This is a Vermeer called The Girl in the Red Hat. This is of course a really great little head.
Vermeer was a master of edges and we can learn a lot from him. I chose Vermeer because he
often uses a great number of very soft edges.
I am sorry this post published late today. Other people were bad. Actually sometimes blogger screws up the html and the type comes out in sizes I don't want after I use large type to highlight a thought. I am not good enough at working in html to fix it, although I do waste valuable daylight to trying. So today if the type sizees are screwed up I apologize. When my wife gets the time, I will turn her loose on the html and she will buff it up . Pretend its the large print edition.
I can think of four different purposes served by controlling your edges. They are;
- Expression of the turning edge away from the viewer.This also includes declaring variations in the drawing that occur on that turning edge, such as we saw with that malar bone in yesterdays post.
- Pushing forms back or pulling them forward to establish their position relative to the other forms surrounding them.
- Directing the viewers attention through our painting. That is, subordinating a less important passage by using a soft series of edges, to an area you wish to be dominant, where you will use a harder edge.
- Obtaining rhythm and variety throughout a painting by making your edges part of your design machinery.
You can not "observe" fine handling of edges into your painting. You must, observe, think and then decide, how you will handle each edge.
This whole head is a dance of hard and soft and lost and found edges. Let me point a few of those out to you. I know I did this yesterday but I would like to run another example by you. I think after this you will look for handling of edges in paintings when you see them . Here we go:
At point A we have the collar, a hard edge. It draws the eye there. It is the point from which the head launches and is our starting point for reading it. The hard edge here also gives a counterbalance to the face over on the right. Above it at B, the hair disappears into the background. The hair and the back of the head is secondary to the face so it is soft pedaled, it also needs to give the idea of its going around, out of our vision.
Point C above that, has, I think, the same purpose as the edge at A that is, it is a sort of accent. That of course is only part of its purpose. The edges if all soft would give a flaccid look to the painting so you have to get some hard ones in somewhere. A painting should be an artistic arrangement of hard and soft edges. An arrangement deliberately made by controlling and not merely observing the edges in nature.
Below D where it is soft, Vermeer hardens the edge up as it nears the ear and throws a hard edge where the jaw sits proud in front of the neck. The hard edge pulls it forward and separates it from the neck behind. As the line slides down to E he softens the jawline where it and the neck merge together softly.
Lastly at F, notice this whole passage is soft except for the hard edge on the right side of the pupil. That's where he wants you to look. It is the lead player on the stage which is the eye. Not everybody on the stage can be the star, some must be relegated to a supporting role. If everything in a passage, or an entire picture is handled with equal attention you get a busy and hard to perceive painting, lacking unity, as each diverse part calls for our attention over its neighbor.
More tomorrow on edges.