The possibilities of the paste medium are extensive. Cotman alone seems to have used it seriously. There is nothing mysterious about it, though the results are different. The brush is dipped into starch or flour paste as well as into water and pigment, and a very full brush is used. Paste delays drying, and thus affords better opportunities for the manipulation of pigment. Instead of the bloom of the blot, there results a depth and brilliance comparable with that obtained with oil blazes, and a texture, capable of infinite control that may be utilized with great advantage.
Some day some landscape painter will thoroughly investigate this medium and I am convinced that he will deem his labour justified.
Body Colour -
Painting with pure colour into a wet ground of Chinese white, and painting throughout with body-colour, are more consistent methods than patching a transparent water-colour with gouache. The last may be expedient as times and if employed with discretion may be quite satisfactory. Gouache painting had had, and has, many apologists, including Ruskin, who expressed the opinion that the greatest things that are to be done in art must be done in dead colour. Of body-colour he wrote, it is just as legitimate as oil painting, being, so far as handling is concerned, the same process, only without its uncleanliness, its unwholesomeness, or its inconvenience.'
While the method of juxtaposing blots of transparent colour on dry paper should be the basis of the sketcher's technique, hi will discover that there are effects in nature which the chalky opacity of body-colour alone will reproduce, foreground textures that paste and pigment together will represent most agreeably, and that the definition of form and detail, such as is necessary in an architectural study, is most readily rendered with a pen.
These expedients enlarge the capacity of water-colour; they have definite uses, and are not at variance with tradition. But they must not be overworked or abused. It is a pity that purist ideals obsess practically all water-colourists to-day.
Swans - Use of Body Colour
One autumn I made a sketch of an artificial pond seen through the pendulous branches and thinning leaves of a weeping birch. It was a dull day, and the high lights were the forms of two swans in the foreground. The water reflected the gray copse on the further shore, and a little of the gray sky in long ripples. A very sentimental subject. It is reproduced on another page. Had I attempted to paint this scene with transparent pigments I should still be there. As it happened I had finished in an hour and a half.
I can hear one unpleasant drawing teacher I once knew objecting offhand that the use of body-colour here was pure laziness. It was not. The minute rendering of so much detail might, in certain circumstances, produce, as Reynolds put it, the labourious affects of idleness. There is nothing in our art', he said, which enforces such continual exertion and circumspection as an attention to the general effect of the whole. It requires the painter's entire mind; whereas the parts may be finished by nice touches while his mind is engaged upon other matters; he may even hear a play or novel read without much disturbance. The artist who flatters his own indolence will continually find himself evading this active exertion.'
The landscape painter must be quick to catch the effect. Time and tide wait for no man, nor clouds, nor the sun nor the wind. There was imminent danger of the clouds passing when I was painting in the park, and I was obliged to employ the quickest method for fear the effect of humid grayness was ruined. As a matter of fact the sun came out a few minutes after I had finished, and I spent the rest of the day in making pencil sketches of white-tailed deer.
I have painted several landscapes over a charcoal
foundation. The subject was worked up fully in charcoal, the sky
rubbed smooth, and spirited accents introduced in the foreground.
This may be fixed, but that is not essential, in fact I prefer
the free ground, for while it remains undisturbed by a wash delicately
laid on, it may be lifted in the course of painting and replaced
with pure colour. Very interesting gray effects may be produced
by this method.
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