Scientific American 39, 19.6.1847
(Continued from No. 38.)
Most portrait painters procure their colors in a dry state, and grind them in small quantities as they have occasion to use them; but a great variety of colors are kept ready ground, and put up in metallic tubes at the artist's finding stores. Linseed oil is the medium in which colors for this purpose are ground; but the colors are usually diluted with spirits of turpentine and tempered with a little japan or other drying ingredient. With regard to the requisite brushes and pencils, the best way is to provide a full variety, and use such as are found most convenient. The brushes and pencils may be kept in good order by being suspended, the points downward, in a vessel of linseed oil, but without reaching the bottom. Portraits are usually painted on twilled cotton cloth, stretched on suitable frames, and painted of stone color—that is, a mixture of while lead, yellow ochre and black. A painted board will answer every purpose for a learner or amateur. A room for this purpose should have but one window open, and that elevated. The artist seats himself with his back to the light, and his subject before him, with the face inclined a little to the right. He first makes a sketch of the outlines and features, with a fine chalk pencil, rubbing out and correcting, until he is satisfied with the form and proportions. In this process we should recommend that the learner commence at the top of the head, and extend the line both ways as low as the ears; observe the distance from the top of the head to the top of the forehead, and sketch the hair over the forehead on the right side; extend the line from the top of the forehead down the right side to the eyebrow;then sketch the eyebrow, and extend the line down the right aide of the nose, and sketch the end of the nose with the nostrils; then draw the right eye, and then the left,—measure well with your eye the distance between the two eyes, and form the left eyebrow; extend the outline from the right eyebrow to the chin, and thence to the left ear - draw the ear and the hair on the left side.— Draw the centre shade on the upper lip, to the mouth, and the shade on the right of the centre; sketch the mouth, observing attentively the form and extent of the upper lip, and the position of the terminations of the month, relative to the nose, or to supposed lines descending perpendicularly from the sides of the nose; sketch the shade under the mouth, and proceed to draw the coat-collar, shoulders, vest, and cravat. Paint several parts between the outlines, with colors similar to those eventually intended. The proper ground for the flesh color is a neutral tint, composed of white lead, colored several shades with a mixture of blue, yellow and red; but it is better to apply in the first instance, colors as near as possible to what is expected to be required in finishing, applying light colors where light is required, and darker colors on the shaded parts, strengthening the outlines with dark colors. - It is better, however, to paint too dark than to light. The adaptation of the shading to the complexion most depend on sight and judgment, as no rules can be given; though it may be remarked that the best artists use a larger proportion of green and less of red, in shading the face, than the less accomplished. The foregoing directions are, in some respects, peculiarly applicable to the portraits of gentlemen. The proper position for ladies, while sitting for a portrait, inclines a little to the left, and consequently, in the process of drawing the outlines, preference is given to the left side, instead of the right, as in the case of gentlemen. In either and all cases, when the first coloring is dry,the whole face is required to be painted over again, still reserving the lightest and brightest touches to the final finishing; though it may be supposed that a perfect artist would, in all cases, apply the right colors at first, and thus perfect the work with a single coat.
The paints used in this branch, are the prepared cakes, called water colors, and which may be procured at stationer's shops in general. Those manufactured by Reeves, of London, are in most general use, though those prepared by Osborne, of Philadelphia, are softer and, in some respects, preferable. These colors being dissolved in water, are applied with small and delicate camel hair pencils. It is a common custom to dip the pencil in water,and brush it on the cake, until a sufficient quantity of the color is dissolved and mixed with the water, for that immediate occasion; but this process is tedious aid takes up much time. — A better way for the practitioner to furnish himself with a series of small cups in which to dissolve small quantities of the paints, and thus keep them in a state ready for use. A dozen or more concavities, half an inch deep and five-eights of an inch in diameter, cut or formed in the side of piece of pine board, being well coated with white oil paint, and dried, answers well for this purpose. The materials used as the ground for this painting, are thin plates of ivory, or a thick smooth kind of paper termed "Bristol board." The process of drawing the outlines is the same as described in portrait painting, only that for this purpose, a fine, hardand sharp-pointed lead pencil is used, and erroneous lines are erased occasionally with india rubber. Having effected the outlines, if on paper, retrace the same with dilute colors, using for this purpose a fine pointed hair pencil. The outlines of the features may be traced with lake; those of the hair, with burnt umber, and the drapery with blue and black, more or less dense or dilute according to the depth of color or shade intended. Then rub off the lead pencil lines, and proceed to color the whole face, with dilute venitian red, laying it smooth and uniformly. Color the hair with a mixture of burnt and black umber, in proportion to suit, and more or less dilute, with the occasional addition of venitian red, if the hair is of sandy or red color; or yellow ochre if the subject is young and the hair very light. Apply the ground color for the coat, vest, and cravat, nearly as dark as eventually intended. Either black, blue, or green, for the coloring of the coat, should be mixed with white, and applied in a full opaque body. For all other parts, the colors are worked transparently. Proceed to shade the face and features with a neutral tint, composed of Prussian blue, lake, and gamboge, in such proportions as will suit the complexion. A mixture of carmine and vermillion is generally used far coloring the cheeks of beautiful faces, and this must be applied by a slow and careful process. Shade the white part of the drapery and of the eyes, with a neutral shade, composed of black, blue, lake, and yellow ochre, in such proportions as to resemble, by comparison, the shades of white muslin. In finishing the face and hair, the light parts must be preserved, for while paint must not be used, except to produce some small specs representing the reflection of light from the eyes, or from jewelry. If the colors chance to be too dark, they may be washed off, in part, with a hair pencil and pure water —but such occasions should be avoided. In painting on ivory, the process is similar, but more slow and delicate. The artist may sometimes lake advantage of the semi-transparency of the ivory however and improve the complexion, by applying such colors to the back of the plate, as will produce the desired effect in front. In the application of the various tints, the artist must apply the colors in such delicate touches of the pencil, that the prints of the brush may not be discovered, but that the colors may appear perfectly blended and the surface smooth. This painting, when properly executed, is much brighter in appearance, and much more durable, than the best oil painting, but should he carefully preserved under a glas to prevent its becoming soiled, as it will not bear washing without injury.
(To be continued.)