It is impossible to understand principles without some statement of theory; and a book in order to be practical must therefore be to some extent theoretical. I have been as concise and brief in the theoretical parts as clearness would permit of, and I trust they are not out of proportion to the practical parts. Either to paint well, or to judge well of a painting, requires an understanding of the same things: namely, the theoretical standpoint of the painter; the technical problems of color, composition, etc.; and the practical means, processes, and materials through which and with which these are worked out.
It is obvious that one cannot become a good painter without the ability to know what is good painting, and to prefer it to bad painting. Therefore, I have taken space to cover, in some sort, the whole ground, as the best way to help the student towards becoming a good painter. If, also, the student of pictures should find in this book what will help him to appreciate more truly and more critically, I shall be gratified.
There is a false implication in the saying that "a poor workman blames his tools." It is not true that a good workman can do good work with bad tools. On the contrary, the good workman sees to it that he has good tools, and makes it a part of his good workmanship that they are in good condition.
In painting there is nothing that will cause you more trouble than bad materi-als. You can get along with few materials, but you cannot get along with bad ones. That is not the place to economize. To do good work is difficult at best. Econo-mize where it will not be a hindrance to you. Your tools can make your work harder or easier according to your selection of them. The relative cost of good and bad materials is of slight importance compared with the relative effect on your work.
The way to economize is not to get anything which you do not need. Save on the non-essentials, and get as good a quality as you can of the essentials.
Save on the number of things you get, not on the quantity you use. You must feel free in your use of material. There is nothing which hampers you more than parsimony in the use of things needful to your painting. If it is worth your while to paint at all, it is worth your while to be generous enough with yourself to insure ordinary freedom of use of material.
The essentials of painting are few, but these cannot be dispensed with. Put it out of your mind that any one of these five things can be got along without:— You must have something to paint on, canvas or panel. Have plenty of these.