I'll present Speed's main points in boldface type either verbatim or paraphrased, followed by comments of my own. If you want to add a comment, please use the numbered points to refer to the relevant section of the chapter.
Today we'll cover pages 158 - 164 of the gold mine of a chapter on "Painting from the Life."
There's a lot of information that he downplays, such as the line of the shoulder, the background, etc. The whole portrait hinges on the closer eye.
Note too how there's a single, large movement of tone on the model's right hand, from the higher light at the wrist to the extended finger.
2. "Do not soften one tone into another by brushing them together."
Speed says to use another carefully mixed tone between them. "The more often paint is touched, the less vital the impression." This reminds me of the "mosaic" approach of Carolus-Duran, Sargent's teacher. Good advice, but it can be taken too far if the artist makes brushstrokes the subject of the picture.
3. Analyzing Rubens' technique
I won't reiterate the whole process, but you can read it on page 159. Rubens was essentially a member of "the Brown school," but it was a very efficient method that allowed him to produce a lot of work.
4. When you paint a light tone thinly over a dark background, it will tend to look cool. When you paint a dark tone over a light BG, it will look warm.
This is also true of smoke, as I pointed out in a previous post.
Smoke against a dark background appears blue. Against a light sky, the same smoke will appear orange.
5. "Halftones are generally cool, and consequently they should be painted with the lighter side overlapping the dark."
He continues: "The enhanced effect that transparent color gives can often be got in solid (opaque) painting by lightly painting dark over a wet light tone." He goes on to talk about the color temperature of hair relative to skin. Such rules should be learned and tested skeptically against your empirical observation.
6. "When two edges come together with much variety on one side and little on the other, paint the variety side first, leaving the edge to be trimmed up when painting the simpler tone of the other side."
"You cannot vary the tones in a touch as you carry it along an edge."
7. "Another way of simplifying the larger modelling of a form that is made up of a variety of colours (that must necessarily be put on separately) is to sweep them together with one stroke of a large, dry brush. But this can only successfully be done once, or the softening effect of it will deaden the colour too much."
There are several kinds of brushes you can use for this sort of blending. I like to use a one-inch flat white synthetic.
8. Selective Focus—and lack of it
Speed cautions against painting a picture with a hard focus all over. American illustrator Stevan Dohanos above, would be an example of the "Primitive" school, in that he gives equal focus to everything. Speed emphasizes how a unity of focus comes from being more selective. The Venetians began to explore the idea of fusing edges and unity of vision, or tout ensemble vision, one of the French concepts imported by this time into the Royal Academy.
Next week—we'll continue this chapter with the section analyzing Velazquez, starting on page 164.
In its original edition, the book is called "The Science and Practice of Oil Painting." Unfortunately it's not available in a free edition, but there's an inexpensive print edition that Dover publishes under a different title "Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (with a Sargent cover)," and there's also a Kindle edition.----
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