out, with marvellous ease, the right effects of the landscape. The other pupils would come and stand behind him, to see and hear his clear instructions carried into actual practice on the work before him. He often illustrated his little special lessons by his stores of instructive and interesting anecdotes, which no doubt helped to rivet his practice all the deeper into their minds. Thus the Nasmyth classes soon became the fashion. In many cases both mothers and daughters might be seen at work together in that delightful painting-room. I have occasionally met with some of them in after years, who referred to those pleasant hours as among the most delightful they had ever spent.

These classes were continued for many years. In the meantime my sisters' diligence and constant practice enabled them in course of time to exhibit their works in the fine art exhibitions of Edinburgh. Each had her own individuality of style and manner, by which their several works were easily distinguished from each other. Indeed, whoever works after Nature will have a style of their own. They all continued the practice of oil painting until an advanced age. The average duration of their lives was about seventy- eight.

There was one point which my father diligently impressed upon his pupils, and that was the felicity and the happiness attendant upon pencil drawing. He was a master of the pencil, and in his off-hand sketches communicated his ideas to others in a way that mere words could never have done. It was his Graphic Language. A few strokes of the pencil can convey ideas which quires of writing would fail to impart. This is one of the most valuable gifts which a man who has to do with practical subjects can possess. "The language of the pencil" is a truly universal one, especially in communicating ideas which have reference to material forms. And yet it is in a great measure neglected in our modern system of education.

The language of the tongue is often used to disguise our thoughts, whereas the language of the pencil is clear and explicit. Who that possesses this language can fail to look back with pleasure on the course of a journey illustrated by pencil drawings? They bring back to you the landscapes you have seen, the old streets, the pointed gables, the entrances to the old churches, even the bits of tracery, with a vividness of association such as mere words could never convey. Thus, looking at an old sketch-book brings back to you the recollection of a tour, however varied, and you virtually make the journey over again with its picturesque and beautiful associations. On many a fine summer's day did my sisters make a picnic excursion into the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. They were accompanied by their pupils, sketch-book and pencil in hand. As I have already said, there is no such scenery near any city that I know of. Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, Duddingston Loch, the Braid Hills, Craigmillar Castle, Hawthornden, Roslin, Habbie's How, and the many valleys and rifts in the Pentlands, with Edinburgh and its Castle in the distance; or the scenery by the sea-shore, all round the coast from Newhaven to Gullane and North Berwick Law.

The excursionists came home laden with sketches. I have still by me a multitude of these graphic records made by my sisters. Each sketch, however slight, strikes the keynote, as it were, to many happy recollections of the circumstances, and the persons who were present at the time it was made. I know not of any such effective stimulant to the recollection of past events as these graphic memoranda. Written words may be forgotten, but these slight pencil recollections imprint themselves on the mind with a force that can never be effaced. Everything that occurred at the time rises up as fresh in the memory as if hours and not years had passed since then. They bring to the mind's eye many dear ones who have passed away, and remind us that we too must follow them.

It is much to be regretted that this valuable art of graphic memoranda is not more generally practised. It is not merely a most valuable help to the memory, but it educates the eye and the hand, and enables us to cultivate the faculty of definite observation. This is one of the most valuable accomplishments that I know of, being the means of storing up ideas, and not mere words, in the mental recollection of both men and women.

Before I proceed to record the recollections of my own life, I wish to say something about my eldest brother Patrick, the well-known landscape painter. He was twenty-one years older than myself! My father was his best and almost his only instructor. At a very early age he manifested a decided taste for drawing

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.