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Drawing the Figure.
The study of the human figure has always been considered by artists as the most important part of the art. It is the most difficult, and is by many .considered as contributing the most of any to general improvement; though there are some who carry this idea to too great an extent, saying, that a person who can draw the human figure well can draw every thing besides. But this, it is well known, is not the case; there being many artists „who can draw the figure very well who cannot draw landscape nor architecture. To draw any thing well requires a particular study. The study of the figure, however, includes all the finest principles of the art; and when the eye of the student has been accustomed to copy faithfully all the minute circumstances which constitute the character of a figure, and to attend to the innumerable beatties and graceful forms which it presents, he will be better qualified to pursue with advantage every other branch of the fine arts.
In learning to draw the human figure, it is nėcessary to begin with each of the parts separately, and after sufficient practice in that way, to proceed to put them together in the complete figure.
The head being the most important part of the human body, it should be studied first. For this purpose, the student should copy the best drawings he can procure of the eye, mouth, nose, and ear, separately and on a large scale ; and of these, a front view, profile or side view, oblique view, &c.
The best materials for drawing these, as well as all other parts of the figure, is black chalk, or black lead; the former may be used either upon white
paper, or upon middle-tint paper; and in that case, white chalk may be used for laying on the lights. Black lead is only used upon white paper. A Α' piece of soft charcoal may be made use of for first slightly sketching in the general form, which must afterwards be gone over and corrected with the black chalk. The false lines of the black lead may be removed by the Indian rubber ; but we would recommend to be as sparing as possible of this, as it is more improving to endeavour to draw every thing correct and decided at once, and not trust to the being able to erase the lines which are wrong.
The shadows may be laid on by drawing parallel curve lines, according to the situation of the part, crossing them occasionally, and softening them in with more delicate lines, where necessary.
All the parts of a human figure are composed of curved surfaces: no straight lines are ever admis. sible; but every line should have a graceful turn; and it is this circumstance particularly that occasions the study of the figure to give so much freedom in drawing.
Care should be taken, that no lines ever cross each other at right angles, which gives a disagreeable net-like appearance; neither should the crossings be too oblique, as then they are confused: a proper medium will be acquired by the study of good drawings or prints; in general, however, crossing should be avoided as much as possible.
Sometimes the shadows are rubbed in, or their edges are softened with a stump, which is a very expeditious way, and produces a fine effect; but it should be used with discretion, as it is better to execute the shadows in a clear and regular manner by soft lines.
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Care should be taken not to make the lines harsh and hard, like those of an engraving; they should be softer and more mellow. On this account, drawings are much better to learn from than prints; as, by copying the latter, the student is very apt to acquire a dry and hard manner.
But we particularly caution him to avoid copying with a pen all the lines in engravings used for the shadows, which some, who have not been aca customed to see good drawings, are apt to do.
Many productions of this kind have been executed with an immensity of labour, and have been thought very fine by those who had but little knowledge of the art; yet artists, and those who are good judges, always lament to see so much patience and labour misapplied.
In copper-plate engravings, shadows are generally produced by lines: but this arises from the nature of the process; and in drawing, which is of a very different nature, there is not the same necessity for them. In general it should be observed, that the less labour there appears in any drawing the better; and that though every possible pains should be taken to make drawings or paintings excellent, yet this labour should be always disguised as much as possible, and the whole should appear as if executed with the greatest ease.
“ In learning to draw, it is of more importance than is generally supposed to copy from the finest works only. The most prejudicial quality of a model is mediocrity. The bad strike and disgust; but those that are not good, nor absolutely bad, deceive us by offering a dangerous facility. It is for this reason that engraving contributes to the progress of the arts, when it is employed on subjects that are judiciously chosen ; but is too
often prejudicial, by the indifferent works it multiplies without number. But let Raphael be copied by skilful engravers, let a young artist profit by his labours, and works without dignity and expression will soon become intolerable to him ; he will perceive to what an elevation the excellence of the art can raise him.
“ The way to avoid mediocrity, is by the study and iinitation of beautiful productions; or, in want of them, of the most finished translations that have been made from them ; for so we may call beautiful prints. Let a young draughtsman study the heads of Raphael, and he will not see without disgust the sordid figures of indifferent painters. But if you feed him with insipid substances, he will soon lose the taste necessary to relish great excellencies. In the one case he will advance firmly in his career: in the other he will continually totter, and even not be sensible of his own weakness."
Having copied frequently the parts of a face, he is next to proceed to the entire head; drawing first a front view, then a profile, a three-quarter, and so on; varying it in every possible direction, till he is thoroughly acquainted with the appearance of all the principal lines in every situation. In making these studies, he should be contented at first with drawing mere outlines, as they are by far of the most importance; and it should be remembered in general, that to make a good outline is always the most desirable attainment.
The student should now accompany his lessons by making observations on good casts and living models; but more particularly the former, as individual nature is seldom fine, and there is danger of
copying what is þad, and acquiring false ideas of beauty.
By these exercises he will have acquired some facility in handling his pencil, and he will be thus prepared for the study of the whole figure. But before he can proceed to this with advantage, we would recommend to him the study of anatomy.
An artist who is not acquainted with the form and construction of the several bones which
support and govern the human frame, and does not know in what manner the muscles moving those bones are fixed to them, can make nothing of what appears of them through the integuments with which they are covered; and which appearance is, however, the noblest object of the pencil. It is impossible for an artist to copy faithfully what he sees, unless he thoroughly understands it. Let him employ ever so much time and study in the attempt, it cannot but be attended with many and great mistakes; just as it must happen to a man who undertakes to copy something in a language which he does not understand, or to translate into his own what has been written in another, on a subject with which he is not acquainted.
But it is not necessary for him to study anatomy as a surgeon, nor to make himself acquainted with all the nerves, veins, &c. It is sufficient to study the skeleton, and the muscles which cover them, and of these, he should most particularly make himself familiar with those muscles which most frequently appear and come into action.
For this purpose, he should procure plaster casts of the anatomy of the human body, and consult treatises written upon the subject; and if he have