DIBDIN's PROGRESSIVE LESSONS
A blue of very moderate power will become twice as strong if a bright yellow be set by its side, and green will look more vivid if scarlet be opposed to it. Hence it follows, that if a contrast will enhance, a greater power of the same kind will eclipse a colour; therefore, if any point in a drawing be considered too yellow or too red, a stronger point of yellow or red near it will "carry it off;" that is, carry the attention off from the weaker of the two points. The technical term of "carry off," is so often applied, and so useful, that it will frequently occur in any work or conversation on the subject of art. It is illustrated oddly enough in an anecdote of a conversation between two artists in a stage-coach, where also sat an elderly lady, who was quite con founded by the extraordinary terms she heard applied by the two friends. At last one said, "See how well that old woman in the red cloak carries off the church steeple!" When the terrified passenger, putting her head out of the window, called "Coachman! let me out instantly! You ought to be ashamed of yourself for allowing me to take my place in a coach with two lunatics!" I have illustrated this expression in the subject of the windmill in Part I., where the hot colour in the mill and the blue in the sky are carried off by the red and blue in the dress of the figure; their proximity to each other producing a kind of focus, and rendering them still more powerful. We should, therefore, say, "The woman carries off the mill."
The effect of contrast in nature may be exemplified by a simple and amusing experiment. Take some fragments of stained glass, of the most vivid colours, and allow the daylight to fall through them on to a sheet of white paper; then interpose an opaque object, such as a lead-pencil, and its shadow will be of that colour which is diametrically opposite to the colour of the glass. Thus with red glass, it will produce the appearance of a green shadow, with purple glass an orange shadow, and vice versa. If the experiment be tried with common colourless glass, no colour will be found in the shadow.
This experiment, I think, proves how the value of any colour may be enhanced by opposing it to its contrary one; for it is not that there is really a different colour in the shadows, but that the appearance of it is obtained by the total absence of those coloured rays of light which are intercepted by the opaque object.
To exemplify this, take a quiet colour for the shadows in the last plate — say, sepia, and (observing all the directions in the former part) tint by the side of it a strong yellow; the sepia will be found cold enough for a grey; while, if you place cobalt against it, it will become brown. This result must be applied as follows
There is perspective in colour as in drawing; and, if possible; it is more necessary that it should be adhered to. In delineating a subject, we draw the forms smaller, and touch lighter, proportionally to the increased distance ; and in colour, the tints both in intensity and strength of handling, must recede by degrees in like manner. Remember, then, to paint the distances with the least contrast of colour, and foregrounds with the greatest; for in contrast lies the most powerful effect, which advances in proportion to its power.
Having then put in the shadows (as in the third plate), tint the distant part with quiet and tender washes of the most receding colours, such as cobalt, venetian red, and yellow ochre, and produce the foreground with those colours which advance, as burnt and raw sienna, gamboge, indigo, and carmine, placing side by side the most opposite which are applicable to the local colour of the subject, and blend all together afterwards (the drawing being dry), by tender washes of water or other colours, using red or yellow ochre, very thin and liquid. Finish by strengthening, where necessary, with Vandyk brown, or sepia, in the foreground.
After practising by copying till a sufficient facility of execution has been obtained, the student must go to Nature. Think nothing too trifling for study, and, by patient investigation, Nature will teach all; but go gently; draw many outlines before you venture to use colour; and when you do, it must be by degrees, and modestly.
Do not imagine, when looking at the brilliant colouring in Nature’s distances, that you are to exhaust the whole power of your colour-box there, for although all the pigments ever made are insufficient to produce daylight, yet, if you place the same perspective on paper which exists in nature,—that is, make use of the strongest effects either of shadow or light, or both, in the foreground, and allow the colour and effect to get weaker, as it is intended to recede —you will obtain the same proportion of effect, and by placing your sketch in a good light in-doors, it will receive nearly the same advantages as the natural landscape itself.