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Picture index

DIBDIN's PROGRESSIVE LESSONS 
IN 
WATER COLOUR PAINTING

 T.C.Dibdin Homepage 

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The pencils marked HB or H will be found the most agreeable to delineate with; and the colours should be put into a tin sketching-box, such as may be chosen at the colourmanís: they are used more freely by dipping the wet brush into them, than if they are rubbed or ground on a slab or plate. The tin box, too, is more portable for sketching from Nature. The colours are made both hard and soft, the choice being with the student. Those necessary for copying the subjects in the drawing-book are indigo, cobalt, lake or carmine, gamboge, raw sienna, burnt sienna, olive green, yellow ochre, venetian red, and warm sepia; others may be used if found more convenient, as in painting, as far as regards the materials, the means are entirely subservient to the end.

The choice of brushes is, perhaps, of more importance. Sable I recommend as better suited to water colours than camelís hair, on account of their powerful elasticity, which greatly assists the freedom of touch.

The first subject is a windmill, a sketch selected on account of its simplicity and easy treatment. Plate I. is the simple outline drawing; which, however, must not be neglected because it is merely an outline. "He who desires to paint, must first draw," is a trite remark, which cannot be too often insisted on; but by experience I have found that the simplest and most successful method of obtaining the "effect" in a watercolour drawing, without losing the detail or finish, is to draw the outline of every part of the subject, not only with care and correctness but with a firm hand, so that all the parts shall be well understood at first, leaving nothing, in this portion of the study to be done afterwards; and the greater the perseverance in following this precept, the greater will be the success, especially with beginners. The outline should be put in with a stronger or darker touch for this purpose than for pencil finishing; because each succeeding wash of colour weakens it, and would in time obliterate the fainter or lighter portions of the subject.

The second plate or stage of the drawing must then be imitated by mixing some warm sepia and burnt sienna to the tone of the colour in the original, and laying it freely on the paper with a large brush, always taking care to keep the colour in a very fluid state or wash, and producing the darker parts by the quantity of the fluid colour laid on, and not by the thickness of the pigment. By attention to this, greater transparency will be obtained, while by using the colour in a thick state, a muddy and opaque effect would be the result. This must be borne in mind throughout all the studies.

The third plate adds the blue, which in the present instance may be produced by washes of pure cobalt. It is highly probable, that at this stage the student may find his drawing in an unsatisfactory state, in consequence of the liquid colour having dried into forms which he did not intend, with harsh lines at the edges, &c.; this will be obviated by allowing the drawing to dry thoroughly, by the fire if necessary; and then with a large, flat, camelís-hair brush washing it all over with plenty of clean soft water (water which has been boiled): the harshness of the colour will then be softened down, and the tints become amalgamated and harmonized. Those parts which have become faint or weak by this process can be strengthened afterwards by retouching.

The fourth plate has the yellow, a very little of which will be sufficient; this may be produced by a general wash of yellow ochre in a very fluid state, thinly laid over the lower part of the sky and foreground, care being taken to avoid those parts which are positively white, and by a sufficiency of gamboge in the foreground where it is apparent in the original. The figure may be touched with venetian red mixed with lake or carmine, and a stronger tint of cobalt on the dress. The last and strongest touches with warm sepia and burnt sienna are assisted by adding a little dissolved gum to the colour, which prevents its absorption by the paper, and causes it to stand out better: but this should only be done in the immediate foreground.

Of course it is not to be expected  that a first attempt will prove successful; but the student who earnestly desires to produce something worth looking at, must persevere, and each renewed attempt will be rewarded with corresponding improvement.

I now proceed to point out certain facts relating to colour in landscapes, which, if experimentally put in practice previous to commencing the drawing, will elucidate considerable information.

It is well understood, that the strongest "effects" in nature are the result, not so much of the actual colour of the objects, as by "accidental colour," which is that produced by gleams of sunshine, interrupted by passing shadows, or by the shadows of objects falling on masses of light, &c. &c., which create the opposition or contrast of two or more contrary colours, approximating each other, such as blue and yellow, green and red, purple and orange, &c.

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