Let me say at once that I thoroughly disapprove of what is understood by the "blocking in" of the whole figure or object that is commonly practised.
The followers of this method begin by putting a series of hurried lines on the paper, with the object of seizing the pose and suggesting the proportions of the model.
Nothing could be more unsound, especially in the case of the beginner. The moral influence of our first stated impressions, hurried and ill-considered as they thus must be, is so great that we never entirely free ourselves from it, and the student who begins his work without due deliberation spends most of his time at the subsequent sittings in correcting the faults of his first hurried sketch.
Practise your hand to reproduce what your eye sees without any deviation from the facts. Do not attempt any idealising in your studies, whatever you may do independently, either in form, light and shade, or colour. In proportion as you deviate from your model, you court a weakening of the results.
The question of pure aesthetics is another story, which does not enter into our present programme. Now we are concerned with the learning of the elements of our craft.
I do not mean to infer that you must reproduce every hair or wrinkle, but that every factor in your work should have its counterpart in fact.
Let me tell you how I should go about, and how I really did set about, the drawing from the cast of the Rosa Bonheur anatomised horse.
I foreshortened it expressly. Foreshortening is difficult, but most of the real difficulties are removed by the system I want you to use. I placed behind the cast of the horse a flat square object.
I remembered that this cast, like every other object, covers a definite space on its background from any one given point of view.
I had to settle, as you will always have to, before starting, the scale of the drawing.
I looked at the cast, my eyes almost closed, and then drew the space, under A, lying between the neck and the jaw, a little island of black, treating the shape of it as I would a freehand drawing. I had by this created my Standard of Measurement.
Proceeding upon this basis, I did not ask myself yet whether I was drawing a head or legs or body, because I knew that if I drew the patterns left by the white cast on the background, in proportion with the passage already indicated, my subject would be evolved.
My eyes remained always nearly closed. I was reducing the round object to the flat—that is to say, to the spaces occupied by its parts on the background.
I had to be careful, when I came to that particular point, to keep the raised knee in its exact relative position under the nostrils, and to imitate the bay (B) left between the nostrils, the chest, and forearm.
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