How To Paint Photographs In Water Colors and In Oil
By George B. Ayres
Likeness is the very essence of portraiture. Whatever may be the artistic merits of a painting which is intended to represent the countenance and figure of a valued friend, its greatest perfection must exist in its correct likeness. Our personal affections will always bid defiance to any rivalry from art; and hence an ordinary but correct portrait will elicit our admiration and love, whilst one lacking this essential point would be disregarded.
There is not one person in the world who has not a particular characteristic both in face and body. This will be pat- ent in the drawing of the photograph itself; and while the camera produces nature truthfully—perhaps too much so for mortal vanity in general—the artist's office is to impart life and color. To adorn nature too much is doing a violence. We can imitate her with sufficient exactness, however, and still perceive and comply with what is advantageous in art.
It is scarcely proper to undertake the coloring of a photographic portrait without first seeing the original; or if that is impossible, of ascertaining fully the principal colors to be used. Owing to the shade of blackness with which the various colors " take," the photograph itself gives very little-or no indication on many points. Therefore, if practicable, secure a lock of the hair ; understand by an interview with the original or from the remembrance of others, the exact color of the eyes; kind of complexion ; defects or peculiarities of countenance and figure ; what alterations and corrections are desired ; colors for the drapery ; what sort of jewelry, et cetera. In short, remember that knowledge and a full understanding of the subject makes work pleasant and easy; and he who knows the road gets to his journey's end with more speed and certainty than he who, through ignorance or carelessness, gropes it out.
In accomplishing a photo-portrait, the student should keep in mind a union of the true and the beautiful. However correctly the camera may have attained the former, it has not intelligence to discriminate and perfect the latter. The student should derive from his subject a feeling peculiar to the work before him. He must not paint all alike, and should avoid the fault of mannerism. In painting children's pictures, for instance, he will rather feel at liberty to idealize them— to make them appear somewhat beautiful and picturesque whether they are so or not—and this license, to a certain degree, may be extended also to pictures of women, unless the photograph should render it impossible. With men's faces, on the contrary, the feeling should change; inspiration for the beautiful should give place to zeal for the delineation of vigor and strength—giving a true portrait, while portraying a distinct character.
Ayres, George B. Otto. How To Paint Photographs In Water Colors and In Oil. New York. 1898.
Elegant Woman. Unknown. Carte de Visite. Anonymous. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, Preston, Washington. 2009.