Art Unboxed

Art Unboxed Edges

While it’s probably been said by countless people, I recall the artist and former art forger John Myatt say, the difference between a professional and an amateur artist, is how they treat their edges. As a result I’ve paid a lot of attention to them. Artists will also tell you it’s an area that takes a lot of practice to become skilled in.

You would not have all of your edges either soft, or heard, but a mixture. Soft edges would be in the area of the painting you want to blur into the background. Crisp edges in those areas you want to draw the eye too.

To illustrate, in a recent digital painting of my son and Patches our dog, I made the edges for Nicholas’ chin stand out. I mention this because I left most of the features off his face, it’s not a traditional portrait in this case. Yet I kept the chin because he has a signature cleft and has since the day he was born.

For many paintings and drawings I include the facial features, yet some pieces seem to be more unique without them. Honestly, though I’ve seen it many times before, when I started I did this because I had trouble with faces. Just as with edges I kept trying, learning with both what to include, and what and when to leave out.

I can’t help but think of the parallel in life, there are times we must make a permanent change, other times a small adjustment. That’s really what edges are in painting, small adjustments. If you’ve given a figure too hard an edge, take some of the paint around the connecting object and brush intermittently, skipping some edge, covering other parts of it.

You can soften your edge without overthinking it. Overthinking a painting is like overworking a watercolor, it can make a mess. It’s something that we all will do at some point, but that’s why we keep trying. It can’t be said enough, the greatest way to become a better artist is to practice, and to make sure you’re practicing the right things.

A bad habit repeated may be harder to break, but a good habit repeated, will make us and all those we teach better. It’s also important to note that two artists may approach edges the same way, but neither one will have identical paintings. I heard one of my Pastors say recently regarding self improvement, the difference between modeling and copying is knowing what to apply to you, and what doesn’t apply to you in life.

The same is true in art, whether edges or artistic style. Isn’t funny how the more experienced you are as an artist, the better you are with soft edges? If we can soften our edges in art as well as in life, we may find that we’re not only better artists, but better people.

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