Part 3: Edges
In the two previous posts you learned a bit about temperature and value. This "educational post" is on the 3rd component of a good foundation in a painting…edges. Surprisingly, to me, I've gotten positive feedback on these posts. I thought they might be boring for you…I do strive to entertain. I'm glad the info is helpful in the enjoyment of art, as well as the creating.
So…edges! This is the important place in which two values meet each other in a painting. With this in mind, you can see in any painting that there are a multitude of edges. Most are very "soft" and the hues seem to blend into each other gently. This is easy on the eye. It's like the artist is saying, "there's nothing to see here; move along." (of course, in an Obi Wan Kenobi voice) The planes of a barn, the copse of trees, the petals of a rose all benefit from soft, blurred edges in an impressionistic representational painting.
There are edges so soft that they are called "lost edges." You might see this in the side of a house that disappears into the shadows or the edges of trees that blend into one another. This treatment gives a painting another dose of perspective, since the lost edges indicate distance and depth.
Here's another exercise for you: pick an object, a vase or lamp, something large enough to really focus on. Look at it steadily but begin to add the awareness of the surroundings. Without looking away from the vase you will see that the objects around it are out of focus…blurred. Soft edges. If you now shift your focus to something near the vase, that object now becomes clearer and the vase you had been looking at has the soft edges.
The clear object, the focal point, is best represented in a painting with the crispest edges, often only on one side or in one small area. These are called "hard edges." You will rarely see a hard edge on a soft subject like a face or baby or tomato. That would make the soft thing look like it was brittle or malformed. Some artists never use a completely hard edge; everything in their paintings are in varied degrees of softness. But a well-placed hard edge on a focal point does helps to tell the story of what the painting is about. It attracts the eye and says, "look here!" to the viewer.
When I paint now, thinking about edges, values and temperature are on my mind and, often, on my tongue as I talk myself through an afternoon's session. And, yes, I do talk to myself…a lot. A very well respected art teacher says it's a good thing!
Color temperature…that's hot!
Think of things that are chilly: snow, gray cloudy days, deep blue lakes, deep blue lips; you are on the right track for identifying color temperature.
This subject was fairly foreign to me when I started painting. I mean, I knew snow was cold and that blue usually meant cool, but it wasn't always clear to me why, nor how to utilize the knowledge to make a painting sing. And it's not only the hue of paint, but also the temperature of the light source in the painting. For example, the sunlight in Mexico was very warm (gah! this is confusing! By warm I do not mean it was making me sweat…I mean all the colors were saturated with warmth because of that big beautiful sun) A cloudy, winter day's light source is cool in comparison and will cool all the colors of your subject.
In Painting 101, we learn that cool colors recede and warm colors come forward. Since white (think clouds, snow) is cool, then making a background go back requires adding white to the color mixture. Look at a painting of mountains and see how the ranges are increasingly bluer and lighter as they fade into distance. Doesn't it give a 3-dimensional illusion? Doesn't it satisfy something in your mind about the authenticity of the subject?
But, like values, temperature is interpreted in the relationship of colors next to each other. A warm orange is going to really heat up next to a cool blue. A yellow that leans toward green will look even greener and cooler with a warm, orangey red next to it. So, once again, every brush stroke of paint requires the artist to be engaged, thinking, making informed decisions. (I am preaching to myself here!)
What happens when an unfortunate decision in color temperature is made; for example, a warm orange hillside behind a red barn? The viewer's brain becomes confused about what the focal point is and where the eye should travel through the scene and will probably lose interest and, alas!, wander off to the next painting in the gallery.
Values, temperature, edges...
I've been a traveling girl these past few weeks, which means sporadic hours at my easel, but it does not mean I have neglected my art education. A year or so ago I purchased e-ditions (I just made that word up!) of several years of the American Artist and Workshops magazines that I slowly read through when I'm away from the paints. One article that entranced me this time was by Daniel Gerhartz, circa 2005, about creating the illusion of form and light on the 2-dimensional canvas. Three key elements: relative value, color temperature, and edge treatment are the tools to make it happen.
As simple as those words sound, understanding the concepts and applying them is like learning to speak a new language fluently. I mean, I can order a beer in Mexico, but I pretty much massacre the Spanish. Fortunately, nobody cares too much. Ay carumba.
Value is the relationship of darks and lights on the canvas. The accuracy of your subject depends on how the values relate to each other. Everyone knows that shadows are dark, right? The artist has to determine how dark to make them in relation to, say, the shadowed side of the vase she's painting. Gerhartz says that each brushstroke of paint must be consciously measured with what is already on the canvas. How many times have I casually slapped paint onto my canvas without thought or understanding and then struggled to bring the subject to life!
Here's an exercise for you: take one of your photos and edit it to black and white…easy to do on a smart phone or tablet…instead of seeing color, you will see value: dark, medium, light. And your brain will interpret it as form. You will see depth and shape; perhaps even recognition of what exactly the subject is.
Sounds like WonderWoman's bff, right? Somehow this crazy art journey has taken an odd little turn.
Our local Monthaven Art Society welcomed me onto the board of directors in March and my recently acquired website skills put me in the running for working on our group's website. It has been in very capable hands until now, but it was time for someone else to take over the job. I was invited to give it a try.
Now, to be clear…the web host, Weebly, that I use here on my own website is pretty much idiot-proof: reasonable amount of options, very easy to navigate, only a minimal learning curve. Kind of the Shutterfly of website builders (if you are a photo book maker you will understand the comparison.)
The Monthaven site host is a little more, well, more than a little more, challenging. And it's more fussy. And I am not a pro. But I'm trying, so there's that. As long as things go along smoothly, I like this new job, but some days I have to look on the bright side and see it as a way to exercise my brain….like learning a foreign language. Very foreign. Bantu.
Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...