Edges are boundaries that create shapes. Their role in painting is determined by how the artist handles them. They can help create areas that pull the human eye right to them, or they can
glide the eye smoothly from one shape to another. They give us those kinds of options.
To use these options requires two skills: (1) Controlling value contrast and (2) Controlling blending.
Even when all the edges of a shape are sharp and crisp, the eye will go first to those whose shapes have the strongest value contrast. Allow your eye to scan the following rectangles, one at a time,
and notice the how the darkest one pulls your eye to it more demandingly than the lightest one. Black shapes against a white negative space creates the strongest value contrast.
The degree to which we blend an edge determines how soft it is. This is called sfumato, a technique accredited to Leonardo da Vinci. As we see in this closeup of his infamous Mona Lisa, a subtle blend allows the eye to ease over the edge without fully stopping, the extended blend allows the eye to glide over the edge without fully realizing it is there, and a lost edge allows the eye to fill in the edge just by it being
suggested rather than defined.
Compare Image A below with Image B. Notice how Image B draws your attention to the duck's head because of how other edges are handled whereas in Image A, your eye goes to the entire duck at once.
Enjoy a weekend of edge discovery!
During my Language of Painting series, I explained the role of our visual elements. If you'd like to review those roles to better understand the behavior of elements, here are the links to each of those
discussions: Color --Value -- Shape -- Texture -- Size -- Line and Direction
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