Monday, October 11, 2010


The spot where shapes come together are edges.  These come in many forms and those who have trained their eye to see use edges and edge control in their paintings.  These people paint the way the eye sees.  Our eyes focus in a unique selective way that no camera can duplicate.  Edges are the only visual tools we have to replicate how the eye works.

Each brush stroke creates edges on the fringes of the stroke.  It is the character of these edges that make the difference in the lyrical quality of the painting and its believability.  If we learn to see the edges in the subject we can use hard, soft, or intermediate transitions between colour shapes to create magic in our painting.  If we ignore the edges the painting will be flat and unconvincing.  Our eye is attracted to hard edges, everything would pull the eye all over the painting as opposed to having the eye go to where we wish it to go.

Here is a small cropping of a painting done at my daughter's wedding on Saturday.

Crop of Ishmael's Boats, Oil on Board

Have a look for hard edges, soft edges, lost edges, and others in between.  A lost edge occurs where one shape turns into another so gradually that the border cannot be defined.  Using these creates some mystery and invites the viewer to participate in exploring the painting and imagining what is there.  Edges are a vital tool for the painter as composer.  You create the star of the painting and subordinate her supporting actors.  It is your concept.  You decide on the melody of the painting.

In order to increase your sensitivity of edges and train your eye to see them consider the following points.

  • You often expect organic shapes such as facial wrinkles, folds in fabric, or a receding field of weeds.  Hard edges are associated with angular items such as a rock face or an architectural feature.
  • Shapes that are close in value or tone will appear to have a soft transition (edge).  Elements high is value or colour contrast are associated with (appear) hard edges.  In reality the edges in both cases may be the same.
  • The material of the item to be represented as a shape often has an implied type of edge.  Clouds, velvet, rocks are examples.  Man made stuff tends to be hard and nature soft.  Exceptions are always lurking.
  • Bright sunlight causes hard edges in spots like cast shadows.  Overcast days produce diffused light and this causes soft edges.
  • The presence of atmosphere softens edges.  Distant edges in a landscape tend to be soft.  The degree of softness will depend on the amount of atmosphere, dry or moist air and so forth.
  • To our eyes motion blurs items.  This blur is usually in the same direction.

I will do more on edges next time.

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