The past year I devoted almost exclusively to drawing and strenthening my skills as a draftsman before trying to paint and do fancy stuff. Last couple of months I felt like going back to painting, from life that is, and although the results are not particularly good, I do see a noticeable difference an it is all based on better draughtsmanship skills and feel for composition.
You usually learn more from your failures than from your successes, and I know most artists only like to publish the latter, so here is a painting that is overall in my opinion not a success, but from which there are nonetheless things to learn.
I decided to use it to illustrate the much neglected and yet crucial use of edges in your drawing and painting technique. In my Amsterdam drawing lessons I teach the idea of edges very early on, usually on session 2 when we're drawing a sphere and learning about light and how to turn form. However it us usually soon forgotten and must be constantly considered in our visual art endeavors.
The image below was a painting from a live nude model laying in front of a mirror. It was painted with Cobra water-soluble oils on an oil paper surface with fine grain.
I want to draw your attention to the use of edges to communicate texture, distance and focus in the image. The biggest contrast in edges can be seen between the edges of the image reflected on the mirror, and the wooden yellowocre frame of the mirror itself.
Look at the edges inside the mirror. They are all vague and smoothened out. They seem blury and distant. To compliment this effect, I made use of horizontal blending strokes, and I also made sure that the chroma (or saturation) of my colors was lower. You can also see that the mirror contains neither the darkest dark, nor the lightest light in the image. The values in it are compressed.
Contrast all that fuzzy feel and blury edges, with the hardest, straightest edge of the sketch, which is the mirror frame, and especially the inner side of the vertical frame on the far right. I made that edge with a pallet knife to make it razor sharp and communicate that we're dealing with a solid artifical object. The edge brings the frame forward and pushes the fuzzy image inside the mirror back.
In reality, the image inside the mirror was as sharp as the rest of the scene, its colors, values and edges were no different. Therefore I'm making use of all these tools to make a compositional point and guide the eye of the viewer to the real focal point.
The use of edges doesn't end there. You can see how edges vary around the whole image getting harder as you get closer to the nude, and softer as you get away from it. Edges are highly related to values, which is why you can see the little white frame on the top left with soft edges and barely any value difference between it, the image it holds and the wall behind it.
The nude figure itself contains a variety of edges around it, some soft, some hard and some completely lost in the background.
The white pillow under her is clearly separated from the purple cloth by a hard edge, which is the biggest light and dark contrast in the image communicating that it is nearby and drawig the eye to the middle.
This was the result of 2 sessions with the model, so nothing to be particularly proud off. Skin tones are OK, but in the end it was not the most successful painting. However it had some good use of edges which I thought made it worth blogging abit about.
Hope this helps!