Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yet more about edges

Here's a recent painting of mine. I did this next to the historic' Fort Moultrie near Charleston South Carolina. Fort Moultrie was bombarded in both the revolutionary and the civil wars. I will use this painting to show you some softened edges. Below is a detail of the sky.

There are several different types of edges in this passage. The first and most obvious is the clouds at the top of the detail. I pulled them together as I painted them, with the same large bristle brush . I put them into the wet sky so the whole thing went down in one go. If it had not all been done at once I would have been unable to soften the clouds into the sky. Sometimes people call this wet into wet. I don't, because when I hear that I think of "method" painters . The ones with their books at the local craft supply barn.

The second set of soft edges are created by dragging the tops of the stunted trees up over the sky. Rather than blending the two together with a brush, I let the color break over the sky note below it, to represent the fine haze of branches there. I also threw some sky color into the mixture I used to do this. Thay way the two notes were not so different. They shared a common element and were close together in value.

I have blurred the ocean and the sky together at the horizon to get that to recede.

There are other edge games going on in here also. In the grass I am throwing different colors of the same value over one another giving in effect soft edges. I am also throwing in real hard edges there. I have for instance put a dark shadow under that bush and then pulled the grass up over it and left it as a crisp accent stroke.

Lastly if you look at the upper right hand corner of that bush you will see I have "loaded" the paint there with my palette knife. That gives me a super hard edge to serve as a contrast to my soft edges. I want a bone or two in there. If I used only soft edges I would get a weak kind of painting. Although soft paintings can look very real they can also look vapid, insipid, noncommittal, fluffy poodle like and indecisive. You don't want that. Dynamic paintings contain a variety of edges.

With every note I lay on the canvas I ask myself a list of questions. I will give you that in a later post. But one of the questions on it is." What about the edge?" If the edge is not right the brushstroke is not right. I consider my edges with every stroke I lay on a painting, just like I do color and value. If you handle your edges on the" fly" it becomes automatic and you get the edge right while the passage is still wet. An overly hard edge in a passage can command so much attention that you see it, instead of another fault lurking nearby. When you soften that edge you become aware of the concealed problem, and can fix that.

I guess I will say it one more time just to make sure you have the concept because it is crucial.



See you all tomorrow.,


Unknown said...

good learning alot....f

janice skivington said...

I have just discovered your blog via Frank Ordaz!
Oh woe is me, I sat down in front of my computer with a cup of coffee just intending to surf a bit, and check up on old Frank. Now, I will run out of hot coffee and will be sitting here for hours reading all your excellent posts, taking notes, and absorbing ALL this information. I just just read all you have to say about edges and I learned so much. You are a great communicator as well as a fine painter. Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge. Oh and I loved the post about cheerleaders and downloaders.

JAMES A. COOK said...

Can edges be determined by just the placement of two different values side by side? the more these values are the same the more they will create a soft edge? TRUE?
Or is the soft or hard edge always in the brush stroke.


Jesse said...

That is great! It's very true.
And looking very hard at each area of your subject can distort it, because we don't see a whole scene in well focused sections, we see it as a whole.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The stems of my rose bushes are starting to green up.I also have some tiny leaves on my lilacs.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you so much. I love to hear that people are reading the blog. It is a ridiculous amount of work.Cheerleaders and downloaders, oops I forgot the vampires!

Stapleton Kearns said...

You are correct and that is in fact the next post.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Hard edges are not only the result of seeing piecemeal,they also force that onto the viewer.

Unknown said...

You mentioned long ago that you usually only use flats. Do you use this to create soft edges with whisper-soft strokes, or are you resorting to a fan brush, etc? I think I know the answer to this one...

Post on good teacher.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't own a fan brush. They are useful sometimes though. The badger haired ones have a cool old timey name. They are called a fitch.

Todd Bonita said...

Another informative post and another eureka moment for me personally..thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I see you are also in New Hampshire.
Live free or die!

Gia aka Miato! said...

Thanks to the guys at I've found about these great and well written treatises about edges. Thanks for sharing all this knowledge with the lot of us aspiring artists and illustrators. I'll apply these principles conciously in my next digital painting.

I have a picture I'd like to get critiqued in the use of edges. You can find it here:
I feel that unconsciously I designed some of the edges to suit my purposes, even if the concept of edges wasn't deep at the moment I worked on it. For me the whole edges things is pretty new, since I'm mostly selftaught. And that's why resources like those you're offering are geats for people like me.

Thanks In advance for your words on it!