Quotes from The Artistic Anatomy of Trees Their Structure & Treatment in Painting with 515 illustrations by Rex Vicat Cole. This Dover edition, first published in 1965, is an unabridged and unaltered republication of the work first published by Seeley, Service & Co., Ltd., London, in 1915.

page 64.  “A great space of indefinite form can be balanced by a small distinct one.  This we notice when a dabchick swims in front of a great bed of Withies.  Some would say this happens because the dabchick is alive and lively, therefore more interesting than the Withies, but a lump of wood really answers the purpose equally well.”

In order to understand the above quote I had to look up the meaning of dabchick and Withies.

dabchick …. any of the various small grebes, especially the little grebe.  Origin: 1565 –75 earlier dapchick cf. doppened moorhen (lit. dipping duck)

grebe …. any diving bird of the family Podicipedidae, related to the loons, but having a rudimentary tail and lobate rather than webbed toes.

Withies … a willow.  a pliable branch or twig, esp. a withe ( a willow twig or osier (any of various willows, as the red osier, having tough, flexible twigs or branches that are used for wickerwork.  any of various North American Dogwoods.))

page 94. “One would not wish to neglect the use of full vigorous curves that miss the tameness of the geometric circle; for they are the very embodiment of movement, life, and excitement.  Wind-driven clouds with their fulness of form bellying like a sail to leeward and concave to windward teach us this; and vigour of growth is often expressed by similar lines in foliage, and is infinitely preferable to the look of meanness assumed in a circular line pared down to gentility.”

pages 108 & 109. “There is a peculiar attraction in those young stems that, after some length of vertical line, make a wriggle and continue their former course; the halt in the undemonstrative straightness of the line piques our curiosity.  It is one of the useful accidents in nature, of minor importance, that should not be forgotten in the uninspiring atmosphere of the studio; with it rank the amusing and highly decorative loops, knots, and spirals of the clinging ivy and honeysuckle.  the custom of pegging down the half-severed Ash and Beech saplings to form a hedgerow is productive of weird curves and tortuous bends, while their intermixing of roots and new-formed shoots create a fantasy out of the commonplace well worthy of consideration.”

An Exercise:  page 119:

“Facility in matching colours correctly should coincide with the acquirement of correct drawing.  These two together should be the preliminary training for the next step – that of painting in good schemes of colour and drawing in expressive sets of lines.  If the patience of the student would withstand such a test, I would like him to cut out from a piece of neutral grey paper some targets, and on each successively place a bull-s-eye of black, white, orange, blue, red, and emerald green, noting in each case how the grey target seemed to become in turn a light grey, dark-grey, blue-grey, yellow-grey, green-grey, and red-grey, and observing that none of the greys were identical with the piece of paper from which they targets were cut.  This done, he should turn his back on them, and with his paints repeat from memory each grey.  Surely such an exercise would profit him more than elaborating an already superfine stipple on his drawing from the antique.”

An Exercise: page 132: How moonlight effects colours.

“I have noticed bright pale yellow flowers such as Evening Primroses easily distinguishable from white flowers at a distance of thirty fee, though some intensely blue flowers were invisible and the colour of pale pink roses could only just be seen.”

“It might be well to take all the colours of the palette (as they would be easy to refer to) and set patches of them on a board one moonlight night, and note the difference in the intensity of colour and tone in each.”

page 128. “Ruskin, in one of his tirades against the old masters of landscpe, attacks Salvator Rosa for letting stiff boughs bend before a storm, and for my part I can listen peacefully to this edict; but students – to read Ruskin with profit – require as much intelligence in sifting chaff from grain as he showed in his writing.  Ruskin should be read for the pleasure derived from style in writing, and for the bias for good that will be gained from any teaching in which sincere homage and adoration of nature is the prevailing note.  Modern Painters makes one think but the first use of the thoughts should be to analyse and debate on the author’s dogmas and contentions.

page 149. Quoting Sir Joshua Reynolds in the introduction to Part II – The Anatomy of a Tree

“Every object which pleases must give us pleasure upon some certain principles; but as the objects of pleasure are almost infinite so their principles vary without end, and every man finds them out, not by felicity or successful hazard, but by care and sagacity.”


“It is indisputably  evident that a great part of every man’s life must be employed in collecting materials for the exercise of genius.  Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory; nothing can come of nothing; he who has laid up no materials can produce no combinations.”

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