A LESSON IN DRAWING.
OF the thousands of young masters and misses now at home for the holydays, a pretty large proportion probably have been" learning to draw," as it is called ; that is, they have been taught to copy pencil or lithographic drawings, made by their teacher or some popular artist, touch for touch : many perhaps have been dabbling in Indian ink or water-colours to a similar purpose ; and their "drawing-books" or " pieces " are handed round to admiring friends, who are astonished at the pupil's progress, and " wonder with a foolish face of praise" at what they do not understand. We are very sorry to disturb the mutual complacency of all parties concerned; but, at the risk of being voted
disagreeable, -we must beg leave to ask the young lady or gentleman a
question or two, through papa; to whom, as a man of business, and paymaster moreover, we look for countenance.
Spec. This is a pretty view of an arched gateway between two square towers, that you have drawn, young gentleman ; but the towers do not appear to be parallel one to the other: is it so intended ?
Pupil. I don't know ; I tried to make my drawing like the copy.
Spec. Are the faces of these towers opposite the eye in the same plane?
Pupil. I don't know what you mean, Sir.
Spec. Are these two sides at equal distance from the eye? I can't tell ; but I know it's like the copy.
Spec. I observe that more of the side of the right-hand tower is seen than of the left-hand one, while more of the left-hand side of the arch is shown than of the right : is that correct?' Pupil. It is like the copy.
Spec. I mean, is that the true perspective? Pupil. I don't know ; I never learned perspective.
Spec. Then you can't tell Mb whereabouts the point of sight should be in this view ?
Pupil. No; I don't know what you mean.
Spec. I mean the point in the drawing that would be directly oppo-
site to the artist's eye in making this sketch. Pupil. No, Sir.
Spec. Nor where the horizontal line would intersect. Pupil. No.
Papa. But does not Mr. — teach perspective? Pupil. None of the boys learn it, Papa : I heard him say, though, that perspective was useful in sketching from nature; but none of us were sufficiently advanced to draw out of doors. Spec. (Aside.) Nor ever will be at this rate. (To Pupil.) You cannot, then, draw this writing-desk, I suppose : merely an outline of it ? Pupil. Oh, I have been a long way beyond outlines ; we only did a few at first: but we always draw from copies. Spec. Well, but that's the way you're being taught to draw from real objects : how long have you been learning ? Pupil. This is my third "half," Sir. Spec. (With a groan, sotto voce.) Now, try what you can do with this desk : nothing can be more simple ; it is only an oblong square box.
Pupil. (Getting paper and pencil, and sitting down.) But I don't know how to begin. Spec. (Placing the desk.) See, here is the desk directly before you : draw the side opposite to you first. Pupil. I can't get it into my paper. Spec. Well, but you need not draw it the full size : draw a horizontal line.
Pupil. Mayn't I rule it, Sir? I've not been used to draw long straight lines : Mr. — says we should bleak them, to make them look pictu- resque and sketchy.
Spec. Then draw a "sketchy" line, as straight as you can by your.
eye. Pupil.. (Making a succession of dashes, rather awry.) Will that do, ?
Spec. Yes : now raise your perpendicular lines- fin the two sides, and draw another horizontal line for the top edge. Pupil. (Having achieved a shaky parallelogram verging on trapezoidal
inequality.) What am I to do next? Spec. Now you have to represent the end, and the top, as you see
them in perspective. Pupil. (After trying in vain to get the _proper inclination of the receding
lines forming the end, gives it up in despair.) I can't do it, Sir ; I haven't been taught to draw in this way. Papa. My dear boy, it's plain that you have not been taught to draw at all : you have been wasting your time, and I my money. If this is learning to draw, you shall learn no more, for- it's of no use : I hope you'll have some better occupation for your time than copying drawings. What do you say, Mr. Spectator ?
Spec. Why, Sir, I quite agree with you that it's of no use your son learning to draw as be has been ; but as drawing, if properly taught, is useful on many occasions, I should let him learn the principles of the art—perspective, light and shade, &c., and acquire such a command of his pencil as to be able to draw "long straight lines" with ease. Papa. But is not this a tedious, difficult, and expensive course ? I don't intend my son to be an artist. Spec. It is the most direct and easy course, and the one best calcu- lated for practical use in after life ; nor need it be expensive. As yet, however, few teach on this plan, though it will eventually be univer- sally adopted, when drawing becomes a branch of general education. Papa. What! make all the world artists? There are more than can get a living already. Spec. True ; because not one in a hundred is thoroughly master of his profession. The object of being able to draw, however, is not to Make pretty pictures merely, but to delineate objects ; so that if you want to describe the shape and make of any thing, you can do it : who- ever is unable to do this, cannot express a large class of ideas.
Papa. That's true ; but how if I had not the talent to draw ?
Spec. Every one who has the use of his senses, possesses so much as may suffice for the ordinary purposes of life. No one not an imbe- cile was ever found who could not be taught to write : if we can form letters with a pen, why not shapes with a pencil ? There is no genius required to express the forms of solid objects on a piece of paper by lines ; it is knowledge and understanding—science, not art.
Papa. This is new doctrine. Spec. To the present generation, perhaps ; but it's one of those old truths that seem new only because they have been fbrgotten.
Papa. But drawing ! I never could scribble so much as a cottage on a state to please my youngsters : I do not even know how to—
Spec. That's it ; you don't know how. It's the teacher's business to show us how—but they don't.
Papa. Yet if I were shown how, I don't think I could do it. Spec. Well, now, you shall draw that desk ; which is more than your san could do, who has learnt for-" three halfs."
Papa. Nonsenset Spec. No; I'm in earnest. We'll close that glass-door, and yoa. shall draw the outline on the pane with a little liquid white.
Papa. Oh no! I can't. I'm no hand at this sort of thing.
Spec. Pray let me convince you. You'll laugh to find how easy it is. (Places the desk on the table, and a chair before the glass-door in- the next room.) Now sit and fix your eye steady to one point, and then just trace the outline of the desk on the glass with this little brush.
Papa. (Having obeyed the direction, looks at the white outline.) Well! there it is, sure enough, after a fashion. But I don't know how I did it,, any more than my boy there.
Spec. You have been tracing the form of an object mechanically, just as a child traces the outline of a print against the window ; but having done it without any exercise of the understanding, you would find no difficulty in doing it with. The glass represents the plane of the pic- ture ; and if you knew the rules' of perspective—and they are few and simple in themselves, however complex in application—you would as readily draw the outline of the desk with a pencil on paper. Know-. ledge is the basis of drawing, as of every other art—knowledge of the form you want to draw, and knowledge of the principles on which the appearance of the solid slime is to be imitated so as to convey to others. a correct idea of the reality.
Papa. I am quite convinced. For myself, Fm too old to learn ; bat- my son here shall—yet who's to teach him ?
Spec. Any one who is well versed in practical perspective may show- him the right method of proceeding : give him the principles, and let him apply them, by first drawing the outline of the object—this desk, or a cube painted white to begin with—and then proving the correct-' ness of the delineation by a perspective diagram. That done, he will then have to give the outline the appearance of substance by putting in the shadows, with lines laid close to each other so as to represent a smooth tint properly graduated : to accomplish this, he will require to be taught the laws of light and shade, so far as they are exemplified, on the flat surface of one rectilinear solid. Proceeding with other com- pact figures, straight-sided and angular, and thence to more complex. shapes, combinations of the two, he will arrive at curvilinear forms, which will put his powers of band and eye more severely to the test ; and thereafter he may take any object he chooses, provided he first thoroughly understands its conformation.
Pupil. Whose style of drawing do you think I had best copy, Sir ?
Spec. Style! you have nothing to do with style, my little fellow.. Would not you laugh, now, if one of your schoolfellows who had just begun his Latin accidence were to ask the master in whose style he was to make Latin ? You have got to learn the grammar of drawing,. and the rules of the language of form : when you have mastered and can apply them, will be time enough to talk about style. (Turning to Papa.) The common course of learning to draw, is by-making bung- ling caricature imitations of the peculiarities of other artists : what is called "style," is after all but mannerism—that is, the substitution of a trick-of hand' for an expressive touch. Mannerism is only the dis- guise of imperfection ; but each artist's manner being easily recognized, the knowledge of that sign is mistaken for an acquaintance with art ; and so the defbct is prized, because therein consists all that the multi- tude know of a picture, and all-that the mass of amateurs attempt to copy.