observation and searching for the accents which make up this differentiation of race forms, are needed. The student has to teach himself to get, as it were, outside his own personality, in which a young person is often impregnably intrenched, and subordinate himself to his model.
He has to set himself free from these sub-conscious, anthropomorphic fetters already alluded to. Perhaps the only way to achieve this is through sympathy with his subject. Too often students barely consider the model as a human being; they are quick to find some variation in the pose from what they saw before, and hasten to correct it, very much as they would alter a lay figure.
Apart then from dealing with faults of construction and proportion the teacher's chief difficulty is to get students outside themselves. The well-being of most young people, their exuberant vitality, their good spirits and freedom from care, make it difficult for them to visualize other than in terms of their own personality. In other words artists begin to see more truly as the illusions of youth pass from them ; they at length see things as they are.