is used. A line of only one thickness can be drawn with it, but this can be drawn in any direction, an advantage over most other shapes.
Etching is a process of reproduction that consists in drawing with a steel point on a waxed plate of copper or zinc, and then putting it in a bath of diluted nitric acid to bite in the lines. The longer the plate remains in the bath the deeper and darker the lines become, so that variety in thickness is got by stopping out with a varnish the light lines when they are sufficiently 284strong, and letting the darker ones have a longer exposure to the acid.
Many wonderful and beautiful things have been done with this simple means. The printing consists in inking the plate all over and wiping off until only the lines retain any ink, when the plate is put in a press and an impression taken. Or some slight amount of ink may be left on the plate in certain places where a tint is wanted, and a little may be smudged out of the lines themselves to give them a softer quality. In fact there are no end of tricks a clever etching printer will adopt to give quality to his print.
The varieties of paper on the market at the service of the artist are innumerable, and nothing need be said here except that the texture of your paper will have a considerable influence on your drawing. But try every sort of paper so as to find what suits the particular things you want to express. I make a point of buying every new paper I see, and a new paper is often a stimulant to some new quality in drawing. Avoid the wood-pulp papers, as they turn dark after a time. Linen rag is the only safe substance for good papers, and artists now have in the O.W. papers a large series that they can rely on being made of linen only.
It is sometimes advisable, when you are not drawing a subject that demands a clear hard line, but where more sympathetic qualities are wanted, to have a wad of several sheets of paper under the one you are working on, pinned on the drawing-board. This gives you a more sympathetic surface to work upon and improves the quality of your work. In redrawing a study with which you are not quite satisfied, it is a good plan to use a thin paper, 285pinning it over the first study so that it can be seen through. One can by this means start as it were from the point where one left off. Good papers of this description are now on the market. I fancy they are called "bank-note" papers.
Mechanical invention, mechanical knowledge, and even a mechanical theory of the universe, have so influenced the average modern mind, that it has been thought necessary in the foregoing pages to speak out strongly against the idea of a mechanical standard of accuracy in artistic drawing. If there were such a standard, the photographic camera would serve our purpose well enough. And, considering how largely this idea is held, one need not be surprised that some painters use the camera; indeed, the wonder is that they do not use it more, as it gives in some perfection the mechanical accuracy which is all they seem to aim at in their work. There may be times when the camera can be of use to artists, but only to those who are thoroughly competent to do without it—to those who can look, as it were, through the photograph and draw from it with the same freedom and spontaneity with which they would draw from nature, thus avoiding its dead mechanical accuracy, which is a very difficult thing to do. But the camera is a convenience to be avoided by the student.
Now, although it has been necessary to insist strongly on the difference between phenomena mechanically recorded and the records of a living individual consciousness, I should be very sorry if 287anything said should lead students to assume that a loose and careless manner of study was in any way advocated. The training of his eye and hand to the most painstaking accuracy of observation and record must be the student's aim for many years. The variations on mechanical accuracy in the work of a fine draughtsman need not be, and seldom are, conscious variations. Mechanical accuracy is a much easier thing to accomplish than accuracy to the subtle perceptions of the artist. And he who cannot draw with great precision the ordinary cold aspect of things cannot hope to catch the fleeting aspect of his finer vision.
Those artists who can only draw in some weird fashion remote from nature may produce work of some interest; but they are too much at the mercy of a natural trick of hand to hope to be more than interesting curiosities in art.
The object of your training in drawing should be to develop to the uttermost the observation of form and all that it signifies, and your powers of accurately portraying this on paper.
Unflinching honesty must be observed in all your studies. It is only then that the "you" in you will eventually find expression in your work. And it is this personal quality, this recording of the impressions of life as felt by a conscious individual that is the very essence of distinction in art.
The "seeking after originality" so much advocated would be better put "seeking for sincerity." Seeking for originality usually resolves itself into running after any peculiarity in manner that the changing fashions of a restless age may throw up. One of the most original men who ever lived did not trouble to invent the plots of more than three 288or four of his plays, but was content to take the hackneyed work of his time as the vehicle through which to pour the rich treasures of his vision of life. And wrote:
"What custom wills in all things do you do it."
Individual style will come to you naturally as you become more conscious of what it is you wish to express. There are two kinds of insincerity in style, the employment of a ready-made conventional manner that is not understood and that does not fit the matter; and the running after and laboriously seeking an original manner when no original matter exists. Good style depends on a clear idea of what it is you wish to do; it is the shortest means to the end aimed at, the most apt manner of conveying that personal "something" that is in all good work. "The style is the man," as Flaubert says. The splendour and value of your style will depend on the splendour and value of the mental vision inspired in you, that you seek to convey; on the quality of the man, in other words. And this is not a matter where direct teaching can help you, but rests between your own consciousness and those higher powers that move it.
If you add a line of 5 inches to one of 8 inches you produce one 13 inches long, and if you proceed by always adding the last two you arrive at a series of lengths, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 inches, &c. Mr. William Schooling tells me that any two of these lines adjoining one another are practically in the same proportion to each other; that is to say, one 8 inches is 1.600 times the size of one 5 inches, and the 13-inch line is 1.625 the size of the 8-inch, and the 21-inch line being 1.615 times the 13-inch line, and so on. With the mathematician's love of accuracy, Mr. Schooling has worked out the exact proportion that should exist between a series of quantities for them to be in the same proportion to their neighbours, and in which any two added together would produce the next. There is only one proportion that will do this, and although very formidable, stated exactly, for practical purposes, it is that between 5 and a fraction over 8. Stated accurately to eleven places of decimals it is (1 + sqrt(5))/2 = 1.61803398875 (nearly).
We have evidently here a very unique proportion. Mr. Schooling has called this the Phi proportion, and it will be convenient to refer to it by this name.
THE PHI PROPORTION EC is 1.618033, &c., times size of AB, CD " " " " BC, DE " " " " CD, &c., AC=CD BD=DE, &c.
THE PHI PROPORTION
EC is 1.618033, &c., times size of AB,
DE CD, &c.,
290Testing this proportion on the reproductions of pictures in this book in the order of their appearing, we find the following remarkable results:
"Los Meninas," Velazquez, page 60 [Transcribers Note: Plate IX].—The right-hand side of light opening of door at the end of the room is exactly Phi proportion with the two sides of picture; and further, the bottom of this opening is exactly Phi proportion with the top and bottom of canvas.
It will be noticed that this is a very important point in the "placing" of the composition.
"Fête Champêtre," Giorgione, page 151 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXIII].—Lower end of flute held by seated female figure exactly Phi proportion with sides of picture, and lower side of hand holding it (a point slightly above the end of flute) exactly Phi proportion with top and bottom of canvas. This is also an important centre in the construction of the composition.
"Bacchus and Ariadne," Titian, page 154 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXIV].—The proportion in this picture both with top and bottom and sides of canvas comes in the shadow under chin of Bacchus; the most important point in the composition being the placing of this head.
"Love and Death," by Watts, page 158 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXV].—Point from which drapery radiates on figure of Death exactly Phi proportion with top and bottom of picture.
Point where right-hand side of right leg of Love cuts dark edge of steps exactly Phi proportion with sides of picture.
"Surrender of Breda," by Velazquez, page 161 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXVI].—First spear in upright row on the right top of picture, exactly Phi proportion with sides of canvas. Height of gun carried horizontally by man in middle distance above central group, exactly Phi proportion 291with top and bottom of picture. This line gives height of group of figures on left, and is the most important horizontal line in the picture.
"Birth of Venus," Botticelli, page 166 [Transcribers Note: