This is a read-only thread, the original thread can be found here.
Welcome to anyone who would like to join this paint-a-long thread in which we are studying edges – those hard-and-soft-and-lost-and-found ones or even leading and receding ones!
There really is no mystery to what these are – just edges of different tonal qualities and definition. By contrasting hard and soft we make a painting more interesting and also more realistic; we allow the eye to wander and rest, to see the obvious and to ‘fill in the gaps’ where things are ‘lost’. In life, as we focus on an object we see only impressions of other areas and shapes – shift focus and the hard and soft focus changes; we don’t ever see all around us in the same hard focus at the same time. Hence, lost and found, hard and soft.
Put an object, say a mug, against a background, add light (easier from one side) and study it.
You understand its shape, you know the object, but how much of it do you actually see clearly defined?
For example, this image is from JEFranz and in the RIL -
- Note how we understand the shape of each pot even though we cannot see a clearly defined edge all round. The light on the pots gives us enough information; the shadow sides are ‘lost’, either in another shape or in the background.
This little painting (acrylic inks) also explains this –
Tone is the element that makes edges soft or hard – lost or found.
Using computer software allows us to differentiate tone quite easily by changing an image to greyscale but the best practice is to use our eyes and SQUINT! Looking at an image/object/scene through half-closed eyes eliminates all unnecessary detail and allows us to see the contrasts in tone; a painting depends more on the distribution and correct use of tone than on almost any other element. Colour can be a personal choice but unless the tonal balance is right, the painting will not ‘work’.
In this illustration I have marked the soft, hard and subtle edges and then asked you how you would define another. Squint at it – is it hard and defined? soft and lost? Somewhere between the two?
A little exercise -
Colour, large scale version
This is an image by Jade Fox in the RIL and I’ve put it into greyscale – see if you can identify the kind of edges on bowl, fruit and leaves.
Next are two illustrations with contrasting light.
First a Still Life with Beer Mug and Fruit by Van Gogh
The lighting is fairly dark but drama is created by some hard edges contrasting with the majority of very soft and lost edges in most of the painting….
.. and just to prove it doesn’t all have to be gloomy to have different tonal contrast, here’s an image by She-She (from the RIL) of light against light, but still we have lovely tonal contrast.
Can you identify hard/soft.lost.found areas?
Of course, hard and soft, lost and found don’t only relate to Still Life – look at this painting by Emil Carlson from 1887 (I think) – of the lovely yellow flowers getting lost on the right – so soft! – but what an impact they make with the hard, ‘found’ edges on the left!
Hard edges can be light or dark – confusing?
Leading and receding edges:
Think of something coming towards you – a leaf perhaps, its leading edge if light will bring it forward; for maximum impact, set it against a darker background.
Receding parts of the same leaf would be darker to send them back and the back edge of a leaf might be against a lighter area behind.
Perhaps a leaf is curling towards you and then away near the point … the area closest to you, if made lightest part, will appear to come forward. The rest of the leaf would be darker (gradually perhaps) to the darkest area away from you.
Tones make it curve - just as they would with a cup/mug/vase etc.
Of course, you always must bear in mind the direction of the light source!
How can you make an edge soft, or lose it a bit, send it ‘back’? … here’s one way …
One more piece of ‘homework’ for you –
From the RIL, by backlash …….. (I think this arrangement looks like Snoopy!!!)
Are you ready to paint now?
This is the image for our P.A.L. and it’s also by Jade Fox
Higher resolution version
I would suggest you first SQUINT to sort out the tonal balance (or make it into greyscale) and then do one or more thumbnail size pen/pencil sketches to get your composition sorted correctly for your canvas/paper/card (especially important if you want to alter or crop the image). Sketches need only be 2x3” and can save a lot of grief!
If you would like to, do a slightly larger try-out in greyscale – just rough – to check your tones in paint … say about 4x6”?
Paint in your own style – you don’t have to go for realism, photorealism or hyperrealism!
It can be impressionistic, expressionistic or semi-abstract; change the colours if you wish BUT, the tonal distribution and balance must be there so we can see those hard/soft, lost/found edges!
As usual, post any and all stages of your work in this thread and explain if you can, how you’ve approached it, what pitfalls you’ve found – or, indeed, how easily it’s all come together!
There’s no rush, the thread will stay open as long as needed – and for newcomers, this is a HELP thread where we share our ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’ efforts!
As the thread won’t be a sticky, it will probably help if you subscribe to it so you will be kept up to date with any additions.
One other suggestion - the reference is biased towards reds - why not try a red background/base - any little un-painted spots will then blend in with the painting.
When you’re ready, paint! I do hope you enjoy the experience.