I SHOULD certainly not advise you to paint in full colour in the first instance.<< Previous page
Monochrome painting is by far the best initial practice ; you will no doubt have to put some restraint on your longing to use colour, but you will be amply rewarded for not venturing to run before having learnt to walk erect and with a firm step. And since it is clearly seen that nearly all the great masters made something like a monochrome preparation for their pictures, and they knew what they were about, a knowledge of the use of monochrome will be invaluable to you in your after practice, besides enabling you to master most of the technical difficulties by degrees.
Get a cast of an antique head. If it is very white, tone it down with a thin solution of raw umber and oil to something like the colour of old ivory. It will then not take so many reflections in the shadows, and its general effect will be broader—that is to say, more simple. Place the cast in a fairly strong light, so that its shadows are definitely marked. Your canvas might be about 24 inches by 20 inches or a little larger. You will rarely need a canvas smaller than this.
Although little attention is usually paid to the lighting of your canvas, it is really very important that no glare of light be upon it ; not only because the paint might shine, but for the reason that if the painting is more highly illuminated than the object to be painted, you will imagine that it is more brightly painted than it actually is.
Let me give you an example from my own experience—a somewhat extreme example, it is true, but the principle to be learned from it applies in all circumstances. I was sketching at Pompeii ; the sun shone fully upon my canvas, and my sketch seemed to me to be bright and warm in colour. When I took it home I saw that it was both dull and cold. Out of doors the sketch was illuminated by the brilliant and warm light of the sun, and so appeared to partake of those qualities ; but the normal light of the room showed me that I had made a great mistake to work in the sunlight. Similarly, if your painting is too brilliantly lighted, your study will suffer as my sketch suffered.
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