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[Side note: _Relation_]
A chief principle in all decorative design and treatment is that of Relation. If the s.p.a.ce to be ornamented be a book-page the design and treatment must be such as to harmonize with the printing. The type must be considered as an element in the design, and, as the effect of a page of type is broad and uniformly flat, the ornament must be made to count as broad and flat likewise. The same principle holds equally in mural decoration. There the design ought to be subordinate to the general effect of the architecture. The wall is not to be considered merely as a convenient place on which to plaster a picture, its structural purpose must be regarded, and this cannot be expressed if the design or treatment be purely pictorial--if vague perspective distances and strong foreground accents be used without symmetry or order, except that order which governs itself alone. In other words, the decoration must be organic.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 62 ALFRED G. JONES]
[Side note: _Cla.s.ses of Decorative Design_]
Decorative ill.u.s.trations may be broadly cla.s.sified under three heads as follows: First, those wherein the composition and the treatment are both conventional, as, for example, in the ex-libris by Mr. A. G. Jones, Fig. 62. Second, where the composition is naturalistic, and the treatment only is conventional, as in Mr.
Frost's design. Third, where the composition is decorative but not conventional, and the treatment is semi-natural, as in the drawing by Mr. Walter Appleton Clark, Fig. 63. (The latter subject is of such a character as to lend itself without convention to a decorative effect; and, although the figure is modeled as in a pictorial ill.u.s.tration, the organic lines are so emphasized throughout as to preserve the decorative character, and the whole keeps its place on the page.) Under this third head would be included those subjects of a pictorial nature whose composition and values are such as to make them reconcilable to a decorative use by means of borders or very defined edges, as in the ill.u.s.tration by Mr.
A. Campbell Cross, Fig. 64.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 63 W. APPLETON CLARK]
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 64 A. CAMPBELL CROSS]
[Side note: _The Decorative Outline_]
Another essential characteristic of decorative drawing is the emphasized Outline. This may be heavy or delicate, according to the nature of the subject or individual taste. The designs by Mr. W. Nicholson and Mr. Selwyn Image, for instance, are drawn with a fatness of outline not to be obtained with anything but a brush; while the outlines of M. Boutet de Monvel, marked as they are, are evidently the work of a more than usually fine pen. In each case, however, everything is in keeping with the scale of the outline adopted, so that this always retains its proper emphasis. The decorative outline should never be broken, but should be kept firm, positive, and uniform. It may be heavy, and yet be rich and feeling, as may be seen in the Mucha design, Fig.65. Generally speaking, the line ought not to be made with a nervous stroke, but rather with a slow, deliberate drag. The natural wavering of the hand need occasion no anxiety, and, indeed, it is often more helpful to the line than otherwise.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 65 MUCHA]
Perhaps there is no more difficult thing to do well than to model the figure while still preserving the decorative outline. Several examples of the skilful accomplishment of this problem are ill.u.s.trated here. Observe, for instance, how in the quaint Durer-like design by Mr. Howard Pyle, Fig. 66, the edges of the drapery-folds are emphasized in the shadow by keeping them white, and see how wonderfully effective the result is. The same device is also to be noticed in the book-plate design by Mr. A. G. Jones, Fig. 62, as well as in the more conventional treatment of the black figure in the Bradley poster, Fig. 67.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 66 HOWARD PYLE]
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 67 WILL H. BRADLEY
[Side note: _Color_]
In the rendering of decorative subjects, the Color should be, as much as possible, designed. Whereas a poster, which is made with a view to its entire effect being grasped at once, may be rendered in flat ma.s.ses of color, the head- or tail-piece for a decorative book-page should be worked out in more detail, and the design should be finer and more varied in color. The more the color is attained by means of pattern, instead of by mere irresponsible lines, the more decorative is the result. Observe the color-making by pattern in the book-plate by Mr. P. J. Billinghurst, Fig. 68. A great variety of textures may be obtained by means of varied patterns without affecting the breadth of the color-scheme. This may be noticed in the design last mentioned, in which the textures are extremely well rendered, as well as in the poster design by Mr. Bradley for the _Chap-Book_, just referred to.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 68 P. J. BILLINGHURST]
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 69 "BEGGARSTAFF BROTHERS"]
The color-scheme ought to be simple and broad. No set rules can be laid down to govern its disposition, which must always have reference to the whole design. The importance of employing such a broad and simple scheme in decorative drawing needs no better argument than the effective poster design by the "Beggarstaff Brothers,"
Fig. 69, and that by Mr. Penfield, Fig.70. Of course the more conventional the design the less regard need be paid to anything like a logical disposition of color. A figure may be set against a black landscape with white trees without fear of criticism from reasonable people, provided it looks effective there.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 70 EDWARD PENFIELD]
[Side note: _Modern Decorative Draughtsmen_]
A word or two, in conclusion, concerning some of the modern decorative draughtsmen. Of those who work in the sixteenth century manner, Mr. Howard Pyle is unquestionably the superior technician. His line, masterly in its sureness, is rich and charged with feeling.
Mr. H. Ospovat, one of the younger group of English decorators, has also a charming technique, rather freer than that of Mr. Pyle, and yet reminding one of it. Mr. Louis Rhead is another of the same school, whose designs are deserving of study. The example of his work shown in Fig. 71--excellent both in color and in drawing--is one of his earlier designs. Mr. J. W. Simpson, in the book-plate, Fig. 72, shows the broadest possible decorative method; a method which, while too broad for anything but a poster or a book-label, is just what the student should aim at being able to attain.
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 71 LOUIS J. RHEAD]
[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 72 J. W. SIMPSON]
Some of those decorators whose work shows a j.a.panese influence have a most exquisite method. Of these, that remarkable draughtsman, M.
Boutet de Monvel, easily takes the first place. Those who have had the good fortune to see his original drawings will not easily forget the delicate beauty of outline nor the wonderfully tender coloring which distinguishes them. Mr. Maxfield Parrish is another masterly decorator who is noted for his free use of j.a.panese precedent as well as for the resourcefulness of his technique. The drawings of Mr. Henry McCarter, too, executed as they are in pure line, are especially valuable to the student of the pen. In respect both of the design and treatment of decorative subjects, the work of the late Aubrey Beardsley is more individual than that of any other modern draughtsman. That of our own clever and eccentric Bradley, while very clearly confessing its obligations, has yet a distinctive character of its own. The work of the two latter draughts men, however, is not to be recommended to the unsophisticated beginner for imitation, for it is likely to be more harmful than otherwise.
Nevertheless, by steering clear of the grotesque conventions with which they treat the human figure, by carefully avoiding the intense blacks in which a great deal of their work abounds, and by generally maintaining a healthy condition of mind, much is to be learned from a study of their peculiar methods.