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Old 12-17-2001, 01:09 AM   #1
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Edges




Because of the importance of edges in painting, and as the subject is woven thorough many other topics, Cynthia suggested a separate thread. I thought I would take a stab at starting out a general discussion, so please embellish.

Edges occur wherever shapes meet, whether between hair and background, ear and cheek, collar and throat. The painter's ability to manage edges effectively is, in my view, often a key element that differentiates the amateur from the accomplished painter.

Edges in a painting serve two important functions. First, they punctuate the path a viewer's eye takes as it scans your canvas. Sharp edges, along with elements like strong contrast, and saturated or discordant color, attract the viewer's eye like magnets.

Second, edges support your center of interest, the concept underlying the reason you picked up the brush to begin with. Used with purpose, edges of varying sharpness will force your viewer to see what you want him to see. Keeping your very sharpest edges near your focal point will reinforce it.

Edges can be either hard or soft, or lost, or found.

Hard edges are usually easy to find in places where light and shadow meet crisply, as in a strong cast shadow; where light and dark shapes meet, such as a white cuff against a dark sleeve; or where textures are smooth or metallic, to name a few.

Soft edges can be readily found where an object has a form (as opposed to a cast) shadow; where textures are fuzzy or uneven, like the silhouette or edges of hair, or folds in a fabric like mohair, as compared to pressed linen.

Edges become lost when adjacent shapes are similar in value, especially so when they are similar in both value and hue. They are found again when the value or color of one of the shapes changes.

When you paint from life it is far easier to see edges than when you paint from photos. From life, look at your center of interest, and close your eyes. You will be left with an impression of where the edges are most pronounced. Make judgements about the relative sharpness of other edges, as you are looking at your center of interest.

Find the edge which will be the sharpest in your painting, as well as the edge that is the softest, without becoming completely lost. Then you can compare every other edge you paint to the these two "bookends".

You cannot rely on photographs to help you with edges, because everything in focus will have an equally sharp edge. Paintings without edge differentiation very quickly bore viewers.

NOTE: Of all the discussions I have ever read on edges, none, in my opinion, is more thoughtful nor complete than Richard Schmid's text in "Alla Prima" (pages 91-110). I would also add that it is difficult to find better examples of masterful edge use than shown in his work. You can see his on line gallery at www.richardschmid.com.

As I find other examples, I will edit this post or add a new one.

Chris
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Old 12-17-2001, 05:38 PM   #2
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Here is an example of how different types of edges contirbute to the overall piece. I have picked out several ..
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Old 12-18-2001, 07:47 PM   #3
Steve Moppert Steve Moppert is offline
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Chris,

Great post on edges, they are so important! Richard Schmid is one of the featured artists in the January 2002 issue of Southwest Art magazine.

Steve
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Old 12-19-2001, 12:47 AM   #4
Cynthia Daniel Cynthia Daniel is offline
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Chris,

Thank you so very much for the hard work you put into fulfilling my request for a post on edges. It was a subject that has been discussed only briefly here and there in the forum. It kept nagging at me that this very important subject had yet to be given the position it deserved.
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Old 12-19-2001, 11:45 AM   #5
Jim Riley Jim Riley is offline
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Chris,

Good job of covering the question of hard and lost edges. And I agreed with your reference to Schmid's book and the fine examples found within of great edge treatment.

I have attached a water color demo that painted for a figure/portrait class several years ago with the hope of negating the tendency for my near beginner group to outline figures/faces, make all flesh the same hue with light and dark values, and to smooth out each and every brush stroke. Fortunately the likeness was also good and it had some favorable effect on the group. I emphasised that colors, brush strokes, and colors could be exaggerated and even somewhat arbitrary and might make their paintings more interesting without sacrificing likeness.
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Old 01-16-2002, 06:44 PM   #6
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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I know of a few artists; ones that some of you have spoken of favorably herein, that will work to determine which ONE edge will be hard in a painting, especially a small head. One and only one...only one can be the "most-est"!(sic); then all others are to some degree softer. The effect is pretty awesome.
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Old 04-11-2002, 08:43 AM   #7
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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You can also find something about edges here:
http://forum.portraitartist.com/show...=3522#post3522
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Old 04-23-2002, 03:46 PM   #8
Marta Prime Marta Prime is offline
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I ran across an art auction at one of our local hotels this weekend. The paintings were wonderful re-creations of many famous paintings. I spent a lot of time examining them up close. Most were quite large and sitting on the floor so I could really see them well. I was really noticing how they handled the edges on these....so soft, and they just melted into the background. I do Ok on edges within the painting, where the halftones meet, etc, but I would like my outer edges to be softer, especially when a dark background is used. I see a lot of talk about making edges soft, but no technique that is devulged to make this happen. When I try to soften edges with thinner, they bleed into the dark background. Right now it is trial and error to get the edges right. Anyone care to elaborate on how they do this? I would really appreciate information on this.
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Old 04-23-2002, 06:18 PM   #9
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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Here is is an illustration borrowed from Ingres to illustrate a "soft" edge"

If you were going to soften the following edges (even more and on a dry surface yet!) this is how you would do it...

Get the outside edge of the leg wet with thick paint (match exactly the color of the paint underneath).

Then get the background right next to the leg wet with thick paint (match exactly the color of the paint underneath).

Blend the two edges. In this case, vertical strokes would probably work the best.

It is even easier to get a soft edge when you paint a la prima, because everything is wet and blends easily.

This is a very important principle in painting: THERE ARE NO HARD EDGES IN NATURE!
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Old 04-24-2002, 06:30 AM   #10
Sandy Barnes Sandy Barnes is offline
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While at the bookstore yesterday I saw a North Light book on Edges. The exact title and author escapes me but it looked informative. As you know all North Light books have plenty of demonstrations and explanations for us "less-seasoned" artists.
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