IN beginning, the pupil should understand that his drawings are of no value in themselves, but are of use only as they train the eye to see correctly. The eye can be taught, or rather the mind can be made to accept the image of the eye, only by depending upon it : if the student begins by measuring and testing he will never be able to draw otherwise. Depending upon measurements is undesirable for many reasons, the most important being that no measurements can be applied which will take the place of correct perception, or begin to equal the trained eye. It is thus important that the student, from the beginning, depend entirely for his first drawing upon his eyes.
The best possible training for all, young or old, is the use of the glass slate.
Without the slate, the readiest way of determining the apparent proportions of an object is by the use of a pencil or any straight, slender rod held at arm's length, so as to appear to cover the dimensions of the object which are to be compared.
Thus, if the top of the pencil, when it is held at right angles to the direction in which the object is seen and so as to appear vertical, is made to cover the top of an object, and the bottom of the object is marked upon the pencil by the thumb nail, the distance thus set off on the pencil measures the apparent height of the object. If the pencil is now revolved to a horizontal position, the apparent height may he compared with the apparent width by holding the pencil so that its end appears to cover the left point of the object. If the width appears the same as the height, the thumb nail will appear to cover the right point of the object. If the width is greater or less than the height, the proportion may be readily observed.
The shorter measurement should always be compared with the longer.
The pencil must be at right angles to the direction in which the object is seen. Nearly all students think the pencil should be parallel to the side of the room or the bench upon which the object rests. This, however, is wholly false, for the position of the object with reference to its surroundings is of no consequence, and must not be considered when the actual appearance of the object is desired. If a cube is to be represented, the student must look at it. The plane which gives its real appearance is perpendicular to the direction in which he looks, and when measuring, the pencil must always be held in this position. When thus held, its ends are the same distance from the eye, and the pencil is not vertical when the student looks at an object above or below the level of the eye.
A good plan is to find some position in the fingers in which the pencil is perpendicular to the arm, which, when outstretched, brings the pencil into practically the correct position. See Fig. 12.
It is important that this use of the pencil shall determine simply the proportion of the drawing and not its actual size. The measurements on the pencil should not be transferred to the paper ; for the eye and hand are generally in different positions when the various measurements are taken, and if they are transferred to the paper the drawing resulting will be incorrect in proportion. Not only this, but the drawing will be limited in size and will often be too small.
The great difficulty in, the use of the pencil for measuring is that it is not held properly, -- at right angles to the direction in which the object is seen. Even students-in art schools, after months of study, are frequently seen measuring with the pencil foreshortened to the extent of 20 or 3o degrees. This may be avoided by measuring from the unsharpened end of the pencil instead of from the sharpened end ; for when the pencil is held so that the flat end appears a straight line, it must be about at right angles to the direction in which the object is seen.
* 1. To be exact, the part of the pencil which includes the measurement should be at right angles to the direction in which the pupil sees the object, but practically such fine results cannot be obtained and are unnecessary.
A much better device, especially for young pupils, is a rod about as long as a pencil, its outer surface black, with the two ends cut squarely and of the natural color of the wood. When this measuring rod is held so that neither light end is seen, it is in the proper position for measuring ; but if one of the white ends is visible, the rod is at an angle. A substitute for this special rod is an unsharpened pencil. This simple device should enable all to measure properly, and will be of great assistance to those teachers who now find it impossible to have the pencil properly held.
The same result may be obtained by bending a hairpin about a large knitting needle, as shown in Fig. 13. One end of the hairpin, A, projects for about an inch at right angles to the needle and forms a sight, and the other, after passing around the needle several times, is brought back and projects a short distance at right angles to the first end. The longer end serves to place the needle at right angles to the line of vision, for when only the end of the sight is seen, the needle must be properly placed. The wire should press the needle enough to stay in position upon it. It may be moved so that the measurement is included between the end of the needle and the short projecting end of the wire. When the needle is turned for comparison, the second measurement may be taken by the thumb nail, and the proportions may then be determined at leisure ; this is the only advantage of this device over the straight rod with ends at right angles to the rod, and the simpler rod will be all that is necessary for most students.
The proportions of any object may also be accurately measured by the simple object illustrated in Fig. 14. It consists of two parts : first, a card which has a long rectangular opening, and second, a sliding part made by folding and gluing together around the card a
1 - piece of paper which serves as a shutter, and which may be moved to give any proportion to the opening cut in the card. By holding the card so that the opening measures the height of an object, and moving the shutter until the width is covered, the two dimensions may be correctly obtained, and may be compared at leisure. To facilitate comparison, one vertical and one horizontal edge of the card may have set off upon them equal spaces as 1/8”, 1/4", or 1/2", according to the size of the opening.
This card will also be valuable in determining the arrangement of the drawing upon the paper. It serves as a frame to the subject, and may be-shifted until the best position of the sketch upon the paper is determined.
When proportions are compared, the distance of the needle or pencil from the eye must be the same. The distance is so apt to vary that unless each comparison is made several times with the same result, there is little chance that measurements will be correct. It is useless to think that tests not carefully taken are worth the time given them. It is much better to take the one proportion of height and width carefully, than to spend the time necessary to do this on half a dozen measurements which are sure to contradict, and do more harm than good.
It is impossible to compare accurately a short distance, with one many times greater. If the height is equal to or is nearly one-half or one-third of the width, care will so determine it ; but with every new position of the hand in moving a short distance over a long, inaccuracy arises, and it is well to avoid such comparisons, for they are not only not to be depended upon but are unnecessary.
The inaccuracy is produced by inability to hold the pencil at exactly the right place, and also by the change in the distance of the pencil which every movement away from the first position occasions.
This movement may be realized by tying a thread to the pencil and measuring its distance from the eye by holding the thread with the left hand against the brow. If the arm is dropped for the measurement of a near object and the string is tight, it will loosen when the arm is raised, and in the same way it will change for horizontal movement. The only way in which exact measurements of an extended subject can be taken is by the use of such a measuring- thread attached to the measuring rod. We wish to simplify the subject as much as possible. If reasonable care is exercised, the variation in the distance of the pencil, when used without a measuring-thread, may be made so slight as to be unimportant in the drawing of small objects.
When possible, all comparisons should be made by swinging the pencil from a vertical into a horizontal position by motion of the whole arm from the shoulder, avoiding change • in distance by revolving the pencil about one end of the first measurement. Thus, if the height and width of a table are to be compared, instead of measuring the width along the top and dropping the hand to compare the width with the height, or measuring the height and then lifting the hand to compare with the width, make the comparison by taking the width along the top and swinging the pencil down about the thumb ; or by taking the width at the bottom and swinging the pencil up about the thumb, as in Fig. 15. Measuring in this way will assist greatly to correct results.
The above are the direct tests for proportion, and if carefully taken should give the correct mass of the drawing ; but for the directions of lines other tests are better.
It is natural to compare directions with vertical and horizontal lines. A horizontal line whose ends are equidistant from the eye appears horizontal, and is represented by a horizontal line. A vertical line appears vertical, and is always represented by a vertical line. If a ruler is held horizontal, with its ends equally distant from the eye, it illustrates the appearance represented by a horizontal line in the drawing. By looking over the ruler thus held, the apparent directions of lines of the object may be compared with the horizontal.
A thread with a weight attached serves as a plumb-line. By holding the plumb-line in front of the object, the lines of the object may be compared with the vertical. The thread may also be used, and is often better than the ruler or pencil, for the horizontal line, as it hides none of the object. Care must always be taken to hold the thread perpendicular to a line from the eye to the object. This position is easiest obtained by directly facing the group, extending the arms equally, and holding in each hand one end of a piece of thread about two feet long.
More care must be exercised to have the thread horizontal. This position can be obtained by looking only at the thread until it is levelled, when the student may look beyond it at the group. If there are horizontal lines in the subject which are parallel to the picture plane they will appear horizontal and will place the thread correctly ; but if the horizontal lines of the subject are not thus situated, they will not appear horizontal, and will cause the thread to seem horizontal when it is inclined.
It may seem that unnecessary space has been given to these directions, but it has been found almost impossible to make many students understand the matter and hold the thread correctly, even after repeated explanations and illustrations. Some, after months of study, are found holding the thread or pencil at an angle of from ten to thirty degrees away from the correct position, and it is thought that no explanation can be too careful. The problem is so simple that any student who wishes to succeed should have no difficulty ; he may be sure that he will never learn to draw until he is able to discover his mistakes, and as the use of the thread is a most important test, it should .be correctly applied.
Any object, as the cube, Fig. 16, having been drawn, may be tested by the thread as follows : Hold the thread horizontally to cover point 5, and note its apparent intersection with the edges 1-6 and 6-7. Hold the thread vertically in front of point 3, and see where it intersects 5-6. Hold it in front of 6-7, and notice its intersection with 2-3, Hold the thread to cover 1 and 5, also 2 and 4, and compare its direction with a horizontal line. Continue the edge 2-7 to intersect 5-6, and 4-7 to intersect 2-I. Cover any opposite points, as 1 and 3, 3 and 6, 4 and 1, etc., and notice where the thread appears to intersect the edges between.
This use of the thread is simply a more exact method of discovering angles than drawing lines in the air, the method explained on p. 5. When the eye is trained, the first, which is of course the simpler, is all that is needed. Most students will find the use of the thread necessary. The thread gives a fine line which can be made to exactly cover the edges of the object, and its intersections with the edges can be seen much more readily than those of a line formed by a pencil or rule, which hides considerable of the object. If these tests with the thread are applied, they cannot fail to discover every error of importance.
The thread should not be used to measure the proportions of objects.
A last test- may be applied by holding two pencils together at right angles to the direction in which the object is seen, and separating them until one covers 3-4, and the other covers 1-6. If great care is taken, the directions of these lines with reference to each other may be seen, and the drawing tested by continuing these lines in the drawing.
The apparent angle between two lines may be measured by folding a strip of paper and holding it so that each part appears to coincide with one of the two lines. 'This test is easiest applied by the use of a hinged rule or straight-edge of two parts.
The two tests just explained. cannot be recommended for pupils, since there are two straight-edges to be held at right angles to the direction in which the object is seen. It is so difficult to do this that those who can hold the rules correctly may depend upon their eyes, and get the drawing better without these tests than with their. Another way of testing the direction of a line is to hold a straight edge upon the line of the drawing so that it will project beyond the
board, and then lift the board and straight edge into the position of the picture plane, when the straight edge appears to coincide with the edge of the object if the direction of the line in the drawing is correct.
I have dwelt thus carefully upon these tests in the hope that the student may realize their importance, for he will learn to draw correctly only through his own efforts, gaining with each discovery of error. He can never become a draughtsman as long as he depends upon a teacher for corrections. Let him carry his drawing so far that a thorough application of all the tests explained will show no error ; then, as it is simply a question of exactness to be determined by the eye, if the trained eye of the teacher discovers mistakes so slight that the student cannot rightly be expected to determine them, these may be pointed out. As the chief benefit results from what the student himself sees and does, he will be much better off without a teacher than with one who does his work for him.
The advanced art student should use few tests, and should not require the' mechanical aids which have been explained. These different ways of testing have been given, because the teacher should understand them all. They should not, however, be explained to the pupils, at least not at once, or following one another closely ; some of them are not suitable for pupils to attempt, and should not be explained. The pupil who begins with the slate, and later uses the measuring rod and the thread, will not require other tests, nor even these, through the entire course. When correcting pupils' drawings, the teacher, may sometimes find other tests than the slate valuable and convenient. At such times, ways of testing, such as the use of the straight edge (p. 48), may be explained to advanced pupils, but at first the glass slate, and later the thread and measuring rod, should be depended upon.
Some artists say that students should use no test but their eyes, and that even the pencil for measuring proportions, or the thread for directions and intersections, are means which are too mechanical, and which should be avoided. They say that the pupil should be led to " feel " errors in his drawing.
As a rule, those who are strongest in the expression of such ideas, if teachers, are teachers of advanced students. It is thought that any one who has had much experience with pupils who have never learned to draw will say that feeling must generally come after some ability to see has been acquired ; and that to teach them to see correctly is a most difficult, problem in which the teacher's eyes cannot serve the pupil. This problem can only be solved by means which prove to the student the falsity of the work, which, until the tests are applied, seems perfect to him.
As the pencil is often held carelessly, its use by students who have had some training frequently does them more harm than good ; especially when they measure before drawing, for they make drawings to agree with incorrect measurements, when, if they would use their eyes, they would see the proportions more correctly.
Any means which are used to take the place of the eyes, or any tests which are applied before drawing, must harm the student, for they make it difficult for him to use his eyes, and weaken him in proportion as he studies in this mechanical way. But tests that are applied after the student has carried his drawing as far as he can without testing, are not mechanical so far as results are concerned, and, if they show the drawing which was thought correct to be incorrect, they must be educational and valuable. The only way to produce successful results is to make the student independent, and, as far as possible, able to test the accuracy of his work, when at the point where without the tests he can do no more. In form he can do this quite perfectly, and, if he applies tests only after the drawing has been carried as far as possible without them, he will advance rapidly.
In light and shade the use of a lens of about fifteen inches' focus to blur the effect, is a mechanical aid which enables the student to believe his own eyes, and see, for instance, that a black vase may appear lighter than a gray cast, when without the glass he would fail to see it, even after half an hour's talk by the teacher. This glass will also prove a valuable aid in color study. It may be mechanical, but it will enable the student to see effects truly and finally to "feel " the sentiment in Nature. It will do this much more quickly than the teacher, who is unable to prove himself right to the student who fails to see color or values as he does.
The Tight use of tests, such as the slate, pencil, thread, and blur glass, quickly renders the use of all tests unnecessary by training the eye to see correctly. For instance, the use of the blur glass for a very short time will enable the student to realize what the masses are, and to see simply without mechanical aid -- to see, in fact, much better than is possible with such help ; for the eye can focus to give any desired amount of detail.
If the artist who has forgotten his first struggles in drawing and who wishes students to be taught to feel, will take a class of average pupils and try to give them this power without the assistance of tests applied by the students, he will be more fortunate than most artists who teach, if he does not decide that many of the class have mistaken their vocations. If he has not the privilege of telling them so, or if he fails to make them agree with him, and they still persist in producing work which is completely devoid, not only of sentiment, but also of all vestige of even mechanical truth, the chances are that he will be very glad to give them simple aids to assist them to see, and will, after a short experience, decide that these aids are not only necessary but wise.
While speaking of artists, I wish to refer to the criticisms sometimes made upon the cuts and sketches of many of the drawing-books for students' use. As a rule, these drawings are mechanical and hard when they might be more artistic ; but some criticism is calculated to give the student the idea that artists' sketches do not give the exact geometrical appearance, and that therefore it is useless for the art pupil to draw a perfect line, for instance, an ellipse in the representation of a circle seen obliquely. Such ideas more than anything else are calculated to produce the careless, spotty, and meaningless sketches which are made by students who are searching for handling, technique, and freedom as the all-important ends, when they should be seriously considering how what is before them appears.
Artists who have given their lives to acquiring knowledge may be able to express this knowledge so simply and directly that their work may seem careless to the student : this is no reason for the conclusion that it is carelessly done. The strokes which seem accidental to him, express effects which it has taken the artist perhaps years to see, and which the student cannot see without similar study. The artist's technique is free because by long study he has become able to see truly at a glance, and his only thought in working is the idea to be expressed, and not the handling of the medium.
The pupil, who, after much effort to express the form of a circle which is seen obliquely, can only obtain a line which is as irregular as a brook, ought not to be permitted to think that free handling of his pencil or brush will hide inability to draw, or give a substitute for any of the qualities essential to good work. When he has trained his eye and hand so that they are his servants, it is time to think of handling ; but at this time it will not be necessary, for it will come without thought as a result of the knowledge and experience gained by serious study.
The student, then, should not shirk careful drawing nor the most searching study of detail. It is useless for him to think that he can produce a drawing or a picture which has the parts essential to it well studied, if he cannot make a study of a simple group of still life which shall represent all parts of the subject and every detail, in correct drawing and values. The student who feels that, because all the detail is not always essential, he can omit any before he becomes able to express all by correct drawing and values, if asked so to do, is wasting his time, for he will make drawings which omit the essentials and which are without merit of any kind.
The student who can draw a perfect ellipse easily will have no trouble in representing lines which are not quite circular ; and, understanding that a sketch which is artistic must give a sense of atmosphere, he will soon discover that a hard and rigid line is not satisfactory ; and, being able to draw freely, his sketches will have the variation of line which is essential. This can never come by avoiding serious study of form and effects.
The student who studies for love of art and not for fashion's sake or for a trade, will discover that popularity is not a sign of merit, and that financial success unfortunately is gained frequently by those who know the least, while serious, honest work is unnoticed by the public, which buys what is simply " pretty" or " clever " or what is the style, without regard to its merit. The serious student must understand that the sketches which were made so rapidly and sell so fast, and for such large prices, are often as devoid of truth as it is possible for them to be. They are conventional in drawing, false in color and values, but attract the eye because they are " sketchy " and interestingly composed. The student should not permit them to influence him to work for such false and cheap results, nor should he be persuaded against his judgment by the popular verdict into accepting this class of work as good and worthy of emulation.
The teacher, then, should not be disturbed by the criticism of superficial art students or critics, but should insist that the students begin to study seriously with only the idea of becoming able to represent truly just what is before them : after this they must depend upon themselves for the artistic feeling which shall decide what is essential, and when changes from the actual appearance will produce a more satisfactory impression than absolute truth of appearance.
This power to feel is only to be gained by depending upon the eye, and teachers should insist that all work be begun before any mechanical tests are applied. At first pupils will not be able to see angles and foreshortening at all correctly, and the tests when applied will show the pupils the errors of their work.
But after a little study pupils will be able to see proportions and masses more truly than they can measure them ; and if they are led to think of the apparent widths and heights of the different objects of the group and of each different part of every object, they will be surprised to find that consideration of these proportions will often show the work which their measurements have produced, to be incorrect.
This is due to the fact that pupils are allowed to think of the contour of the object, that is, of the line that they draw to represent it, instead of the space or mass that the line encloses. As long as pupils work in this way they will never feel nor learn to express the sentiment and the artistic qualities of the object before them.
Excellent practice in the observation that leads to successful drawing will be given by placing any simple object before pupils for a few seconds and asking them to observe and remember its appearance and to draw it when the object is taken away. Practice of this nature may be given upon the slate and thus the pupils may test the accuracy of their perception and memory.