No one about to take up painting as a profession should be left in ignorance of the dangers that beset him. He will be saved much heart-burning and many futile experiments if he but know at the outset what is detrimental and what should be avoided.<< Previous page
Let us see how far the cult of realism has affected modern practice.
Painting is begun with little forethought as to the method to be pursued. A settled plan would hamper the painter who is willing to fall in with nature's ever-varying and wayward moods, so that after an attempt partially to paint one aspect, he is induced to make the changes invited by the passing fascinations of another. Little harm might come to the work were each succeeding variation studied apart, and one of them eventually selected, put in something like artistic order, and completed. But no ! with an utter carelessness of eventual results, one painting is imposed upon another, until the desired realistic feeling is achieved.
I have referred to the supposed advantages that oil-painting has over other mediums, insomuch as changes can be effected without erasing or making preparation for the passage over which the change is to occur. This fallacy ought to be exploded. The practice is most pernicious, the more so because the mischief is delayed and not apparent.
To begin with, it is almost impossible to get away from the moral influence either of the colour, tone, or drawing of the existing surface. And also, physically, in the course of time these make themselves felt through the superimposed layers of pigment. You may take it for granted that no sense of freshness can be preserved after three, or at the utmost four, coats of a similar tint have been laid solidly over each other on the canvas. Besides, the grain or texture of the canvas is your best friend, and when this is gone (that is to say, when the pores have been filled up with solid paint) all attempts to regain clearness or freshness are hopeless. If we resort to the scraping of the paint with a razor or knife the surface becomes slippery, and no tooth remains to help us with our modelling. I shall, however, add to the list of materials by advising you to use a scraping tool called steel plush mat. I know of nothing better to enable you to erase your painted errors and to renew a texture. But the wisest course, when a canvas is loaded in the wrong places, is to take up a fresh one, trace on to it whatever is worth preserving, and paint on it de novo. This really saves time, and gives you fresh hope.
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