It has passed into a proverb that he is a bad workman who complains of his tools. It is certain that good ones simplify work and give better results. One of the most important things for successful art-work is to have at hand the proper materials and good instruments. In their selection do not follow a penny wise and pound foolish policy, but get the best you can; and these you will often find not too good.
THEORY OF COLOR.
The principles connected with coloring should be understood if one desires to produce the most pleasing and harmonious effects in painting. The three colors, red, yellow, and blue, with the white of the paper, are equal in theory to all the requirements of art in its true relation to color. Red, yellow and blue are called primary colors; that is, we cannot produce these colors from the combination of any others. Orange, purple and green are called secondary colors, and are produced by the combination of the primary colors. By the mixture of red and yellow we obtain orange, from red and blue, purple, from yellow and blue, green. The tertiary colors—broken green, gray and brown—are produced by the mixture of the secondary colors. From orange and purple we obtain brown, from orange and green, broken green, and from purple and green, gray. The three primary colors must always be present in a picture to produce harmony. Colors are divided into what are called warm and cold colors, the yellow and red being termed warm, and the blue cold. Yellow and red produce light and warmth, and it is impossible to produce coolness without the use of blue. In painting we use the three terms, light, shade and color, because they best express the qualities of color. Light is expressed by yellow, shade by blue, and color by red. While red is particularly designated as color, we must not forget the claims of yellow and blue, as they, together with red, complete the primary scale of colors. It is by placing these different colors in juxtaposition that we produce the proper qualities existing in each of the other colors. It is impossible to produce the effect of warmth by red and yellow unless we use the blue in connection with them. It is this filling up, or completing the primary scale of colors, that gives the term complementary, so often employed in speaking of colors. Thus red is said to be complementary to green, as green contains the other two colors of the primary scale—blue and yellow. Blue is complementary to orange, as orange contains red and yellow. Yellow is complementary to purple, as purple contains blue and red. The principle of using the complementary color is of the utmost importance in painting, or the use of color by any method, and it is on this principle that the harmony of color is based. When a painting is produced that has the colors red, yellow and blue properly balanced, a pleasing and harmonious effect is attained; but if these colors are not used in their proper relations, there is a discord, and the work is not satisfactory. These rules must be borne in mind by every student in coloring, whether he uses oil or water colors. One of the most common errors of amateurs is to overlook the red in landscape. Thus trees are too green, and the grass is insufferably green: the complementary color, red, has been left out.
By the following experiment you may prove that when you see one color the eye is in a perfect condition to see its complementary color. On a piece of white paper, three inches wide and five inches long, draw with a lead pencil an oblong, half an inch from the top, one inch wide, and two and one-half inches long from right to left, and a similar oblong one-half an inch below the one already drawn. Then draw a six pointed star (or any other not too large figure you desire) in the centre of the upper oblong, and paint it with vermilion water color. Now look intently at the painted star for thirty seconds, and then look at the plain oblong below, and you will observe that the latter will gradually assume a very beautiful shade of green, the exact complementary color of the vermilion, with the figure in white upon it—unless you should happen to be color blind. If that is the case, the experiment will demonstrate that fact.
Transparent water colors are put up in boxes containing nine colors, and as you reduce them in the proportion of one part of color to eight of water, a single box will last a long time. They can be bought of almost any dealer in artist's materials, and are designated as Florentine, Egyptian, Grecian, and by other names. Care should be used in procuring those which are pure and fresh. The colors are yellow, blue, rose, violet, magenta, flesh, brown, gold and black. The labels on the bottles give directions for mixing.
Yellow is one of the primary colors and one of the most useful, as it enters into the coloring of almost every picture. Transparent yellow is very brilliant, and can be used with any other color. Yellow and red make orange, yellow and blue make bright green, yellow and black a dull green. In landscapes, yellow is used in the middle distance with blue and rose and magenta. In the foreground it is used with blue and black for green, and is especially adapted for brilliant touches of foliage, grasses, and light places in the ground. In portraits a very little can be used in the reflected lights on the faces, and, when mixed with brown, for light shades of hair and eyebrows; for light dresses, used weak, it makes a very nice cream color. It can also be used very weak for laces, the strong lights being afterwards touched up with Chinese white, but not when the picture is to be mounted on glass. This color will ordinarily work nicely and give good results wherever its use seems appropriate, but care must always be exercised not to use it too strong.
This is another of the primary colors and a very essential one, it being the nearest allied to shade, and although not shade itself, no shadows can be produced without it. We will find it, therefore, mingling with all the shades of nature between the lights and shadows. It would be in vain for us to introduce all our warm colors, if the cool tints that are produced by blue are wanting; for, without that, the work will appear heavy, as it is the contrast between blue and the warm colors that produces a balance of color. Blue mixed with yellow makes a very brilliant green, with gold a duller green, with magenta a purple. In landscapes it is used in skies and the middle distances, but not in the foreground, unless mixed with yellow. Blue can be mixed with rose or magenta for sunset skies. When the horizon is represented a streak of blue or rose, or of blue and magenta, will give a very pleasing effect. In portraits if you have a light background, a thin wash of blue can be used over it. The same can also be used for blue eyes and for dresses when they are light in the picture, also in all the half-shadows of the dresses or draperies without regard to what their other color may be.
This is the nearest approach to red that we have in these colors, and as it fills out the scale it is an essential one. It is, in fact, a very delicate shade of rose. For landscape it is used only in the skies, and then only a little near the horizon for sunset effects. For portraits it is used in the drapery for making a very light shade of pink, and it can be used generally when you want to make a very delicate effect. The photographic print on which it is used should not be too dark.
This is a very strong and brilliant color, and therefore needs more than usual care in handling. In landscapes it is only used in certain skies near the horizon, and but very seldom even then. It is more especially designed for portraits, and there particularly in drapery to make very decided effects of strong color; but it can only be used when the dress or draperies are dark in the photograph.
This also is a powerful color and must be used carefully. It is not adapted to landscapes, but in portraits is used for dresses and accessories. If the photograph requires a dark dress this color will make it a beautiful shade.
This color can be used a very little in the skies of landscapes when there is a sunset effect to be represented. In portraits it is used to color the faces and hands. After it is dry, retouch the cheeks and lips with the same color.
This color is used in all the shadows. In landscapes, in some instances, it serves for use in the middle distance and foreground; the light places should be retouched with yellow or gold. It is also used for tree trunks, fences, and the like. In portraits it serves to color the hair and eyes, and appears in the dark shadows of the drapery and furniture. If the background is dark, a nice effect is produced by tinting it a little with this color.
In transparent color this has more the effect of a dark gray than a brilliant black, such as is produced with body colors. When you want a very dark black, it is better to use a little India ink with it. It is used in the skies of landscapes when you wish a gray effect, or to subdue a too strong blue color or red, and in foregrounds for rocks. In connection with yellow it will make a sombre green for trees, mountains, etc. In portraits it is used for the hair and eyes, in the shadows around the mouth, and in drapery in connection with the other colors.
This is a combination of yellow and red, and in general can be used wherever either of these colors would answer. In landscapes a little can be used in the skies, the middle distances, and lights on the ground in the foreground. In portraits it is used to color the drapery and jewelry.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING LIQUID WATER COLORS.
Fill the two tumblers with water, and have all the other materials ready and convenient to work with. If you have selected a burnished and mounted photograph wet its surface with saliva; unburnished photographs, photogravures and engravings do not require this treatment, but in coloring them it will be necessary to mix a weak solution of gum arabic with the colors to prevent their penetrating the paper. If printed on too thin a paper the photogravure or engraving should be mounted. If it is found that the colors "crawl" or spread on the photograph, mix a little acetic acid with the colors you are using, and should this fail to remove the difficulty, rub a pinch of pumice stone over the photograph with the fingers.
If the photograph is a portrait commence with the background, washing it all over with a brushful of diluted color, being careful not to get any on the face. If the background is light, use a weak solution of blue, if dark, a brown solution. The majority of backgrounds only need a very little tinting—just sufficient to change the color. For the face use flesh color, diluting it to the proper shade, washing it entirely over the face, and with a stronger solution of the same color tint the cheeks and lips, giving them a little brighter effect than the flesh color. Touch up the shadows in the face with the brown, and if there are any reflected lights use a very weak solution of the yellow color for them; then with some very weak black make the shadows around the mouth a little darker; next with a solution of blue, also very weak, strengthen the shadows in the forehead and around the temples; then color the eyes, using a small brush. If they are blue, use a weak solution of blue, if gray, use a little black, and if brown, then that color. Next color the hair; if brown, use brown mixed with a little black to take away the reddish color; if auburn, use brown and yellow, with a little gray between the lights and shadows. In working on the hair, move your brush in the direction of the lines of the hair; if wavy, then cause your brush to follow its lines. After you have thus gone over it, darken the shadows with a stronger solution of the same color. After the hair, paint the eyebrows and beard, if there is any, with the same color.
You must remember in using these liquid colors that they are transparent, and, therefore, whenever the print is light you cannot make it dark, unless you strengthen the shadows by applying opaque colors. For dresses, if they are light, use the delicate colors to suit your fancy, either the rose, blue, yellow, or gold; when they are dark, use the magenta or violet, being careful to spread the colors evenly. After you have once colored the dresses, then with a stronger solution of the same color darken the shadows; if you then touch up the half-shadows with blue the effect will be still finer. For neckties or ribbons use the complementary color to that of the dress. For laces use a weak solution of yellow, and after it is dry touch up the strong lights with Chinese white. If there is a curtain in the picture use the complementary color to the dress. For chairs use brown. If sky, trees and grass are to be painted, color them according to the directions given for landscapes under the different colors; only be sure to modify them, and keep them low in tone and color.
In laying on flat washes of color, the brush must be held nearly upright and should be passed boldly over the surface; the color should then gradually be brought down and spread equally over the whole surface as rapidly as possible, in order to avoid letting any part dry before the whole has been covered; then whatever surplus there may be should be carefully sponged off. When you apply the wash of color to the picture the latter should not be held flat, but at a slight angle, so that the color will settle down towards the bottom of the picture.
These colors are more suitable for figures and landscapes combined than they are for landscapes alone, yet very pretty effects in landscapes can be produced with them. If any white spots should be found in the photograph, as very often happens, after the picture is quite complete, touch them out with India ink, using a small brush.
If the sky is to be blue, wash it all over with a weak solution of blue; if there are white clouds, you can touch up the highest lights with Chinese white; if there is a sunset or rosy effect, use a weak solution of rose or a little magenta. But it is best not to try to make too much of the sky, as the gray that is generally in it will give a very pretty effect and leave more contrast between the figures and the sky. For the middle distance mix blue, rose, and a little yellow or gold if you want it greenish, or you can use a very little brown. The nearer the trees come in the foreground the stronger in color they should be; that is, they should tend more to the green and brown and less to the bluish color. If they are to be bright green use blue and yellow, and retouch the light places with yellow. You can make the green duller by mixing a little black with the yellow, or you can make a richer green by using blue, gold and brown, and then touching up the lights with gold, and the shadows with brown. For the grass use blue and yellow, and retouch the lights with yellow; for the ground use brown, and retouch the lights with gold; for tree trunks, fences, and the like, use brown; for rocks, use black and a little brown.
The study of painting as an art is based on three considerations, form, light and shade, and color. I will now treat of color—the form, and light and shade being furnished for us in the photograph. Photography as a means of art education in its influence on the public is salutary. In spite of all its falsity it is the best teacher of the first elements of criticism and knowledge of the facts of form and light and shade. Photography does not produce color, so that we will add the one link to the chain that is wanting. As we are dealing with pictures finished in light and shade, it is well that we should have rules to aid in choosing good ones to work on.
In selecting a photograph to color we want as perfect a print as it is possible to procure. A light one is preferable. Notice in particular if it is well defined, that the shadows and middle shades are clear, the lights pure, and that it is free from defects and spots. Many think that they can take a poor photograph, and, by coloring it, cover up the defects, but they are wrong in this, for the transparent colors will not conceal defects. The best rule is that the better the photograph the better will be the picture when finished. The Soule Photograph Company, No. 338 Washington Street, Boston, Mass., furnish photographic reproductions, mounted and unmounted, of all the best paintings in the world, in both public and private art galleries, and their photographs are the best to color. Therefore, to begin with, have a perfect picture to color. Scholars in commencing to use the brush will not be able to produce bold effects of color, and will only acquire that power by use and practice. By bold effects I do not mean that one part is to be more prominently rendered than any other portion of the work, but merely the brilliancy of coloring which distinguishes professional from amateur work. In any kind of painting it must be borne in mind, that there are no decided lines forming the edges of any object. The point insisted on is that the boundaries of objects must be of that color that will harmonize and subdue the picture, producing a soft, delicate effect.
I would advise all who begin to paint to commence with water colors, as they are the easiest to manipulate, the liquid water colors being easier than the body colors, and their use the simplest of all kinds of painting. The photograph being a fac-simile of a subject as it appears to the eye in form and light and shade, furnishes a picture perfect except in color, while the liquids supply the color in the form best adapted to teaching the first steps in its use. It is hoped, though, that after the student has thoroughly mastered this course of study, he will attempt something higher and more difficult in the study of art.
These are photographs colored with liquid water colors and mounted on glass. For several years a process has been taught by which a photograph is rendered transparent by the use of paraffine oil, etc., then mounted on glass, and colored from the back with oil paints. While by this method a picture pleasing at the time could be produced, yet unless the process was perfectly executed the oils would decompose and the picture become yellow and spotted. The use of water colors entirely overcomes these objections, as it is so simple that any one can employ them perfectly, and as there are no oils used in their production they cannot change or turn yellow.
Convex glasses on which to mount photographs, Bottle of Florentine, Egyptian, Grecian or other compound for mounting on glass, Best French picture glass, Some gummed paper, A dish in which to soak photographs, Some dark, thin, fancy paper, Sheet of blotting paper.
Having secured a good photograph, rub a little pumice stone over it with the finger, and then, if it is mounted, remove it from the card by placing it in warm water and allowing it to soak for an hour or two, or over night if necessary. After it is thus freed from the card lay it face down on a piece of glass, and sponge off all the starch from the back. Cut a piece of blotting paper the size of the picture and lay it on a glass, wetting it with water applied with a sponge; then lay the photograph, still wet, on the blotting paper, and, with a sponge, remove all the surplus water from its surface. Now proceed to color it according to the directions given in the preceding pages for coloring photographs with transparent liquid water colors. In case you should put on too much color, let the photograph soak a few moments in warm water, when the surplus color will gradually come out, and you may then recolor it. After it has been finished to your satisfaction, proceed to mount it according to the directions next given.
MOUNTING FRENCH CRYSTALS.
The glass for mounting, whether flat or convex, should be the same size as the picture. It should be dipped in water and permitted to drain off, but do not dry it; pour a little of the compound on the side against which the photograph is to be placed—the hollow side, if the glass is convex—let it drain off and lay the picture face down upon it. With the thumb and finger commence at the centre of the photograph, smoothing it down close to the glass, forcing all the air bubbles out to the edges, thus continuing until the picture is entirely smoothed out, and at every point in actual contact with the glass. During this process hold the glass at an angle, so that you can see if there are any air bubbles or glistening places in it by examining its face occasionally; and always let a little of the compound get on the back of the photograph, as it allows the fingers to glide over it more easily and lessens the chance of tearing it. Now take a second glass the same size as the first, and having thoroughly cleaned it, fasten it to the back of the other by small strips of gummed paper. Then place a piece of card-board of the same size on the back of the two glasses and fasten the three together also with small strips of gummed paper; finally securing the whole firmly together by binding it with some large strips, and your picture is ready to frame. In case you do not care to frame it, cut out a piece of some dark fancy paper, a quarter of an inch on each edge larger than the picture, and fasten it, dark side out, on the back, allowing the quarter of an inch to lap over and be pasted on the face, after which straighten the edges with a ruler and sharp knife.
FINISHING PHOTOGRAPHS IN INDIA INK.
The principles that have been given in regard to finishing photographs with lines, apply also to finishing with India ink—with the exception that in the manipulation of the ink it must be remembered that it cannot be taken out; therefore, you must commence to finish the photograph gradually, and produce the proper strength by repeatedly working over it. The old method of making India ink portraits was to have a print on "plain" paper—a kind without albumen on its surface. The great disadvantage of "plain" paper is that the lights and shadows on it are not strong, and therefore it takes too much work to finish the picture.
The following method (which is very simple and can be used in work on albumen paper, provided you have treated it by rubbing pumice stone over its surface with your fingers), adapts it to India ink. Of course the pumice stone treatment destroys the albumen on the surface, causing it to have a dull appearance, but after the picture has been finished its lustre can be restored by the use of a not too warm burnisher.
In finishing the photograph commence on the hair by washing it all over (with the exception of the highest light) with a weak solution of the ink, using the brush in the same direction that the hair goes; after this has dried, indicate the half-shadow with a little stronger wash, and after drying it again put in the deeper shadows, then the eyebrows, eyes and beard, if the subject has one.
Faces are finished in India ink on the line principle,[D] which shows the grain of the flesh. Commence on the forehead with a very weak solution, and then continue it all over the face, repeatedly working and cross hatching with lines until the face is dark enough; then strengthen the shadows under the eyes, nose, mouth and chin. After the face is completed put in the clothes. This you do by washing them over with two or three solutions of the ink, and then producing the line effect as in work on crayon portraits, explained on page 76, the difference in the nature of the material used being always borne in mind. After the picture is otherwise completed, you can brighten up the eyes and some of the strongest shadows with a solution of gum arabic and water.
[Footnote D: See pages 57 and 72.]
While it is thought that all essential instructions on the topics treated of have been given in the foregoing pages, and that if faithfully followed they will lead the pupil to attain satisfactory results, it is hoped that my readers who have accompanied me thus far will not be content to continue to use a photograph as the basis of their work, but will advance to the pursuit of art in a broader and more scientific manner. As a step in this direction the study of form, and light and shade, by drawing from the cast should be taken up; and to this work the directions as to light and shade given in the foregoing pages fully apply, that requiring the object to be placed in such a position that the light will strike it at an angle of ninety degrees being always borne in mind.
The student will do well to gain all he can from the published works of the leaders in the profession, whose writings, both theoretical and practical, are invaluable. Three essays by John Burnet I can very heartily recommend. They are "Practical Hints on Light and Shade," "Practical Hints on Composition," and "The Education of the Eye." These are published in a single volume, which is illustrated with examples from the great masters of the Italian, Flemish and Dutch schools, and should be in the hands of every amateur. They will all repay perusal and study until their principles are mastered. An English edition of these books is published by James Carpenter, London, and in this country they have been reproduced by Edward L. Wilson, editor of the Philadelphia Photographer. Another book which abounds in valuable and practical information for the amateur and can be highly commended, is "Art Recreations, a Guide to Decorative Art," by Marion Kemble, published by S. W. Tilton & Co., Boston; also J. Bacon's "Theory of Coloring," issued by Geo. Rowney & Co., England.
Those who are disposed to treat disdainfully the work of finishing photographs in crayon and color as not demanding truly artistic qualities, should not forget that success here has still a real value in awakening in many who undertake it a feeling for art of a higher kind, and in developing a natural talent which otherwise might have been undiscovered. Many an artist now looks back with pleasure and gratitude to this sort of work, in which he received the first impetus toward higher effort.
In answer to the assertion which is sometimes made that transparent water colors are not permanent, I claim that in the sense in which the word is ordinarily used in connection with photography they may properly be called so. In this sense the lasting qualities which characterize the materials used by the old masters are not looked for, but where photographs have been thus colored, finished in the form of French crystals, and properly sealed from the atmosphere, they are practically permanent. I have some in my possession that were made years ago, and they are as bright and fresh to-day as when first colored. It can be truly said that photographs colored in this way make very beautiful and pleasing pictures, obtainable with but little work and expense, and having practical permanency of color.
As a final word to those who intend to follow art as a profession, I urge the earnest study and mastery of drawing at the outset as the foundation of all art; then take up work in body water colors, and when the theory of coloring is fully understood, do not neglect the careful reading of books of acknowledged merit bearing on your work. The more notes you take in the course of your reading the more fully you will assimilate the author's thought, while, at the same time, you furnish the easiest means of rapid review. After all, your soundest basis for work will be your deep and continuing love for it, and your willingness to labor long and conscientiously to attain excellence. Do not imagine that the profession of an artist is that of an idler. On the contrary, of all occupations it is perhaps the most active, for one is constantly engaged, if not with art itself, at least with its materials.
Every artist will confess that were it not for the charm with which it rewards the votaries who follow it from love, the pursuit would be a painful one, such vigilant precaution does it require, such constant foresight, such calculation and preparation against possible difficulty on every hand; but the true artist, happy in the daily gain of knowledge which his experience brings him, and delighted with the gradual mastery of his work, as a rule lives along enjoyably, retaining more than most men the freshness of youth while he gains in power as he advances in years. So pleasant a fate as this for each of his readers is the closing wish of the author.
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Moved some illustrations to avoid breaking up paragraphs of text. The page references in the List of Illustrations refer to the original book.
Corrected minor punctuation errors and hyphenation inconsistencies, and made the following changes:
Page 50: Changed necesssary to necessary: (all the details necesssary).
Page 67: Changed Appelton to Appleton: (From the Annual Encyclopedia. Copyrighted, 1891, by D. Appelton).
Page 74: Changed where-ever to wherever: (using the latter where-ever a lighter effect is required).
Page 90: Changed picrure to picture: (And when a picrure is composed chiefly of middle tint).