Let us take two extreme examples of the treatment of outline in paint. The work of Carlo Dolci is an instance of over-modelling. It therefore lacks solidity, is fluffy, and has no light playing over the surface of the planes which are no less over-graduated.<< Previous page
With Velazquez, on the other hand, the edges are not so completely lost ; the planes are distinct ; and light plays over the surfaces.
In the treatment of the hair against the forehead, the same discrimination is necessary, or the hair may look like a wig.
Mark the quality of the skin that covers the bones of the forehead and the bridge of the nose, and the contrasted pulpiness of the more mobile flesh that is free of the bone.
Should the sitter be wearing any white material round the neck or shoulders, see that the value of your flesh colours contiguous to such white passages is by contrast right in general tone. The lower planes of the cheek, as well as of the chin, receding as they sometimes do from the light, are more often than not quite low in tone. The white material itself varies also according to its being parallel to or receding from the source of light.
Be careful in modelling round the eyes to preserve the globular feeling beneath the lids, and to realise something of the liquid quality of the eyes themselves.
If your study appears, on examination in the glass, to be fairly well constructed and painted thinly enough to show the grain of the canvas, and you wish to take it up again, use your palette knife sparingly just to lighten the darks of the background, hair, and shadows. Should any objectionable hardness or thinness be apparent, soften with a large dry brush, and so prepare for the next sitting. Should this be the following day, place the canvas near the stove. Being thinly painted, it will, if kept warm, in all probability be sufficiently dry.
Before attempting to work again on the study, examine it carefully beside the model. Your fresh eye will detect any errors in the proportion or construction. Look to it that the map of light and shade be correct, and should you find it necessary to make alterations, such as increasing the width of the face, which should cut further into the background, or change any shadow passages into lighter ones, take your penknife and scrape away the dark paint before making, corrections in colour. At this stage the penknife makes an excellent drawing instrument.
Some parts of the study may perhaps dry "dead." Before oiling them out, breathe on the canvas ; and afterwards wipe off the linseed or poppy oil with a rag. Poppy oil, by the way, dries more slowly than the other oils.
Now repeat the process of the first day, covering the whole with wet paint afresh, using the first painting merely as a guide, as so many points of departure. Do not be tempted to leave any of the underlying tones uncovered. The whole of the surface is to be a new one, otherwise there will be no scope for freedom of brushwork, and the general result will be thin, dry, and poor.
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