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Building a House - Necessity of Improving Yourself in the Art of Drawing


One thing astonished Paul, - the facility with which his cousin could express with a few strokes of his pencil what he wished to explain. His perspective sketches, above all, seemed to him marvellous; and our young architect began, on his part, to try to indicate on paper the forms he wished to master; but, to his great disappointment, he succeeded only in producing a mere medley of lines which was in comprehensible, even to himself, a quarter of an hour wards. Yet in drawing out his memoranda, to which his cousin attached importance, he could not but feel that the means employed by his chief would be very useful to him if he could acquire them.

One day, therefore, after having spent several hours at the works in endeavouring to get a clear idea, by sketching them, of the form of some worked stones, but without suc ceeding in obtaining a result even tolerably satisfactory, Paul went to his cousin's study, and said to him "What I have learned of linear drawing is evidently not enough to enable me to render on paper the forms which you are able to explain so readily by a sketch; I beg you therefore, cousin, to teach me how to set about representing clearly what I have before me, or what I wish to explain." "I like to see you so anxious to learn, Paul; indeed, this is half the battle, though only the half, and in fact the easier one. I shall not be able to teach you in eight days, nor even in six months, the art of drawing with facility either the objects you see, or those which you conceive in your brain; but I will give you the method you must follow; and with labour, - much labour and time, - you will arrive, if not at perfection, at least at clearness and precision. Drawing implies not mere seeing, but considering an object. All who are not blind, see; but how many are there who know how to see, or who in seeing reflect? Very few, certainly; because we are not habituated to this exefcise from childhood. All the higher orders of animals see as we do, since their eyes are very similar to ours; they have even the memory associated with vision, as they recognize the objects or the which they like or dread or of which they make their prey. But I do not think that animals acquire a notion of bodies or surfaces otherwise than by an instinctive faculty without the intervention of what we call reasoning. Many of our fellow-men do not see in any other way; but it is their fault, since they could reason. But that is not the question now. The following is the method I propose to you : "You know what triangles and squares are; you have studied elementary geometry, and you seem to me to be tolerably familiar with it, since you could evidently understand the plans, the sections, and even the projections of bodies on a vertical or horizontal plane; or else my sketches would not have been intelligible to you. I should wish you therefore to take some cards, and drawing to a scale on each of them the various faces of a stone you see worked, you out these surfaces with scissors, and with the help of strips of paper and paste you will join them, so as to represent one or two of these pieces of stone. The little model will thus become familiar to you; you will know how the surfaces are joined, and what are the angles they form. In the evening, by lamp-light, you will place these little models before you in every possible position, and copy them as they present themselves to your eyes, taking care to indicate by a dotted line the junction lines of the surfaces which you do not see. Stay, - here on

my table is a rhombohedron of wood, which, as you know and see, presents six similar and equal faces whose sides are equal, each of these faces consisting of two equilateral triangles united at their base. See (Fig. 37), I take this body between my fingers by its two vertices; if I show it to you in such a position that one of its faces is parallel to the plane of vision, the two others will present themselves obliquely (as at A); you see three faces therefore, but there are three others behind that are hidden from you. How would these present themselves if this body were trans parent? Just as indicated by the dotted lines. If I make the rhombohedron revolve between my fingers, so that two faces are perpendicular to the plane of vision, (as at B), two faces only will continue visible, two others will be hidden from me, and two follow the two lines a b, cd. Now, I present the rhombohedron so that none of its faces are parallel or perpendicular to the plane of vision, - thus (vide C.) Well, I shall still see three faces, but foreshortened - thrown out of shape by perspective; and the three others will be indicated by the dotted lines. In the evenings, therefore, make as many little models as you can, represent ing the stones you have seen at the works, and copy these little models in every position. Throw them at random on the table, several together, and copy what you see; mark what is hidden from you by a dotted or finer line. When you have practised this for a week, many difficulties will have been already conquered. And then for further advance." This method pleased Paul very much, and, without losing time, with the help of some of his memoranda, he began to construct a little model of one of the stones whose faces he had measured. It was the springer of an arch with a return face. He succeeded in making a tolerably good model in card-board, which he proudly displayed on the family table after dinner, and which he copied first on its under-bed, then as placed in various positions. He would have continued his work all night, so much was he fascinated with it, and so many interesting discoveries did it enable him to make, if at eleven o'clock Madame de Gandelau had not warned him that it was time to go to bed. Paul had pome trouble in getting to sleep, and his dreams presented to him nothing but card-board models of a very complicated description, which he endeavoured unsuccessfully to put together. So he got up rather late, and on entering his cousin's room, did not fail to attribute his tardy appearance to the bad night he had passed.

"Well,"said Eugene,"you have got the descriptive geometry fever; so much the better; it cannot be learned well unless you have a passion for it. We will work at it together when the frost suspends our building operations and the bad weather shuts us up here. An architect must be able to use descriptive geometry, as we spell correctly, - without having to think about it. Perspective must be absolutely familiar to him. Neither can be learned too soon; and it is only in early youth that these things can be acquired so thoroughly as to give us no trouble at any time to recall them, even if we should live a hundred years. You are a good swimmer; and if you fall into the water you have no need to remind yourself what move ments you must make to keep at the surface or direct your course : well, it is in this way you ought to know geometry and perspective; only you must give a little more time to practising this essential branch of our art than is required for learning to swim like a frog."

little, time, lines, paul and dotted