One way to spotlight this subject is to do a small demonstration. So pick a subject – an apple, a vase, any object. Set it in front of you and really look at it. Hopefully, you’ve set it on a table next to your easel and it is lit, by the light from your window, more on one side than the other. In my new studio, I have three windows facing due north and two windows facing east. I will close the mini blinds to limit the light from the east side. If I leave the east windows uncovered I would have a light source from two sides, which would make my project confusing. Note the side lit by the light and compare it to the side away from the light. My object’s lit side seems to have a sharper edge. The side away from the light seems softer. Also the turning edge seems to feel softer. So – edges are important. If we paint them correctly, our object will appear three-dimensional. Softening or hardening an edge or “losing” the edge completely, we give the illusion of form.
I have chosen to paint a portrait of my granddaughter Caity. I am using a photo that I took outside in the bright shade. Caity loves pink so I will surround her with various shades of it. I plan to do this small portrait in a relatively loose and painterly style. I will start by painting her in not more than three values of each area. Then I will modify and adjust the values and colors as needed. I will also pay particular attention to the edges. This first photo of the work is the initial lay-in.
Note the soft edges on the left side of Caity’s face near the hairline. Also as her cheek turns away from the light the edge softens. That edge makes her face look more three-dimensional. Now I will adjust the values (see the posting on values to refresh your memory). Notice that Caity’s face has many different edges. The left side starts very softly shadowing into her hair – a “lost” edge. It dosen’t firm up until it reaches the right side of the jaw line. This edge and the line of her adjacent neck are probably the hardest edges in the painting.
The bright light on the left side of her hair has a nice crisp edge. The lost edge on the right side of her hair blends with the background. All these various edges add volume and form to the portrait and add reality.
To summarize: edges are important. They help define and add shape and form. They create the illusion of three dimensions.