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Friday, October 7, 2011

The Role of Edges

An edge in a painting is like a pause between two musical phrases:  it marks the ending of one shape and the beginning of another. The two sides of any edge can be isolated from each other or transitioned into each other, depending upon how the artist has handled the painting of the edge itself.

Look at this little painting by Qiang Huang.

"Away From the Heat"     6' x 6"    Oil on

 Notice that edge B clearly differentiates its shape from the one adjoining it whereas edge A is diffused into its surrounding area.  But in edge C, the bottom of the shape completely disappears into its shadow.

Qiang has used here the three devices for handling edges--hard edges (B), soft edges (A) and lost edges (C).

Whereas hard edges bring shapes to an abrupt halt, calling our attention to them, soft and lost edges enable shapes and images to flow from one area of the painting to another. The soft edge makes a gentle transition, but in the lost edge, we don't see a break between where one shape begins and the other one ends. Look how Qiang has worked his edges in another little painting,

"Afternoon Tea"     9" x 12"    Oil on Canvas
Examine how he has painted the handle to the tea kettle.  By interrupting portions of the handle, losing its edges into the background rather than isolating them into one continuous shape with hard edges, Qiang has given a greater interest and unity to the image.

Here's a challenge for you:  Examine this little painting by Qiang and find all the lost edges, soft edges and hard edges. 
"Limes and Grapes"    6" x 6"    Oil on Board
 Now, look specifically at just the hard edges you found.  Notice how your eye migrates to them.  Next focus on the soft edges.  Notice how they create a transition from one area to another.  Finally, the lost edges.  Imagine how stilted the painting would be if these were clearly defined rather than being lost.

Our eyes want to participate, to become involved in paintings we view.  We want to be challenged, not spoon fed. When an artist uses just enough hard edges to bring us into the painting, then employs soft and lost edges, our eyes become involved.  We feel like we've been invited to become a part of what the painting is all about.


Deshmukh said...

Thank you for this informative post and the blog in general. Its always most educative. I have always admired Qiang Huang's work.

x said...

Thank you so much for your clear explanation of edges and their functions. I knew about such types of edges but found a little challenging to decide which ones to use and where. To date, yours is the best, easiest to follow and understand demonstration I've found. Cheers. Dominique