Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lost Edges and Thumbnails

     Last week Maria said she was a bit confused about my comment on “lost edges”, so I will attempt to explain further.  Perhaps the subject of lost edges falls into the “composition” category.  We talk about it but we never really pin down how to do it.
     The problem is, both composition and edges can be subjective and exaggerated by the artist.  This makes them a mystery to some.
     The first thing we must address is that every time you draw or paint, whether you know it or not, you are dealing with, and creating edges.   You may not be planning or embellishing your edges, but they are there.  Edges can be created by line, color (purple meets red), or shadow (in this case, light meets dark).
     For the sake of this discussion let’s simplify even more.  Today, we use our thumbnail we discussed last week and make some basic composition and edge decisions.  Here’s the photo we will start with.  Remember, my friend Walter?  Here he is helping us again.

     Today we will hold our edge discussion to “light lost edges” and “dark lost edges”.  If you get this part down, you will be on your way to becoming an edge expert.
     A light lost edge occurs when a light valued part of our subject fades into a light part of our painting.   It can be background, or something else, but when this happens our edge becomes lost….simple.
     Consequently, the reverse is also true.  A dark lost edge occurs when something dark in our subject merges into something dark in our painting, like a dark area of the background.

     I’ve decided to theoretically paint our cowboy photo.  Let’s start with our working thumbnail.  Compositionally, I make some big changes.  I scrap the cowboy to the far left completely.  Since I want to focus on Walter and the other young cowboy (named Chance).   I also decide to 86 the cowherd in the background.
     I’ve also drawn a square around the area that, for me, is the center of interest.  I will make this area the focal point of my painting.  Now it’s time to make some decisions on edges.

     To make my two subjects more interesting, I start playing with some nondescript shading in the background.  I realize right away that Walter’s back should be a lost edge (white into white).  Chance’s hat also has some lost edges on the highlight, or right side.  Also the rear leg of the cow can fade into the background.
     Walter’s hat fades into Chance’s belt line from the cast shadows.  This is a lost dark edge.  I decide to use the background tone to enhance my focal area.
     I also decide my background wash must define Chance’s right leg.  This time the lost edge is working against me.  But by adding a background tone, his leg reads correctly.
     In the final painting, this would be atmospheric washes, made to make my subject pop out from the page, or recede, depending on my artistic decision.
     Edges are a mystery until you start looking for them in your drawings and paintings.  We will continue to touch on them in our discussions.  If you would like to see this painting done as a demo, let me know.
     Maria, I hope this has cleared up some of your confusion.  And thanks for asking!  


  1. Thank you so much Mark, that helps tremendously, it is so helpful to hear your thought process as you plan your paintings. It would be great to see this as a demo. Meanwhile I will be studying edges in the blogs I follow...

  2. Maria,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I'd be interested in knowing what other blogs you follow, so I make sure I am not overlapping subject matter. I want to make sure I'm posting relevant and new material.