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LESSONS ON DELINEATION OF FORM.
BY GEORGE WALLIS, LATE HEAD MASTER OF THE MANCHESTER
SCHOOL OF DESIGN.
“The discipline of the hand and eye in early childhood is, probably, one of the most important steps in the work of education. It has, however, hitherto been deemed of too secondary a character to receive any large amount of attention, and though not altogether neglected, has not been carried out in that systematic manner which is considered the best guarantee for good and sure results.
That this early discipline of the hand and eye in the delineation of simple forms,-geometric and natural,—would have a marked effect on the
progress of the pupil when learning to write is no new idea. Many intelligent artists have taught their children to draw simple objects, long before allowing them to
learn to write, and this has been attended with the best results as regards their future progress, both in writing and drawing.
Good writing is as essentially dependent upon good elementary lines, as good drawing. The difference,
any, arises rather in the degree to which the power of drawing those elementary lines is required than in any positive distinction between the linear bases of the two arts.
All forms are composed of two simple lines, right lines or curves.
The forms of letters used in writing come, of course, under this category, and as such are dependent upon the same general principles and laws which apply to the delineation of all other objects. The positive application of these principles in this work will, if rightly understood and properly used, achieve two great objects in education, - lay the foundation of a power to DRAW, whilst disciplining the hand and eye in the requisite elementary practice of linear construction as applied to WRITING.
No one in the present day doubts the capacity of every properly constituted child to learn to write, whilst strange to say, the majority of persons doubt the power of every one to learn to draw, except by special endowment. This is a great fallacy. Nine out of every ten children attempt to draw in some way; but being allowed to proceed undirected and unheeded, it is only the few who by a little perseverance are eventually enabled to arrive at something like a reasonable degree of skill in the art of delineation. These are instantly deemed to be endowed with genius, as it is called, for art, and then comes special education to confirm the opinion.
In maintaining, however, that all children have a certain amount of capacity for drawing, and that that capacity may be cultivated whilst teaching the elements of writing, it is by no means intended to assert that all have a talent for the practice of art in its popular acceptation. It is only intended to enunciate that all, or nearly all, have the capacity to learn the art of delineating simple forms, equally with the capacity for learning to write, and that properly directed, the former capacity may be made useful in the every day pursuits of life, to a degree almost equal with the latter.
There are few persons who have not on some occasions felt, how inadequate language, written or spoken, is to describe the simplest article; although, at such times, a few judiciously disposed lines would have at once made the object intended to be described, palpable to the perceptions of others, and given them an idea, or a true likeness of that, of which otherwise they would scarcely have had a notion.
The objects proposed in this work are two-fold. First,—to lay the foundation by introducing exercises in simple lines and geometric forms, for the successful study of the art of writing: and secondly,—to promote the education of such powers of delineation as the child may possess, to be afterwards cultivated in the study of the art of drawing; and, in my opinion, the Lessons here introduced are well calculated to effect both these objects.”
Preparatory Lesson on FORM.
Mr. Foster has very judiciously remarked in his work on “Penmanship,"* that “it would be highly desirable if children could be thoroughly instructed in the forms and proportions of letters before undertaking to execute them on paper;" and in a very useful publication, supposed to be written by Dr. or Miss Mayo, it is observed, “ that the form of objects is one of the points which readily strikes the attention of children," and " it is of importance to develop the idea of form thus vaguely existing in the infant mind,"t and again, it is said, in the same work, " the imitating of superficial forms upon the slate should be much encouraged by the teacher, for besides the accurate perception of these forms which it is of importance the children should gain, there
* Penmanship Illustrated, p. 28. Published by Law, Fleet-street. † Model Lessons for Infant Schools, Part II, p. 133. Ibid. p. 143.