Continuing my Language of Painting series, this post looks at Shape. If you'd like to review part 1 on Color, go HERE and for part 2 on Value, go HERE
I addressed color and value first because all the other elements depend on value and/or color, else we could not see any of them performing their roles.
Any kind of enclosed visual boundary creates a shape. The boundary might be made of a line, or a contrast in value, or a contrast in color or combinations of
these. Every shape has an edge, an interior space and an exterior space. We call the interior a positive shape and the exterior a negative shape. The edge is the boundary that separates the two. Often a negative shape can also be a positive of another shape, like the red-violet triangle below is for the black disc. In fact, in this example, many negative shapes are
also playing the role of positive for another shape.
Shape is different from form. Shape is flat (2-D), potentially made of many kinds of edges whereas form
is volume (3-D) or the illusion of having volume. The space within the edges of shape can become form if they protrude in any direction other than towards the edges, or if there is an illusion caused by value gradation or contrast that makes them appear to do so.
In the painter's toolbox, edges are the most important component of any shape. Not only does the edge create the shape, it also determines the degree to which the
shape either isolates itself from the total painting or merges itself into being a cohesive part of the painting.
Edges range in character from very sharp to very blurred to lost. The sharper the edge, the stronger its isolation. The stronger the
isolation, the more power to pull the viewer's attention to it. A subtly blended edge creates an atmospheric sense of belonging to the space around it (Leonardo call this sfumato). The more blended an edge, the more it merges itself into the space of the rest of the painting.
Notice in this painting by Richard Schmid how few really sharp edges there are and how your attention goes to those that are sharpest.
So, when working with shapes, using the language of painting to communicate their essence, the painter asks: What are the edges of my shapes doing? What is their form doing? How do the shapes work
together in their positive and negative relationship?
The miracle of shape's role is the power it has when joined with value, color and the other elements to create the images in our paintings.
Have yourselves a delightful weekend!
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