MASS DRAWING: PRACTICAL

This is the form of drawing with which painting in the oil medium is properly concerned. The distinction between drawing and painting that is sometimes made is a wrong one in so far as it conveys any idea of painting being distinct from drawing. Painting is drawing (i.e. the expression of form) with the added complication of colour and tone. And with a brush full of paint as your tool, some form of mass drawing must be adopted, so that at the same time that the student is progressing with line drawing, he should begin to accustom, himself to this other method of seeing, by attempting very simple exercises in drawing with the brush.

Most objects can be reduced broadly into three tone masses, the lights (including the high lights), the half tones, and the shadows. And the habit of reducing things into a simple equation of three tones as a foundation on which to build complex appearances should early be sought for.

Exercise in Mass Drawing.

Here is a simple exercise in mass drawing with the brush that is, as far as I know, never offered to the young student. Select a simple object: some of those casts of fruit hanging up that are common in art schools will do. Place it in a strong light and shade, preferably by artificial light, as it is not so subtle, and therefore easier; the light coming from either the right or left hand, but not from in front. Try and arrange it so that the tone of the ground of your cast comes about equal to the half tones in the relief.

Plate XXIII. SET OF FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SAME PAINTING FROM A CAST IN DIFFERENT STAGES No. 1. Blocking out the shape of spaces to be occupied by masses. No. 2. A middle tone having been scumbled over the whole, the lights are now painted. Their shapes and the play of lost-and-foundness on their edges being observed. Gradations are got by thinner paint, which is mixed with the wet middle tone of the ground, and is darkened.

Plate XXIII.

SET OF FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SAME PAINTING FROM A CAST IN DIFFERENT STAGES

No. 1. Blocking out the shape of spaces to be occupied by masses.

No. 2. A middle tone having been scumbled over the whole, the lights are now painted. Their shapes and the play of lost-and-foundness on their edges being observed. Gradations are got by thinner paint, which is mixed with the wet middle tone of the ground, and is darkened.

Plate XXIV. SET OF FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SAME PAINTING FROM A CAST IN DIFFERENT STAGES No. 3. The same as the last, with the addition of the darks; variety being got in the same way as in the case of the lights, only here the thinner part is lighter, whereas in the case of the lights it was darker. No. 4. The finished work, refinements being added and mistakes corrected.

Plate XXIV.

SET OF FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SAME PAINTING FROM A CAST IN DIFFERENT STAGES

No. 3. The same as the last, with the addition of the darks; variety being got in the same way as in the case of the lights, only here the thinner part is lighter, whereas in the case of the lights it was darker.

No. 4. The finished work, refinements being added and mistakes corrected.

First draw in the outlines of the masses strongly in charcoal, noting the shapes of the shadows carefully, taking great care that you get their shapes blocked out in square lines in true proportion relative to each other, and troubling about little else. Let this be a setting out of the ground upon which you will afterwards express the form, rather than a drawing—the same scaffolding, in fact, that you were advised to do in the case of a line drawing, only, in that case, the drawing proper was to be done with a point, and in this case the drawing proper is to be done with a brush full of paint. Fix the charcoal well with a spray diffuser and the usual solution of white shellac in spirits of wine.

Taking raw umber and white (oil paint), mix up a tone that you think equal to the half tones of the cast before you. Extreme care should be taken in matching this tone. Now scumble this with a big brush equally over the whole canvas (or whatever you are making your study on). Don't use much medium, but if it is too stiff to go on thinly enough, put a little oil with it, but no turpentine. By scumbling is meant rubbing the colour into the canvas, working the brush from side to side rapidly, and laying just the thinnest solid tone that will cover the surface. If this is properly done, and your drawing was well fixed, you will just be able to see it through the paint. Now mix up a tone equal to the highest lights on the cast, and map out simply the shapes of the light masses on your study, leaving the scumbled tone for the half tones. Note carefully where the light masses come sharply against the half tones and where they merge softly into them.