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Expression and a Hierarchy of Edges

Dear <<First Name>>,

When I am concerned with the effectiveness of edge quality, it is because I am striving to make a painting feel more true to the way I see.
The study of edges plays a big role in the expression of form in a painting, but it is not the complete answer.  Instead, it is a piece of the puzzle that is the wondrous adventure of painting realistically.
There are many ways to study edges and to improve your skill in painting them.   My way of learning about them is to study paintings I admire and look at the edges in these paintings to see how they are treated.  I have also classified the different edges found in paintings and established a visual hierarchy, from the sharpest to the most subtle.
I personally categorize edges into four groups.
  1. Rough or Jagged edges are visually the strongest edge quality in that the human eye notices them the most
  2. Smooth/Hard edges are visually the next strongest edge, particularly when value contrast is extreme.
  3. Blended or Melting edges are visually neutral, in that they are neither strong or weak;  they just exist.
  4. Lost edges are virtually invisible in a painting; with these edges, the contour line of an object is totally obliterated in order to meld with the adjacent value and color notes. (Not in hierarchy grid below, because there is not distinguishing difference and would be seen as a solid box of value).
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This hierarchy is not a set-in-stone categorization of edge types, but more of a guideline to consider, because you can combine edge qualities.  For example, some jagged edges can shift from hard, to soft and melting, to lost.  Flowers do this all the time. 
The trick is to not overdo your edges, and by this I mean that you need to use a variety of edges along the contour of the objects.
A uniform and unrelieved contour is visually monotonous and uninteresting. The contour of a single object can shift several times within a painting. This variety found in edges tricks the perception of the viewer into recognizing and feeling the sense of space in a painting. And this is because edge variety mimics the way we actually see.  We do not see everything in clear focus at once.  Instead, only one area of our field of vision is in focus at a time, while all other areas fade out of focus to varying degrees.
A favorite exercise I like to do is to look at a favorite painting and identify within that painting the four types of edges. 

Years ago when I was in an exhibition looking at a Titian painting I was struck by the variety of edges he used. Still to this day, when I have a strong horizontal line in my composition, I will think of how he subdued the horizon line of the sea in some areas, yet in other areas he reinforced the visual horizon.  I try to treat my own horizon line in the same way.
Venus Anadyomene by Titian
This entire painting is a masterful expression of form and space where edge quality plays an important role.

Today, I want you to think about edge quality and how you can vary a contour in the painting you are currently working on.

With warm regards,


Two Openings are available in the
Winter Term Semi-Private Art Lessons
in my Home Studio

Winter term starts Saturday, January 6th at 9:30am
To learn more please visit the webpage, and feel free to email me with any questions.

Group Classes at Great Falls, VA

Winter term starts Wednesday, January 24th

Floral Still Life with Oils

with Elizabeth Floyd
Wednesdays 2-5pm

Painting with Oils
with Elizabeth Floyd
Wednesdays 6:30-9:30pm

To learn more please visit the webpage, and feel free to email me with any questions.

Copyright © 2018 eLIZabeth Floyd Fine Art, All rights reserved.

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