If you began with the group on January 1, 2013 you’re half-way through the year!
Wash drawing by Whistler.
The long nights on the river were followed by long days in the studio. In the end he gave up making notes. It was impossible for him to work in colour at night, and he had to trust to his memory. In his portraits and his pictures done by day he had a model. But looking at colour and arrangement by night, and retaining the memory until the next morning simply means a longer interval between observation and execution. And, carrying on the tradition of the Japanese and the method of drawing from memory advocated by Lecoq de Boisbaudron, and practised by many of his most distinguished contemporaries in France, Whistler developed his powers of observation.
Even then, as he said, to retain the memory of the subject required as hard training as a football player goes through. His method was to go out at night, and all his pupils or followers agree in this, stand before his subject and look at it, then turn his back on it and repeat to whoever was with him the arrangement, the scheme of colour, and as much of the detail as he wanted. The listener corrected errors when they occurred, and, after Whistler had looked long enough, he went to bed with nothing in his head but his subject.
The next morning, as he told his apprentice, Mrs. Clifford Addams, if he could see upon the untouched canvas the completed picture, he painted it; if not, he passed another night in looking at the subject. However, it was not two nights’ observation alone, but the knowledge of a lifetime that enabled him to paint the Nocturnes. This power to see a finished picture on a bare canvas is possessed by all great artists. But the greater the artist the more he sees and the better he presents it.
-From The Life of James McNeill Whistler, by Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell – Page 113.
Enjoy Nature this week. Try a new scene every other day.
Next week we’ll go back to more directed exercises.