THE PAINTER IN OIL
A COMPLETE TREATISE ON THE PRINCIPLES AND TECHNIQUE NECESSARY TO THE PAINTING OF PICTURES IN OIL COLORS
BY DANIEL BURLEIGH PARKHURST
PUPIL OF WILLIAM SARTAIN, OF BOUGUEREAU AND TONY-FLEURY, AND OF AIMEE MOROT; MEMBER OF THE NEW YORK WATER COLOR CLUB; FORMERLY LECTURER ON ART IN DICKINSON COLLEGE; AUTHOR OF "SKETCHING FROM NATURE," ETC.
"La peinture a l'huile est bien difficile; Mais beaucoup plus beau que la peinture a l'eau."
BOSTON: LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY LEE AND SHEPARD
All Rights Reserved
THE PAINTER IN OIL
TYPOGRAPHY BY C. J. PETERS & SON
PRESSWORK BY BERWICK & SMITH, NORWOOD PRESS NORWOOD MASS.
TO A. M. P. THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.
September 4th, 1897.
Books of instruction in the practice of painting have rarely been successful. Chiefly because they have been too narrow in their point of view, and have dealt more with recipes than with principles. It is not possible to give any one manner of painting that shall be right for all men and all subjects. To say "do thus and so" will not teach any one to paint. But there are certain principles which underlie all painting, and all schools of painting; and to state clearly the most important of these will surely be helpful, and may accomplish something.
It is the purpose of this book to deal practically with the problems which are the study of the painter, and to make clear, as far as may be, the principles which are involved in them. I believe that this is the only way in which written instruction on painting can be of any use.
It is impossible to understand principles without some statement of theory; and a book in order to be practical must therefore be to some extent theoretical. I have been as concise and brief in the theoretical parts as clearness would permit of, and I trust they are not out of proportion to the practical parts. Either to paint well, or to judge well of a painting, requires an understanding of the same things: namely, the theoretical standpoint of the painter; the technical problems of color, composition, etc.; and the practical means, processes, and materials through which and with which these are worked out.
It is obvious that one cannot become a good painter without the ability to know what is good painting, and to prefer it to bad painting. Therefore, I have taken space to cover, in some sort, the whole ground, as the best way to help the student towards becoming a good painter. If, also, the student of pictures should find in this book what will help him to appreciate more truly and more critically, I shall be gratified.
D. B. P.
December 4, 1897
PART I.—MATERIALS CHAPTER PAGE I. Observations 3 II. Canvases and Panels 6 III. Easels 15 IV. Brushes 20 V. Paints 33 VI. Vehicles and Varnishes 61 VII. Palettes 65 VIII. Other Tools 69 IX. Studios 76
PART II.—GENERAL PRINCIPLES
X. Mental Attitude 85 XI. Tradition and Individuality 95 XII. Originality 103 XIII. The Artist and the Student 107 XIV. How to Study 110
PART III.—TECHNICAL PRINCIPLES
XV. Technical Preliminaries 123 XVI. Drawing 126 XVII. Values 138 XVIII. Perspective 146 XIX. Light and Shade 151 XX. Composition 166 XXI. Color 184
PART IV.—PRACTICAL APPLICATION
XXII. Representation 209 XXIII. Manipulation 224 XXIV. Copying 236 XXV. Kinds of Painting 242 XXVI. The Sketch 245 XXVII. The Study 254 XXVIII. Still Life 260 XXIX. Flowers 280 XXX. Portraits 286 XXXI. Landscape 309 XXXII. Marines 335 XXXIII. Figures 347 XXXIV. Procedure in a Picture 371 XXXV. Difficulties of Beginners 389
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PAGE NOVEMBER BEECHWOOD Parkhurst Frontispiece STRETCHERS 11 CANVAS PLIERS 13 DOUBLE-POINTED TACK 13 EASEL 16 EASEL 17 SKETCHING EASEL 18 SKETCHING EASEL 19 BRUSHES.—Red Sable, Round 22 Red Sable 23 Red Sable, Flat 24 Round Bristle 26 Flat Bristle 28 Flat pointed 29 Fan 30 BRUSH CLEANER 31 OIL COLORS 54 OVAL PALETTE 65 ARM PALETTE 67 THE COLOR BOX 70 PALETTE KNIFE 71 THE SCRAPER 72 THE OIL-CUP 73 MAHL-STICKS 73 THREE-LEGGED STOOL 74 SKETCHING CHAIR 74 SKETCHING UMBRELLA 75 DRAWING OF HANDS Duerer 134 EGGS. WHITE AGAINST WHITE 154 THE CANAL Parkhurst 156 BOHEMIAN WOMAN Franz Hals 159 SEWING BY LAMPLIGHT Millet 161 DESCENT FROM THE CROSS 163 THE GOLDEN STAIRS 174 THE SOWER Millet 175 RETURN TO THE FARM Millet 178 THE FISHER BOY Franz Hals 217 BOAR-HUNT Snyders 221 GOOD BOCK Manet 227 SKETCH OF A HILLSIDE 246 THE RIVER BANK Parkhurst 250 STUDY OF A BLOOMING-MILL Parkhurst 257 STILL LIFE, NO. 1 265 STILL LIFE, NO. 2 266 STILL LIFE, NO. 3 267 STILL LIFE, NO. 4 269 STILL LIFE, NO. 5 270 STILL LIFE, NO. 6 271 SWEET PEAS 282 DUeRER by Himself 289 PORTRAIT OF HIS MOTHER Whistler 291 PORTRAIT OF HIMSELF Valasquez 293 PORTRAIT Parkhurst 297 HAYSTACKS IN SUNSHINE Monet 307 ON THE RACE TRACK Degas 314 WILLOW ROAD Parkhurst 317 ENTRANCE TO ZUYDER ZEE Clarkson Stanfield 337 GIRL SPINNING Millet 345 SKETCH OF A FLUTE PLAYER Parkhurst 355 MILTON DICTATING "PARADISE LOST" Munkacsy 363 BUCKWHEAT HARVEST Millet 368 STUDY OF FORTUNE Angelo 373 EBOUCH OF PORTRAIT Th. Robinson 379 LANDSCAPE PHOTO. NO. 1 394 LANDSCAPE PHOTO. NO. 2 395
THE PAINTER IN OIL
There is a false implication in the saying that "a poor workman blames his tools." It is not true that a good workman can do good work with bad tools. On the contrary, the good workman sees to it that he has good tools, and makes it a part of his good workmanship that they are in good condition.
In painting there is nothing that will cause you more trouble than bad materials. You can get along with few materials, but you cannot get along with bad ones. That is not the place to economize. To do good work is difficult at best. Economize where it will not be a hindrance to you. Your tools can make your work harder or easier according to your selection of them. The relative cost of good and bad materials is of slight importance compared with the relative effect on your work.
The way to economize is not to get anything which you do not need. Save on the non-essentials, and get as good a quality as you can of the essentials.
Save on the number of things you get, not on the quantity you use. You must feel free in your use of material. There is nothing which hampers you more than parsimony in the use of things needful to your painting. If it is worth your while to paint at all, it is worth your while to be generous enough with yourself to insure ordinary freedom of use of material.
The essentials of painting are few, but these cannot be dispensed with. Put it out of your mind that any one of these five things can be got along without:—
You must have something to paint on, canvas or panel. Have plenty of these.
You must have something to set this canvas on—something to hold it up and in position. Your knees won't do, and you can't hold it in one hand. The lack of a practical easel will cost you far more in trouble and discouragement than the saving will make up for.
You must have something to paint with. The brushes are most important; in kind, variety, and number. You cannot economize safely here.
You must have paints. And you must have good ones. The best are none too good. Get the best. Pay a good price for them, use them freely, but don't waste them.
And you must have something to hold them, and to mix them on; but here the quality and kind has less effect on your work than any other of your tools. But as the cost of the best of palettes is slight, you may as well get a good one.
Now, if you will be economical, the way to do it is to take proper care of your tools after you have got them. Form the habit of using good tools as they should be used, and that will save you a great deal of money.
CANVASES AND PANELS
You should have plenty of canvas on hand, and it would be well if you had it all stretched ready for use. Many a good day's work is lost because of the time wasted in getting a canvas ready. It is not necessary to have many kinds or sizes. It is better in fact to settle on one kind of surface which suits you, and to have a few practical sizes of stretchers which will pack together well, and work always on these. You will find that by getting accustomed to these sizes you work more freely on them. You can pack them better, and you can frame them more conveniently, because one frame will always do for many pictures. Perhaps there is no one piece of advice which I can give you which will be of more practical use outside of the principles of painting, than this of keeping to a few well-chosen sizes of canvas, and the keeping of a number of each always on hand.
It is all well enough to talk about not showing one's work too soon. But we all do, and always will like to see our work under as favorable conditions as possible. And a good frame is one of the favorable conditions. But good frames are expensive, and it is a great advantage to be able to have a frame always at hand which you can see your work in from time to time; and if you only work on four sizes of canvas, say, then four frames, one for each size, will suit all your pictures and sketches. Use the same sizes for all kinds of work too, and the freedom will come, as I say, in the working on those sizes.
Don't have odd sizes about. You can just as well as not use the regular sizes and proportions which colormen keep in stock, and there is an advantage in being able to get a canvas at short notice, and it will be one of your own sizes, and will fit your frame. All artists have gone through the experience of eliminating odd sizes from their stock, and it is one of the practical things that we all have to come down to sooner or later, and the sooner the better,—to have the sizes which we find we like best, not too many, and stick to them. I would have you take advantage of this, and decide early in your work, and so get rid of one source of bother.
Rough and Smooth.—The best canvas is of linen. Cotton is used for sketching canvas. But you would do well always to use good grounds to work on. You can never tell beforehand how your work will turn out; and if you should want to keep your work, or find it worth while to go on with it, you would be glad that you had begun it on a good linen canvas. The linen is stronger and firmer, and when it has a "grain," the grain is better.
Grain.—The question of grain is not easy to speak about without the canvas, yet it is often a matter of importance. There are many kinds of surface, from the most smooth to the most rugged. Some grain it is well the canvas should have; too great smoothness will tend to make the painting "slick," which is not a pleasant quality. A grain gives the canvas a "tooth," and takes the paint better. Just what grain is best depends on the work. If you are going to have very fine detail in the picture use a smoothish canvas; but whenever you are going to paint heavily, roughly, or loosely, the rough canvas takes the paint better. The grain of the canvas takes up the paint, helps to hold it, and to disguise, in a way, the body of it. For large pictures, too, the canvas must necessarily be strong, and the mere weight of the fabric will give it a rough surface.
Knots.—For ordinary work do not be afraid of a canvas which has some irregularities and knots on it. If they are not too marked they will not be unpleasantly noticeable in the picture, and may even give a relief to too great evenness.
Twilled Canvas.—The diagonal twill which some canvases have has always been a favorite surface with painters, particularly the portrait painters. This grain is a sympathetic one to work on, takes paint well, and is not in any way objectionable in the finished picture.
The best.—The best way is to try several kinds, and when you find one which has a sympathetic working quality, and which has a good effect in the finished picture, note the quality and use it. You will find such a canvas among both the rough and smooth kinds, and so you can use either, as the character of your work suggests. It is well to have both rough and smooth ready at hand.
Absorbent.—Some canvases are primed so as to absorb the oil during the process of painting. They are very useful for some kinds of work, and many painters choose them; but unless you have some experience with the working of them, they are apt to add another source of perplexity to the difficulties of painting, so you had better not experiment with them, but use the regular non-absorbent kinds.
Old and New.—The canvas you work on should not be too freshly primed. The painting is likely to crack if the priming is not well dried. You cannot always be sure that the canvas you get at stores is old, so you have an additional reason for getting a good stock and keeping it on hand. Then, if you have had it in your own possession a long while, you know it is not fresh. Canvas is all the better if it is a year old.
Grounds.—The color of the grounds should be of interest to you. Canvases are prepared for the market usually in three colors,—a sort of cool gray, a warm light ochrish yellow, and a cool pinkish gray. Which is best is a matter of personal liking. It would be well to consider what the effect of the ground will be on the future condition of the picture when the colors begin to effect each other, as they inevitably will sooner or later.
Vibert in his "La Science de la Peinture" advocates a white ground. He says that as the color will be sure to darken somewhat with time, it is well that the ground should have as little to do with it as possible. If the ground is white there is so much the less dark pigment to influence your painting. He is right in this; but white is a most unsympathetic color to work over, and if you do not want to lay in your work with frottees, a tint is pleasanter. For most work the light ochrish ground will be found best; but you may be helped in deciding by the general tone of your picture. If the picture is to be bright and lively, use a light canvas, and if it is to be sombre, use a dark one. Remember, too, that the color of your ground will influence the appearance of every touch of paint you put on it by contrast, until the priming is covered and out of sight.
Stretchers.—The keyed stretcher, with wedges to force the corners open and so tighten the canvas when necessary, is the only proper one to use. For convenience of use many kinds have been invented, but you will find the one here illustrated the best for general purposes. The sides may be used for ends, and vice versa. If you arrange your sizes well, you will have the sides of one size the right length for the ends of another. Then you need fewer sizes, and they are surer to pack evenly.
Stretching.—You will often have to stretch your own canvases, so you should know how to do it. There is only one way to make the canvas lay smoothly without wrinkles: Cut the canvas about two inches longer and wider than the stretcher, so that it will easily turn down over the edges. Begin by putting in one tack to hold the middle of one end. Then turn the whole thing round, and stretch tightly lengthwise, and put a tack to hold it into the middle of the other end. Do the same way with the two sides. Only four tacks so far, which have stretched the canvas in the middle two ways. As you do this, you must see that the canvas is on square. Don't drive the tacks all the way in at first till you know that this is so. Then give each another blow, so that the head binds the canvas more than the body of the tack does; for the pull of the canvas against the side of the tack will tear, while the head will hold more strands. This first two ways stretching must be as tight as any after stretching will be or you will have wrinkles in the middle, while the purpose is to pull out the wrinkles towards the corners. Now go back to the ends: stretch, and place one tack each side of the first one. In a large canvas you may put two each side, but not more, and you must be sure that the strain is even on both sides. Don't pull too much; for next you must do the same with the other end which should bear half of the whole stretch. Do just the same now with the two sides. Now continue stretching and tacking,—each side of the middle tacks on each end, then on each side, then to the ends again, and so gradually working towards the corners, when as you put in the last tacks the wrinkles will disappear, if you have done your work well. Don't hurry and try to drive too many tacks into a side at a time, for to have to do it all over again would take more time than to have worked slowly and done it properly. You may of course stretch a small canvas with your hands, but it will make your fingers sore, and you cannot get large canvases tight without help. You will do well to have a pair of "canvas pliers" which are specially shaped to pull the canvas and hold it strongly without tearing it, as other pliers are sure to do.
When you take canvases out-doors to work, you will find it useful to strap two together, face inwards, with a double-pointed tack like this in each corner to keep them apart. You will not have any trouble with the fresh paint, as each canvas will then protect the other. You can pack freshly painted canvases for shipping in the same way.
Panels.—For small pictures panels are very useful, and when great detail is desirable, and fine, smooth work would make an accidental tear impossible to mend well, they are most valuable. They are made of mahogany and oak generally.
Panels are useful, too, for sketching, as you can easily pack them. They are light, and the sun does not shine through the backs. You can get them for about the same cost as canvas for small sizes, which are what you would be likely to use, and they are often more convenient, particularly for use in the sketch-box.
The important thing in an easel is that it should be steady and firm; that it should hold the canvas without trembling, and so that it will not fall as you paint out towards the edges. You often paint with a heavy hand, and you must not have to hold on to your picture with one hand and paint with the other. Nothing is more annoying than a poor easel, and nothing will give you more solid satisfaction, than the result of a little generosity in paying for a good one. The ideal thing for the studio is, of course, the great "screw easel," which is heavy, safe, convenient, and expensive. We would like to have one, but we can't afford it, so we won't speak of it. The next best thing is an ordinary easel which doesn't cost a great deal, but which is firm and solid and practical. Don't get one of the various three-legged folding easels which cost about seventy-five cents or a dollar. They tumble down too often and too easily. The wear and tear on the temper they cause is more than they are worth. It is true that they fold up out of the way. But they fold up when you don't expect them to; and you ought to be able to afford room enough for an easel anyway, if you paint at all.
The illustration shows one of the firmest of the inexpensive easels, and one which will fold up into as small a compass as any practical easel will. It will hold perfectly well a good-sized canvas, even with its frame, and will not tumble over on slight provocation.
Another good easel is shown on p. 17. It is more lightly made, not so well braced, but is more convenient for raising and lowering the picture, as the catch allows the whole thing to be raised and lowered at once.
If you are to save money on your easel, don't save on the construction and strength of it, but on the finish. Let the polish and varnish go, but get a well-made easel with solid wood. The heavier it is, the less easily it packs away, to be sure, but the more steadily it will hold your picture.
Sketching Easels.—The same things are of importance in an easel for out-of-door work that are needed in a studio easel, except that it must also be portable. So if you must have a folding easel, get a good sketching easel; or if you can't have one for in-doors and one for out-doors, then pay a good price for a sketching easel, and use it in doors and out also. There are two things which are absolutely essential in a sketching easel. It must have legs which may be made longer and shorter, and it must hold the canvas firmly. It is not enough to lean the canvas on it. The wind blows it over just when you are putting on an interesting touch, or the touch itself upsets it, either of which is most aggravating, and does not tend to satisfactory work. You must not be obliged to sit down to work just where you don't want to, a little this side or a little that side of the chosen spot, because the ground isn't even there and the easel will not stand straight. You must be able to make a leg longer or shorter as the unevenness of the ground necessitates. It is impossible to work among rocks or on hillsides if you cannot make your easel stand as you want it. These things are not to be got round. You might as well not work as to sketch with a poor sketching easel. And you must pay a good price for it. The sketching easel that is good for anything has never been made to sell for a dollar and a half. Pay three or four dollars for it, at any rate, and use it the rest of your life. I use an easel every day that I have worked on every summer for twelve years. Most artists are doing much the same. The easel is not expensive per year at that rate! It is such an easel as that shown on the opposite page, and is satisfactory for all sorts of work.
If you are working in a strong wind, or if you have a large canvas, such an easel as this illustration shows is the best and safest yet invented, and it is as good for other work, and particularly when you want to stand up. And either of these easels will be perfectly satisfactory to use in the house.
An old brush that has been properly cared for is generally better than a new one. It seems to have accommodated itself to your way of painting, and falls in with your peculiarities. It is astonishing how attached you get to your favorite brushes, and how loath you are to finally give them up. What if you have no others to take their places?
Don't look upon your brushes as something to get as few of as possible, and which you would not get at all if you could help it. There is nothing which comes nearer to yourself than the brush which carries out your idea in paint. You should be always on the lookout for a good brush; and whenever you run across one, buy it, no matter how many you have already. Don't look twice at a bad brush, and don't begrudge an extra ten cents in the buying of a good one. If you are sorry to have to pay so much for your brushes, then take the more care of them. Use them well and they will last a long while; then don't always use the same handful. Break in new ones now and again. Keep a dozen or two in use, and lay some aside before they are worn out, and use newer ones. So when at last you cannot use one any more, you have others of the same kind which will fill its place.
Have all kinds and sizes of brushes. Have a couple of dozen in use, and a couple of dozen which you are not using, and a couple of dozen more that have never been used.
What! six dozen?
Well, why not? Every time you paint you look over your brushes and pick out those which look friendly to what you are going to do. You want all sorts of brushes. You can't paint all sorts of pictures with the same kind of brush. Your brush represents your hand. You must give every kind of touch with it. You want to change sometimes, and you want a clean brush from time to time. You don't want to feel that you are limited; that whether you want to or not these four brushes you must use because they are all you have! You can't paint that way. That six dozen you will not buy all at once. When you get your first outfit, get at least a dozen brushes. As you look over the stock and pick out two or three of this kind, and two or three of that, you will be astonished to see how many you have—yet you don't know which to discard. Don't discard any. Buy them all. Then, if you don't paint, it will not be the fault of your brushes. And from time to time get a half a dozen which have just struck you as especially good ones, and quite unconsciously you acquire your six dozen—and even more, I hope!
Bristle and Sable.—The brushes suitable for oil painting are of two kinds,—bristle and sable hair. Of the latter, red sable are the only ones you should get. They are expensive, but they have a spring and firmness that the black sable does not have. Camel's hair is out of the question. Don't get any, if you can only have camel's hair. It is soft and flabby when used in oil and you can't work well with such brushes. The same is true of the black sable. But though the red sables are expensive, you do not need many of them, nor large ones, so the cost of those you will need is slight.
The only sables which are in any degree indispensable to you are the smaller sizes of riggers. These are thin, long brushes which are useful for outlining, and all sorts of fine, sharp touches. You use them to go over a drawing with paint in laying in a picture, and for branches, twigs, etc. As their name implies, you must have them for the rigging of vessels in marine painting also. The three sizes shown in the cut on the opposite page are those you should have, and if you get two of each, you will find them useful in all sorts of places. When you buy them, see that they are elastic and firm, that they come naturally and easily to a good point, without any scraggy hairs. Test them by moistening them, and then pressing the point on the thumb-nail. They should bend evenly through the whole length of the hair. Reject any which seem "weak in the back." If it lays flat toward the point and bends all in one place near the ferrule, it is a poor brush.
These three larger and thicker sizes come in very useful often and it would be well if you were to have these too. Sometimes a thick, long sable brush will serve better than another for heavy lines, etc.
All these brushes are round. One largish flat sable like this it would be well to have; but these are all the sables necessary.
Bristle Brushes.—The sable brush or pencil is often necessary; but oil painting is practically always done with the bristle, or "hog hair," brush. These are the ones which will make up the variety of kinds in your six dozen. A good bristle brush is not to be bought merely by taking the first which comes to hand. Good brushes have very definite qualities, and you should have no trouble in picking them out. Nevertheless, you will take the trouble to select them, if you care to have any satisfaction in using them.
The Bristle.—You want your brush to be made of the hair just as it grew on the hog. All hair, in its natural state, has what is called the "flag." That is the fine, smooth taper towards the natural end of it, and generally the division into two parts. This gives the bristle, no matter how thick it may be, a silky fineness towards the end; and when this part only of the bristle is used in the brush, you will have all the firmness and elasticity of the bristle, and also a delicacy and smoothness and softness quite equal to a sable. But this, in the short hair of an artist's brush, wastes all the rest of the length of the hair; for it is only by cutting off the "flag," and using that, which is only an inch or so long, that you can make the brush. Yet the bristle may be several inches long, and all this is sacrificed for that little inch of "flag." Naturally the "flag" is expensive, and naturally also the manufacturer uses the rest of the hair for inferior brushes. These latter you should avoid. These inferior brushes are made from the part of the bristle remaining, by sandpapering, or otherwise making the ends fine again after they are cut off. But it is impossible to make a brush which has the right quality in this way.
Selection.—Never buy a brush without testing its evenness, as has been advised in the care of sables. Feel carefully the end of the bristles also, and see that the "flag" is there. All brushes are kept together for packing by paste in the bristles. See that this is soaked off before you test your brush.
Round or Flat.—It will make little difference whether you use round or flat brushes. The flat brush is most commonly preferred now, and most brushes are made that way. So you had better get that kind, unless you have some special reason for preferring the round ones.
Handles.—Whether the handles are nicely polished, also, is of no importance. What you are to look to is the quality of the bristles and of the making; the best brushes are likely to be nicely finished all over. But if you do find a really good brush which is cheaper because of the plain handle, and you wish to save money, do it by buying the plain-handled one.
Sizes and Shapes.—You will need some quite large brushes and some smaller ones, some square ones and some pointed.
Here are three round brushes which, for all sorts of painting, will be of very general utility. For most of your brushes select the long and thin, rather than the short and thick ones. The stubby brush is a useless sort of thing for most work. There are men who use them and like them, but most painters prefer the more flexible and springy brush, if it is not weak. So, too, the brush should not be too thick. A thick brush takes up too much paint into itself, and does not change its tint so readily. For rubbing over large surfaces where a good deal of the same color is thickly spread on the canvas, the thick, strong brush is a very proper tool. But where there is to be any delicacy of tone, it is too clumsy; you want a more delicate instrument. The same proportions hold with large and small brushes, so these remarks apply to all.
Flat Brushes.—This is particularly applicable to the flat brushes, and the more that most of your brushes will be flat.
You should have both broad-ended and pointed brushes among your flat ones. For broad surfaces, such as backgrounds and skies, the broad ends come in well; and for the small ones there are many square touches where they are useful. The most practical sizes are those shown on page 28. But you will often need much larger brushes than the largest of these.
For the smaller brushes you will have to be very careful in your selections. For only the silkiest of bristle will do good work in a very small brush, and then the temptation is to use a sable, which should be resisted. Why you should avoid using the sable as a rule is that it will make the painting too "slick" and edgy. There is a looseness that is a quality to prize. All the hardness, flatness, and rigidity that are desirable you can get with the bristle brush. When you work too much with sables, the overworking brings a waxy and woodeny surface, which is against all the qualities of atmosphere and luminosity, and of freshness and freedom of touch.
Some of the most useful sizes of the more pointed brushes are shown on opposite page. There are, of course, sizes between these, and many larger; but these are what you will find the best. It would be better to have more of each size than to have more sizes. You should try to work with fewer rather than more sizes, and, as a rule, work more with the larger than with the smaller brush, even for fine work. You will work with more force and tend less to pettiness, if you learn to put in small touches with the largest brush that will do it. Breadth is not painting with a large brush; but the man who works always with a small brush instinctively looks for the things a small brush is adapted to, and will unconsciously drift into a little way of working.
The fan brush, such as here illustrated, is a useful brush, not to paint with, but to flick or drag across an outline or other part of a painting when it is getting too hard and liney. You may not want it once a month, but it is very useful when you do want it.
Care of Brushes.—The best of economy in brushes lies in your care of them. You should never let the paint dry on them nor go too long without careful washing. It is not necessary to wash them every day with soap and water, but they would be the better for such treatment.
Quite often, once a week, say, you should wash your brushes carefully with soap and water. You may use warm water, but don't have it hot, as that may melt the glue which holds the bristles together in the ferrule. Use strong soap with plenty of lye in it—common bar soap, or better, the old-fashioned soft soap. Hold several brushes together in one hand so that the tips are all of a length, dip them together into or rub them onto the soap, and then rub them briskly in the palm of the other hand. When the paint is well worked into the lather, do the same with the other brushes, letting the first ones soak in the soap, but not in the water. Then rinse them, and carefully work them clean one by one, with the fingers. When you lay them aside to dry, see that the bristles are all straight and smooth, and they will be in perfect condition for next painting.
Cleaning.—But from day to day you need not take quite so much trouble as this. True, the brushes will keep in better condition if washed in soap and water every day, but it is not always convenient to do this. You may then use the brush-cleaner. This is a tin box with a false bottom of perforated tin or of wire netting about half-way down, which allows the liquid to stand a half-inch or so above it; so that when you put your brush in and rub it around, the paint is rinsed from it, and settles through the perforations to the bottom, leaving the liquid clear again above it. If you use this carefully, cleaning one brush at a time, not rubbing it too hard, and pulling the hairs straight by wiping them on a clean rag, you may keep your brushes in good condition quite easily. But they will need a careful soap-and-water washing every little while, besides. The liquid best for use in this cleaner is the common kerosene or coal oil. Never use turpentine to rinse your brushes. It will make them brittle and harsh; but the kerosene will remove all the paint, and will not affect the brush.
Of all your materials, it is on your paints that quality has the most vital effect. With bad paint your work is hopeless. You may get an effect that looks all right, but how long will it stand, and how much better may it not have been if your colors had been good? You can tell nothing about it. You may have luck, and your work hold; or you may not have luck, and in a month your picture is ruined. Don't trust to luck. Keep that element out as much as you can, always. But in the matter of paints, if you count on luck at all, remember that the chances are altogether against you. Don't let yourself be persuaded to indulge in experiments with colors which you have reason to think are of doubtful quality. Keep on the safe side, and use colors you are sure of, even if they do cost a little more—at first; for they are cheaper in the long-run. And even in the time of using of one tube, generally the good paint does enough more work to cover the difference of cost.
Bad Paints.—Suspect colors which are too cheap. Good work is expensive. Ability and skill and experience count in making artists' colors, and must be paid for. If you would get around the cost of first-class material you must mix it with inferior material.
The first effect you will notice in using poor colors is a certain hindrance to your facility, due to the fact that the color is weak—does not have the snap and strength in it that you expect. The paint has not a full color quality, but mixes dead and flat. This you will find particularly in the finer and lighter yellows. You need not fear much adulteration in those paints which are naturally cheap, of course. It is in those higher-priced colors, on which you must largely depend for the more sparkling qualities, that you will have most trouble.
Unevenness of working, and lack of covering or mixing power, you will find in poor paints also. They have no strength, and you must keep adding them more and more to other colors to get them to do their work. All these things are bothersome. They make you give more attention to the pigments while working than you ought to, and when all is done, your picture is weak and negative in color.
Another effect to be feared from bad colors is that your work will not stand; the colors fade or change, and the paint cracks. The former effect is from bad material, or bad combinations of them in the working, and the latter mainly from bad vehicles used in grinding them.
I have seen pictures go to pieces within a month of their painting—bad paint and bad combinations. Of course you can use good colors so that the picture will not stand. But that will be your own fault, and it is no excuse for the use of colors which you can by no possibility do good work with.
Good Paints.—The three things on which the quality of good paint depends are good pigment, good vehicles, and good preparation.
The pigments used are of mineral, chemical, and vegetable origin. The term pigment technically means the powdered substance which, when mixed with a vehicle, as oil, becomes paint. The most important pigments now used are artificial products, chiefly chemical compounds, including chemical preparations of natural mineral earths.
As a rule, the colors made from earths may be classed as all permanent; those from chemicals, permanent or not, as the case may be; and those of vegetable origin fugitive, with few exceptions. Some colors are good when used as water colors, and bad when used in oil. Further on I will speak of the fugitiveness and permanency of colors in detail. I wish here to emphasize the fact that the origin of the material of which the pigment is made has much to do with the sort of work that that pigment will do, and with the permanency of the effect which is produced; and therefore that while a paint may look like another, its working or its lasting qualities may be quite different.
The Vehicles.—The vehicles by which the pigment is made fluent and plastic are quite as important in their effects. They not only have to do with the business of drying, owing to the substances used as dryers, but they may have to do with the chemical action of one pigment on another.
The Preparation.—Finally, the preparation of the pigment demands the utmost skill and knowledge, if the colors are to be good. The paints used by the old masters were few and simple, and the fact that they prepared them themselves had much to do with the manner in which they kept their color. The paints used now are less simple. We do not prepare and grind them ourselves, and we could hardly do so if we wished to, so we are the more dependent on the integrity of the colorman who does it for us.
The preparation of the paint begins with the chemical or physical preparation of each pigment, and then comes the mixing of several to produce any particular color; and finally the mechanical process of grinding with the proper vehicle to bring it to the proper fineness and smoothness.
Grinding.—The color which the artist uses must be most evenly and perfectly ground. The grinding which will do for ordinary house paints will not do for the artist's colors. Neither will the chemical processes suitable for the one serve for the other. Not only must the machinery, but the experience, skill and care, be much greater for artist's colors. Therefore it is that the specialization of color-making is most important to good colors for the use of the artist.
Reliable Makers.—If you would work to the best advantage as far as your colors are concerned, both as to getting the best effects which pure pigments skilfully and honestly prepared will give you, and as to the permanency of those effects when you have gotten them, see to it that you get paint made by a thoroughly reliable colorman.
It is not my province to say whose colors you should use; doubtless there are many colormen who make artists' materials honestly and well. Nevertheless, I may mention that there are no colors which have been more thoroughly tested, both by the length of time they have been in the possession of painters, and by the number of painters who have used them, than those of Winsor and Newton of London. No colors have been so generally sold and for so long a time, particularly in this country, as these, and none are so well known for their evenness and excellence of quality.
I do not say that these manufacturers do not make any colors which should not go on the palette of the cautious artist—I believe that they do not make that claim themselves; but such colors as they do assert to be good, pure, and permanent, you may feel perfectly safe in using, and be sure that they are as well made as colors can be. This is as much as can be said of any paints, and more than can be said of most. I have used these colors for many years, and my own experience is that they have always been all that a painter need ask.
The fact that Winsor and Newton's colors can be found in any town where colors can be had at all, makes me the more free to recommend them, as you can always command them. This fact also speaks for the general approval of them.
Inasmuch as certain colors are not claimed to be permanent and others are, it is for you to compose your palette of those which will combine safely. This you can do with a little care. Some colors are permanent by themselves or with some colors, but not in combination with certain others. You should then take the trouble to consider these chemical relationships.
It is not necessary for you to study the chemistry of paints, but you may read what has been ascertained as to the effects of combinations, and act accordingly. There are practically duplications of color-quality in pigments which are bad, and in pigments which are good; so that you can use the good color instead of the bad one to do the same work. The good color will cost more, but there is no way of making the bad color good, so you must pay the difference due to the cost of the better material, or put up with the result of using bad colors.
Chemical Changes.—The causes of change of color in pigments are of four kinds, all of them chemical effects. 1, the action of light; 2, the action of the atmosphere; 3, the action of the medium; and 4, the action of the pigments themselves on each other. The action of light is to bring about or to assist in the decomposition of the pigment. It is less marked in oil than in water color, because the oil forms a sort of sheath for the color particles. The manner in which light does its deteriorating work is somewhat similar to that of heat. The action of light is very slow, but it seems to do the same thing in a long time that heat would do in a short time.
Some colors are unaffected or little affected by light, and of course you will use them in preference to all others. The atmosphere affects the paint because of certain chemical elements contained in it, which tend to cause new combinations with the materials which are already in combination in the pigment. The action of the oxygen in the air is the chief agent in affecting the pigment, and it is here particularly that light, and especially sunlight, assists in decomposition. The air of towns and cities generally contains sulphuric and sulphurous acids and sulphuretted hydrogen. This latter gas is most effective in changing oil paintings, because of its action in turning white lead dark; and as white lead is the basis of many qualities in painting, this gas may have a very general action.
Moisture in the atmosphere is also a cause of change, but there is little to be dreaded from this, as the oil protects the colors.
Oil absorbs oxygen in drying, and so is apt to have an effect on colors liable to change from that element, and many vehicles contain materials to hasten the drying which further aid in the deterioration of the pigment. Bad oil will tend to crack the picture also. The greatest care should be used in this direction, as the most permanent colors may be ruined by bad vehicles.
Pigments will not have a deteriorating effect on each other as long as they are solid. But if one of them is soluble in the medium, then chemical action commences; but as most pigments are somewhat soluble, there is always some danger in mixing them. The best we can do is, as I said before, to try to have on the palette, as far as possible, only colors which are friendly to each other.
As a student you should not be much occupied, however, with all this. You must expect that all color will change somewhat. But you need not use those which change immediately or markedly, and you may use them in a way which will tend to make them change as little as may be. Colors have stood for years, and what is practical permanence, not perfect permanence, is all you need look for. If you think too much of the permanence of your colors, it will interfere with the directness of your study. Therefore, decide on a palette which is as complete and safe as you can make it, excluding the notably bad pigments, and think no more about it.
When you need to add a new color to your palette, choose it with reference to those already on it, and go ahead. This is what the whole subject resolves itself to, practically, for you as a student.
Opaque and Transparent Colors.—Some colors, like the madders, have a jelly-like consistency when mixed with oil, others, the earths among them, are dense and opaque. We speak of them respectively as "transparent" and "solid" colors. These qualities, which divide the paints into two classes, have no relation to their permanency. As far as that is concerned you use them in the same way, as some transparent colors are safe and some fugitive; and the same with the opaque colors.
The only difference is in the fact that, as a rule, the solid colors are better dryers. But you will notice that while you may mix these colors together as though this difference between them did not exist, in certain processes you use them differently. So you will see, farther on, that for a "glaze" you can use only the transparent or semi-opaque colors, for a scumble you naturally use the solid ones. You should know, however, for the sake of clearness, just what is meant when "solid" or "body" or "opaque" color is spoken of, and what is meant by "transparent" color.
Safe and Unsafe Colors.—Beyond what has been said of the causes of change in colors it is not necessary that you should know the chemical constituents of them. If you want to look into the matter further there are books, such as "Field's Chromatography," which treat fully of the subject, and which you may study.
But practically you should know which colors are to be depended on and which not. Let us consider the principal colors in detail then, merely as to their actual stability. I will speak of them in connection with the plates of colors at the end of this book. I would like you to compare what is said of each color with the corresponding color in the plates. Those colors in the plates which are not spoken of here, you may consider as useful in showing you the character of different colors which are made, but which may or may not be used, according as you may need them. I shall not attempt to mention all the pigments that are in the market. You need never use more than fifteen or twenty all told. Many painters use more, it is true; but if you know how to make the best use of that number, you may safely wait till you "grow to them" before you bother with more. And I shall speak only of those which you will find essential or most generally useful, and those which should be particularly avoided.
Permanency.—It should be stated what is meant by a permanent color. There is no color which is not to be influenced in some way. The most sound of pigments will change if the conditions favor the change. When we speak of a permanent color, we mean only one which under the usual conditions will stand for an indefinite time. By which is meant ordinary diffused daylight, not direct sunlight, and the ordinary air under normal conditions. If there be direct sunlight, you may expect your picture to change sooner or later. But one does not hang his pictures where the sun's rays will fall on them. If there is any exceptional condition of moisture in the air, the picture may suffer. Or if from any cause unusual gases are in the atmosphere, or if the picture be too long in a dark, close place, the picture may smother for lack of fresh air, just as any other thing, plant or animal, which depends on normal conditions of atmosphere would do.
Let us say, then, that what we mean by a permanent color is one which will stand unchanged for an indefinite length of time in a room which is of the usual condition of temperature and freedom from moisture, and where the light is diffused, and such that the direct rays of the sun are not on the picture often, or to any great extent. Cold will not hurt a picture if the canvas is not disturbed in that condition, but to bend or roll it while it is very cold will of course crack it, and sudden and extreme changes of temperature may have the same effect. In other words, some care must be used with all pictures as a matter of course.
Whites.—Zinc white is the only permanent white, but it lacks body and is little used. The lead whites, flake, silver, cremnitz, will darken in time, and will turn yellow with oil, and may change with or affect change in other pigments. The zinc white is liable to crack. We have no perfect white, so practically you may consider the lead whites as permanent enough, as other painters do.
Yellows.—Cadmium is permanent in all three of its forms. It is a color the permanence of which is of great importance; for its brilliancy is quite essential to modern painting, and if it were not permanent, the picture would soon lose the very quality for which the color was used. The chromes, which are of similar color-quality, are less permanent, and are almost sure to turn to a horny sort of yellow; and a green, which by their use was bright and sparkling, will, in a few months, lose its freshness—this cadmium will not do. Cadmium is also to be preferred to chrome, because it is of a much finer tonality. Greens and yellows made by the admixture of chrome are apt to be crude as compared with those in which cadmium was used.
Strontian yellow is a permanent and most useful light yellow, much to be preferred to all other citron yellows except the pale cadmium, and can be used in place of that if necessary. They are both expensive colors of about the same cost.
Naples yellow was a very prominent pigment with the older painters. It is still very much used, but in the simplification of your palette you may as well leave it out, as you can get the same qualities with cadmium and white. It is durable and safe, but adds another tube to your palette which you can well dispense with.
The ochres are among the oldest and safest of pigments. You can use them with any colors which are themselves permanent. There are several of them,—yellow ochre, Roman ochre, transparent gold ochre, and others. They are all native earths, and though they contain iron, they are sufficiently inert to be thoroughly sound colors.
The siennas, burnt and raw, are like the ochres, native earths, very old and permanent colors, and may be used anywhere.
The umbers are in the same class with the siennas and ochres. They should all rank among the yellows. The browns of umber and sienna will make greens with blues.
Indian yellow and yellow lake should both be avoided as fugitive.
Aureolin is a rich, warm golden yellow of the greatest permanence, and should be used when Indian yellow and yellow lake would be used if they were permanent.
Reds.—The vermilions are permanent when well made. They are of great body and power, as well as delicacy. They are of two kinds,—Chinese, which is bluish in tone, and scarlet and orange vermilion, which have the yellow quality. Both kinds are useful to the palette because of the practical necessities of mixing.
Light red is a deep, warm red earth, made by calcining ochre, and has the same permanence as the other ochres. It is a fine color, of especial value in painting flesh, and mixes with everything safely.
The madders—rose, pink, purple, and madder carmine—are the only transparent reds which are permanent. Whatever the name given them, they should not be confounded with the lakes, which are absolutely untrustworthy. By reference to the plates you will see that the madders are practically the same as the lakes in color when first used. But the lakes fade and the madders do not. The madders cost about twice as much as the lakes; but you must pay the difference, for the lakes cannot be made to stand, and you must have the color. There is nothing for it but to pay twice as much and buy the madders.
The lakes—scarlet, geranium, crimson, and purple—are all bad. The madders and lakes are all slow dryers; but unless carelessly used with other colors which are not yet dry they need not have a bad effect on the picture from cracking.
Distinguish the so-called madder lakes and the lakes; and between carmine, which is a lake, and madder carmine, which is a madder.
Blues.—The ultramarine of the old masters is practically unused to-day because of its cost. But the artificial ultramarines, while not quite of the same purity of color, are equally permanent, and are in every respect worthy to be used. Of these the brilliant ultramarine is the nearest in color to the real lapis lazuli. The French ultramarine is less clear and vivid, but is a splendid deep blue, and most useful. The so-called permanent blue is not quite so permanent as its name implies, but permanent enough for practical purposes.
Cobalt blue and cerulean blue are two pigments, one very light and clear, the other darker, which are made of the oxide of the metal cobalt. In oil they are permanent, and do not change when mixed with other colors. For delicate tints, when the tones are to be subtly gray yet full of the primary colors, the cobalts are indispensable. You should always have them on hand, and generally on your palette. Cerulean blue is of less importance than the other, but in very clear, delicate blue skies it is often the only color which will get the effect.
Prussian blue possesses a depth and power and a quality of color which make it unique. The greenish tone gives it great value in certain combinations as far as its tinting effect is concerned. But it is not reliable as a pigment. It changes under various conditions, and fades with the light. It is not to be depended upon. Antwerp blue, a weaker kind of Prussian blue, is even more fugitive. It is a pity that these colors will not stand, but as they will not, we must get along without them.
Indigo has a certain grayish quality which is useful sometimes, but it cannot be placed among the even moderately permanent colors.
The blacks may be classed as blues, because they will make green if mixed with yellow. Considered as blues, they are, of course, dense and negative, and should not be too freely used. But they are all permanent. The only ones we need speak of are ivory black, which has a reddish cast, and blue black, which is weaker, but lacks the purplish note, which is often an advantage.
Greens.—We need mention only a few greens. There are numerous greens, of various degrees of permanence, but it is not necessary to speak of all the colors on the market. You could not use them all if you had them, and we may as well confine ourselves to those we really need.
Veridian, or emeraude green, is the deepest and coldest of our greens, and is permanent. It is too cold, and looks even more so at night. In use it needs the addition of some yellow which holds its own at night, such as yellow ochre, or the painting will be impossible in gaslight, and even worse under electric light.
Emerald green is the same as the French Veronese green, and is generally permanent. It is said to turn dark, and does lose some of its brilliancy with time and the effect of impure air. But there are places where one needs it, especially in sketching, and it is well to use it sometimes. But bear in mind that it is not absolutely permanent, and as the quality that it gives, brilliant light green, is the very one it will lose should it change, don't expect too much of it.
Terre verte is a very weak color. But it is most tender in its quality, and is permanent to all intents and purposes. It may get slightly darker in time, but will not lose the qualities for which it will be used. It is very useful to use with ivory black or elsewhere, to slightly modify a reddish tendency, and is a fine glazing color.
The chrome greens, by whatever name, Brunswick green, or the better-known Cinnabar or Zinnober greens, are all bad. They are useful colors as color, but they will not stand, and you will even get better color by mixing certain yellows and blues than these will give you, so you had better lay them aside, tempting as they are.
Other Colors.—You will notice that I have said nothing about the various browns and olives and purples. It is simply because it is better for you to make all these colors than to get them in the tubes. The earths and the browns of madder are all good, and the mixing of madders and good blues will make all the shades of violet and purple you can possibly want in their purity.
Palettes.—We have, then, a number of pigments which are solid and safe, of each of the primary colors, and of such variety of qualities that the whole range of possible color is practicable with them in combination. To recapitulate, let us make a list of them.
THE PERMANENT COLORS.
ZINC WHITE. (LEAD WHITE ENOUGH SO.) CADMIUM YELLOW. CADMIUM ORANGE. CADMIUM YELLOW, PALE. STRONTIAN YELLOW. YELLOW OCHRE. ROMAN OCHRE. TRANSPARENT GOLD OCHRE. RAW SIENNA. BURNT SIENNA. RAW UMBER. AUREOLIN. CHINESE VERMILION. SCARLET VERMILION. ORANGE VERMILION. LIGHT RED. ROSE MADDER. PINK MADDER. PURPLE MADDER. MADDER CARMINE. RUBENS MADDER. ULTRAMARINE BLUE BRILLIANT. ULTRAMARINE BLUE FRENCH. PERMANENT BLUE. COBALT. CERULEAN BLUE. IVORY BLACK. BLUE BLACK. VERIDIAN. EMERALD GREEN. TERRE VERTE.
Here is a list of colors which will work well together, and with which you can do as much as is possible with colors as far as our present materials go.
Most of these colors, I am aware, are among the more expensive ones. This I am sorry for, but cannot help. The good colors are at times the expensive ones, but as there are no cheaper ones which are permanent to take their places, it would be the falsest of economy to use others.
Palette Principles.—In making up your palette, you must so arrange it that you can get pure color when you want it. There is never any trouble to get the color negative; to get richness and balance is another matter. If you will refer to the color plates, you will see that in each of the three primary colors there are pigments which lean towards one or the other of the other two. The scarlet red is a yellow red. The Chinese vermilion and the rose madder are blue reds. The same holds with yellows and blues, as orange cadmium is a red yellow, and strontian yellow is a greenish yellow. This is, in practice, of the utmost importance in the absence of the ideal color, for when we deal with the practical side of pigment, we deal with very imperfect materials which will not follow in the lines of the scientific theory of color. If we would have the purest and richest secondary color, we must take two primaries, each of which partakes of the quality of the other. To make a pure orange, for instance, we must use a yellow red and a red yellow. If we used a bluish red and a bluish (greenish) yellow, the blue in both would give us a sort of tertiary in the form of a negative secondary instead of the pure rich orange we wanted. This latter fact is quite as useful in keeping colors gray without too much mixing when we want them so, but nevertheless we must know how to get pure color also.
These characteristics have a bearing on the setting of our palette, for we must have at least two of each of the three primary colors—red, yellow, and blue—and white. There may be as many more as you want, but there must be at least that number.
But the character of the work you are doing will also have an influence on the colors you use. You may not need the same palette for one sort of picture that is essential to another. You can have a palette which will do all sorts of work, but a change in the combinations may often be called for in accordance with the different color characteristics of your picture.
I will suggest several palettes of different combinations which will give you an idea of how you may compose a palette to suit an occasion. I do not say that you should confine yourself to any or all of these palettes, nor that they are the best possible. But they are safe and practical, and you may use them until you can find or compose one better suited to your purposes. They will all be made up from the colors we have in our list, and will all have the arrangement I called your attention to as to the use of two of each primary.
It would be well if you were to compare each of the colors with the corresponding one in the plates at the end of the book, and get acquainted with its characteristic look.
Expense.—I have several times referred to the relative expense of colors, and stated that when the good color was of greater cost than others, there was nothing for it but to get the best. I cannot modify that statement, but it is well to say that as a rule the expensive colors are not those that you use the most of, although some are used constantly. Vermilion is so strong a color that the cost hardly matters. Of the deep blues the same is true. But the light yellows, and the madders and cobalt, will often make you groan at the rapidity of their disappearance. But you can get more tubes of them, and their work remains, while were you to use the cheaper paints, the flight of the color from the canvas would make you groan more, and that disappearance could never be made good except by doing the work all over.
Sizes.—The cheapest colors come in the largest tubes. In the illustration, No. 3 represents the full size of the ordinary tube of the average cost. Some of the most commonly used colors come in larger tubes at corresponding price. Only professionals get these large sizes except in the case of white. You use so much of this color that it hardly pays to bother at all with the ordinary tube of it. Get the quadruple tube, which is nominally four times as large, but contains nearly five times as much.
No. 2 represents the actual size of the second size of tubes in which a few regular-priced colors come; while the smallest tube is the size of No. 1. In this sized tube all the high-priced colors are put up; the cadmiums, the madders, vermilions, and ultramarines and cobalts. The cheap colors are the ordinary earths, such as the ochres, umbers, siennas, the blacks and whites, and all sorts of greens and blues and lakes, which you had better have nothing to do with.
Arrangement.—In the following palettes I shall give the names of the colors, as you would look down upon them on your palette. The arrangement is that of a good many painters, and is a convenient one. It is as well to arrange them with white at the right, then the yellows, then the reds, the browns, blues, blacks, and greens. But I have found this as I give it, to be the best for use, simply because it keeps the proper colors together, and the white, which you use most, where it is most easily got at, and I think you will find it a good arrangement.
A Cheap Palette.—This palette I give so that you may see the range possible with absolutely sound colors which are all of the least price. You can get no high key with it. All the colors are low in tone. You could not paint the bright pitch of landscape with it, yet it is practically what they tried to paint landscape with a hundred years ago, and it accounts largely for the lack of bright greens in the landscapes of that date. But for all sorts of indoor work and for portraits you will find it possible to get most beautiful results. You will notice there is no bright yellow. That is because cadmium is expensive and chrome is not permanent. Vermilion is left out for the same reason. Add orange vermilion and cadmium yellow and orange cadmium, and you have a powerful palette of great range and absolute permanency.
WHITE. NAPLES YELLOW. VENETIAN RED. YELLOW OCHRE. LIGHT RED. ROMAN OCHRE. INDIAN RED. TRANSPARENT GOLD OCHRE. BURNT SIENNA. RAW UMBER. PERMANENT BLUE. IVORY BLACK. TERRE VERTE.
An All-Round Palette:—
WHITE. STRONTIAN YELLOW. ORANGE VERMILION. CADMIUM YELLOW. ROSE MADDER. ORANGE CADMIUM. BURNT SIENNA. YELLOW OCHRE. RAW UMBER. COBALT. ULTRAMARINE. IVORY BLACK. TERRE VERTE.
This palette is a pretty large one, and you can do almost anything with it. But for many things it is better to have more of certain kinds of colors and less of others. This is a good palette for all sorts of in-the-house work, and if you call it a still-life palette, it will name it very well. For a student it will do anything he is apt to be capable of for a good while.
A Rich Low-Keyed Portrait and Figure Palette:—
WHITE. CADMIUM. CHINESE VERMILION. ORANGE CADMIUM. LIGHT RED. YELLOW OCHRE. ROSE MADDER. TRANSPARENT GOLD OCHRE. RAW UMBER. COBALT. BLUE BLACK. TERRE VERTE.
A Landscape Palette.—Landscape calls for pitch and vibration. You must have pure color and great luminosity, yet a range of color which will permit of all sorts of effects. The following will serve for everything out-of-doors, and I have seen it with practically no change in the hands of very powerful and exquisite painters. There are no browns and blacks in it because the colors which they would give are to be made by mixing the purer pigments, so as to give more life and vibration to the color. The blackest note may be gotten with ultramarine and rose madder with a little veridian if too purple; the result will be blacker than black, and have daylight in it. The ochre is needed more particularly to warm the veridian.
WHITE. STRONTIAN YELLOW. ORANGE VERMILION. CADMIUM YELLOW. PINK MADDER. ORANGE CADMIUM. ROSE MADDER. YELLOW OCHRE. COBALT. ULTRAMARINE. VERIDIAN. EMERALD GREEN.
If you paint figures out-of-doors you will need this same palette. Madder carmine or purple madder, and cerulean blue may also usefully added to this list.
A Flower Palette.—For painting flowers the colors should be capable of the most exquisite and delicate of tints. There should be no color on the palette which cannot be used in any part of the picture. The range need not be so great in some respects as in others, but the richness should be unlimited. In the matter of greens, it is true though hard to convince the amateur of, that if there were no green tube in your box, and you mixed all your greens from the yellows and blues, the picture would be the better. As to the browns, they will put your whole picture out of key. In this palette I am sure you will find every color which is needed. There are few greens, but those given can be used to gray a petal as well as to paint a leaf; therefore there is no likelihood of your using a color in a leaf which is not in tone with the flower.
I am calculating on your using all your ability in studying the influence of color on color, and in mixing pure colors to make gray. Here as elsewhere in these palettes I have in mind their use according to the principles of color and light and effect as laid down in the other parts of the book, which deal specially with those principles. If you do not understand just why I arrange these palettes as I do, turn to the chapters on color, and on the different kinds of painting, and I think you will see what I mean, and understand better what I say, about these combinations.
Of course you do not need all of these colors on your palette at the same time. Some are necessary to certain flowers whose richness and depth you could hardly get without them. The colors you should have as a rule on your palette are these:—
WHITE. STRONTIAN YELLOW. ORANGE VERMILION. CADMIUM YELLOW. PINK MADDER. YELLOW OCHRE. ROSE MADDER. COBALT. ULTRAMARINE. VERIDIAN. EMERALD GREEN.
To add to these when needed, you should have in your box, pale and deep cadmium, Chinese vermilion, madder carmine, and purple madder.
VEHICLES AND VARNISHES
A vehicle is any liquid which is mixed with the color to make it fluent. The vehicle may be ground with the pigment or mixed with it on the palette, or both. Oil colors are of course ground in oil as a vehicle; but it is often necessary or convenient to add to them, in working, such a vehicle as will thin them, or make them dry better. Those which thin or render more fluent the paint are oils and spirits; those which make them dry more quickly are "dryers" or "siccatives."
All vehicles must of necessity have an effect on the permanency of the pigments. Bad vehicles tend to deteriorate them; good ones preserve them.
Oils.—The most commonly used oils are linseed and poppy oil. They are neither of them quick dryers, and are usually mixed with sugar of lead, manganese, etc., to hasten the drying. These have a tendency to affect the colors; but if one will have recourse to none but the pure oils, he must be patient with the drying of his picture. For this reason it would be well to use vehicles with the colors on the palette as little as possible—and that is against thin and smooth painting.
Oil has the tendency to turn dark with time, thus turning the color dark also. The only way to reduce this tendency is to clarify the oil by long exposure to the sunlight. The early German painters used oil so clarified, and their pictures are the best preserved as to color of any that we have. But the drying is even slower with purified oil than with the ordinary oil.
It would be best, then, to use oil as little as may be in painting, and if you need a dryer, use it only as you actually need it in bad drying colors, and then very little of it.
The essences of turpentine and of petroleum may be used to thin the paint, and are preferable to oil, because they have less darkening tendency. They do not, however, bind the color so well, and the paint should not be put on too thinly with them. Usually there is enough oil ground with the pigment as it comes in the tubes to overcome any probability of the paint scaling or rubbing when thinned with turpentine, but in the slow-drying, transparent colors there will be a liability to crack. Moderation in the use of any and all vehicles is the best means of avoiding difficulty. Use vehicles only when you need them, not habitually, and then only as much as there is real need of. If you use oil, use the lighter oils, and expect some darkening in time. Prefer turpentine to oil, and expect your color to dry rather "dead," or without gloss, by its use. If you intend to varnish, this is all right. If you do not intend to varnish the picture, keep the color as near the pure tones as you can. The grayer the color, the more the "dead" or "flat" drying will make it look colorless.
Varnishes.—When the picture is done, after it is dry, varnishes are used to bring out the freshness of color, and to preserve the surface from outside influences of all sorts. A picture must be well dried before it is varnished, or it is likely to crack; six months is not too long to be safe. If you are in a hurry to varnish, use a temporary or retouching varnish.
The best varnish is necessary for use on pictures. Never use any except a varnish especially made for the purpose by a reliable colorman. Those made by Winsor and Newton may all be depended upon. Pay a good price for it, and don't use too much.
Mastic varnish is that which is most favorably known. Be sure you get a good and pure quality.
Varnishes are made from various gums or resins dissolved in a solvent such as alcohol, turpentine, or oil, as the case may be. The lighter gums are the best for pictures, because they do not affect the color of the picture. Much care should be used in putting on the varnish—that it is even and as thinly distributed as will serve the purpose. It should not be flowed on, but carefully worked out with a clean brush, and then kept from dirt and dust until dry.
The finer varnishes in oil or turpentine are best for ordinary use. Those in alcohol do not hold their freshness so well.
Varnishes are sometimes used as siccatives, and to mix with colors which are liable to affect other colors, or to lack consistency. Usually, however, they are not needed.
The most important qualities in a palette are that it should be large enough, and that it should balance well on the thumb. Whether it is round or square is a slight matter. The oval palette is usually best for the studio because the corners are seldom of use, and add weight. But for sketching, the square palette fits the box best.
Get a palette much larger than you think you want. When you get it on your thumb the mixing-surface is much less than there seemed to be before it was set, for all the actual surface is between the row of colors and the thumb. If the palette is polished it is not essentially better; it is easier to keep clean, as far as looks go, but of no greater real service. If the choice is between a larger unpolished and a smaller polished one, the price being the consideration, get the larger one.
Get a light wood in preference to a dark wood for a choice of color, but not if there is better grain or lighter weight in the darker palette. It is an assistance in painting not to have to compare the tint you are mixing with too dark a surface, for the color looks lighter than it is; so the light wood will help you to judge justly of the color while the palette is new. When it has been worked on a while it will come to have a sympathetic color anyway.
This bears on the cleanliness of your palette. It is a mistake to consider that cleanliness demands that the palette should be cleaned to the wood and polished after every painting. On the contrary, if a little of the paint is rubbed out over the palette every time it is cleaned, after a few weeks there will come a fine smooth polish of paint, which will have a delicate light gray color, which is a most friendly mixing surface.
Adapting.—When you get a new palette, before you use it take a little trouble to carve out the thumb-hole to fit your thumb. Make it large enough to go over the ball of the thumb, and set easily on the top of the hand. When the hole is too small the thumb gets numb after working a little while, which this will obviate.
Cleanliness.—The cleanliness of a palette consists in its being always in such a condition that you can handle it without getting dirty; that the mixing-surface will not foul the freshly mixed paint; and that the paint around the edge is always so that you can pick up a fresh, clean brushful. If you try to clean off all your color every day and polish your palette nicely, you will not only take up more time with your palette than you do with your painting, but the fact that some left-over paint may be wasted will make you a little stingy in putting on fresh paint, which is one of the worst habits a beginner can fall into. You cannot paint well unless you have paint enough on your palette to use freely when you need it. It is all well enough to put on more, but nothing is more vexing than to have to squeeze out new paint at almost every brushful. You must have paint enough when you begin, to work with, or you waste too much time with these details.
If you are painting every day, leave the good paint where it is at the end of your work, and scrape off all the muddy or half-used piles, and clean carefully all the palette except those places where the paint is still fresh and pure. Then, when you have to add more to that, clean that place with the palette-knife before squeezing out the new color. In this way the palette will not look like a centre-table, but it will be practically clean, have a good clear mixing-surface, and you will neither waste paint nor be stingy with it.
The Arm Palette.—For painting large canvases, where the largest-sized brushes are used and paint must be mixed in greater quantities, the arm palette is a most convenient thing if it is well balanced. It is in the way rather than otherwise for small pictures, and is useful only as it is particularly called for.
It remains to speak of those tools which are not essentials, but conveniences, to painting. Even as conveniences, however, they are of importance enough to have an influence on your work. You can paint without them, but you will work more easily for the having of them; and something of the sort, although not necessarily of the same kind, you must have. You may improvise something, in other words, to take the place of these, but you would be wiser to get those which are made for the purpose.
The Box.—First, the box. You must keep your things together somehow, and it would be as well that you keep them in a box which is portable and suited to the purpose. When you sketch you must have a proper box, and why not have one which is equally serviceable in the house? Those most commonly sold to amateurs are of tin, and they are various in size and construction, and not too expensive. The only thing against them is the difficulty of adapting them to service different from that they were designed for; that is, if you want to put in a different sort of panel, or if you want to fix it in the cover for convenience, or anything like that, you cannot readily do it, because you cannot use tacks in them. This counts for more than would seem on a sketching trip. But the tin box is light, and is not easily broken, and while it is in shape is practical.
The box to be most recommended is the wooden one. It costs more than the tin one,—about twice as much; but you can always arrange it for an emergency very readily, and if it gets broken you can fix it yourself, or get any carpenter to do it for you, while you may be a good many miles from a tinner, who would be necessary to mend your tin box.
You had better not get too large a box. Get one long enough for the brushes; but if you are going to use it out-of-doors much, get a narrow one with a folding palette, so as to save weight. In this way you will get a larger palette than you could get in a smaller and wider box, which is an important consideration.
The Palette-Knife.—Of more immediate necessity to your painting is the palette-knife. You cannot keep the palette clean without it. Now and again you may want to mix colors, or even paint with it. But you constantly get rid of the too much mixed color on your palette with it, and this is essential to good painting. Take some care to select a good knife; have the blade long enough to be springy and flexible, but not too long. About five inches from the wood of the handle to the end of the blade is a good length. And see that it bends in a true curve from one end to the other, and is not stiff at the end and weak in the middle. It should have the same even elasticity that a brush should have.
For painting you need a "trowel palette-knife," which has a bent shank, making the blade and the handle on different levels, so that as you press the blade to the canvas, the fingers are kept away from the painted surface. The shank should be round, and the blade very fine and flexible. The knife should balance nicely in the hand, and turn freely in the fingers, so that you can paint with either face of the blade with equal balance. It takes some care to pick out a good trowel-knife, as a poor one is worse than none.
The Scraper.—You frequently need to scrape rough paint from a canvas or a picture, and you need to scrape strongly to get a dirty palette clean. You can use an old razor for the first purpose, or a piece of broken glass, if you use it carefully, and any old knife can be used to clean your palette. But a regular tool is better than either. The scraper here shown is the best.
The Oil-Cup.—Do not use oils and vehicles very much. But when you need them you must have something to keep them in, convenient to the brush when working. It should have a spring to hold it on to the palette, and of such form that the contents are not easily spilled by the movement of the hand or the body when painting. The form here illustrated is the best that has been brought out so far.
The Mahl-Stick.—Sometimes you want to rest the hand when painting, for steadiness. The "mahl-" or rest-stick has a ball on the end, which one usually covers with a wad of rag, so that it can be placed against the canvas without injury, and the hand rested on it. It is so light that it can be held with the brushes in the palette hand, and stiff enough to support the brush-hand.
Sketching Adjuncts.—Out-of-doors you must have a seat, and you should have an umbrella. The best seat for a man, because it can be folded into so small a space, is the three-legged stool. This is not usually satisfactory for a woman, whose skirts tip it over. The better seat for her is shown below. The back is not very firm, but it does give support, and the whole is light and strong.
The umbrella should be large and light, and one such as the illustration, with a valve in the top to let the wind and hot air through, will be found cooler and less easily blown over. You should have some strong rings sewed on to it, so that you can fasten it from four sides by strings, to keep it steady if the wind blows hard. The umbrella should be of light-colored material, preferably white; but if it is lined with black, the shade will be better, and give no false glow to the color.
A painting-room is always a matter of serious consideration, and to the beginner one of difficulty. The arrangement of light is not easy, and a special window is almost always out of the question; yet in some way the light must be so managed that the canvas is not covered with reflected lights which prevent one from seeing what the paint is really like.
The North Light.—The first thing to be looked for is a steady light which will be always about the same, and not be sunny part of the time and in the shade the rest. A window looking to the north for this reason is generally selected. The sun does not come into it, and the light is diffused and regular. The effect of the light in the studio is cool, but colors are justly seen in it, and the light that falls on any object or model in it will be always the same. If there is to be a skylight, this should be arranged in the same way. The sash must not be flat, but must be nearly enough to the vertical to prevent the sun's direct rays from entering, and it must for that purpose face to the north. This makes the skylight practically a high north light in the roof or ceiling, and that is what it should be.
Whether the sash is above the ceiling or just below it, in the roof or in the wall, is of no particular importance. The thing to be seen to is that it is high enough for the light to enter above the head of the painter, and that it be so directed that only north light can come in.
The size of the window is also to be carefully considered. It should not be too large. Too much light will be sure to interfere with the proper control of light and shade on your model, and too little will make your painting too dark. The position of the window with reference to the shape of the room has to do with this. The most probable form of a room is long and narrow. For painting it is better that the window be in the middle of the end wall, high up, rather than in the middle of the side wall. You will find that you can more easily get distance from your model, and at the same time get the light both on him and on your canvas. But a painting-room should not be too narrow. About one-third longer than it is wide, with the window in one end, will give you a good light, and the further end of the room will not be too dark, as it would be apt to be if the room were longer. Preferably, too, the window should be to the left of the centre of the wall rather than to the right, as you face it; so that when you are as near the side wall as you can get, with the light over your left shoulder (as it should be), the light will strike on the canvas well, and not too directly on the front of the model. It will give you a better lateral position to the window, in other words. If you have to accept a window in a side wall, this is even more to be looked for. If the window is to the right of the centre, you will have a strong side-light on your model; but you will either have no light on your canvas, or you will have to turn so that the light falls on your canvas from the right, which is awkward, as the paint is in the shadow of the hand and brush which puts it on.
The height of the lower part of the window should be at least six feet from the floor, and for ordinary purposes the proportion of window space to floor space should be about one-tenth. It is impossible to give a rule; but if the floor is about twelve feet by sixteen, say, a window about five feet by four will be enough, or six and a half by three if it is placed horizontally. If you want intense light with strong contrast of light and shade on your model, have the window smaller and squarer, and place your easel just under it, where the light is good. The rest of the room will be dark. Better have the window large enough, and have it so curtained that you can cut off as much light as you need to. All this is if you are going to make yourself a window; in which case you will think well before you commit yourself. More probably you will have to get along as best you can with the ordinary room and the ordinary window. In which case get a high room with the window running up as close to the ceiling as possible, and facing north, then you can curtain it so as to control the light.