BEFORE recommending you to paint in monochrome from the living model, I should advise you at this stage to practise working with your full palette at some still-life subject, painting in direct colour à prima, of course after having carefully drawn your study.<< Previous page
I advise you thus because, although I wish you to prepare all your serious work in monochrome, there will be occasions when you will have no opportunity of returning to your work a second time, in which case a first monochrome painting will be of little use to you. You may have to make a rapid study in colour, perhaps of a passing effect in landscape, the study of a figure in the open, of certain flowers or other perishable objects —even a study for a portrait to be done at one sitting. And it may often occur that in your more serious work some change will be found advisable in a minor part for which you have no time to prepare except by scraping, as well as in other instances, to which I shall allude later, so that in any case à prima painting must be studied.
Arrange some fruit in a dish against an appropriate background; draw the subject most carefully in charcoal, and after having blown or brushed away all unnecessary blackness (for the black of the charcoal would destroy all freshness of colour), clean your canvas with bread—for with flowers, flesh, or any delicate subject, you cannot work too cleanly. Some of your contemporaries may tell you that you cannot get any quality in your colour by a clean method—dirt is so often mistaken for tone ! Let, however, the quality you seek be under your own control, and not the result of a slovenly method. Let your dish of fruit consist of apples, an orange or two, bananas, and so on, as well as a few large leaves, all simple forms, not too intricate in drawing. Paint in your background tone, covering the canvas, all but the main subject. Mix up on your palette some of the general colours, the middle tones of the fruit, leaves, and dish, matching the colours and tones as you would match silks or wools, and so cover the rest of the canvas. This time use linseed oil in your pot, and brushes of fair size. Now match the tone of the varying coloured shadows, and paint them ; then, the higher lights ; and after that, the broken passages of colour. If, for instance, there is some red in the green or yellow apples, scrape off with your palette knife some of the middle tone colour, over which the clean red is to appear.
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