Creating Depth With Edges
Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. This is a painting of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico where I hold my annual watercolor workshop in May and it will be for sale in my upcoming one man show. I selected this painting because, today, I want to talk about hard and soft edges. A common mistake among watercolor painters, especially early in their career, is not using enough soft edges. It is the artist's responsibility to decide with each brush stroke whether it should be a hard or soft edge. Squinting helps with this because soft edges become more obvious when you squint.
The rule is to have 50 percent hard edges and 50 percent soft edges. It will never come out at exactly 50 percent but it gives the artist a goal to think about while painting. Soft edges cause things to recede and hard edges move things forward. In this painting, you can see the trees behind the adobe building are full of soft and hard edges creating a backdrop for the hard edges outlining the adobe building. The most common way to create soft edges is by letting two wet colors merge together on the paper. Another way to create a soft edge is to have two different colors with similar values next to each other. In the center of this painting, you can see how the adobe wall is close in value to the trees next to it. This causes that adobe wall to merge with the trees and, having that softer edge, creates a nice relationship between the trees and the building.
Stroking a damp brush along a hard edge will change it into a soft edge and you can see that here where the walls turn from sunlight into shadow. The hard edges on the evergreen tree on the right, along with its darker values, push the adobe building back into the middle ground. Now you can clearly see that the yellow green trees are the background, the adobe building is the middle ground and the evergreen tree, along with its cast shadow and the flat rocks, make up the foreground. All this is important to lead the viewer's eye into the painting.
Learning how to use hard and soft edges to create depth and lead the viewer's eye is critical in painting. I am teaching a ONLINE ZOOM workshop on that very subject, plus creating a mood using edges, at the Art Students league of Denver. It starts this coming Tuesday from 1 - 3:30 pm and you can sign up at the Art Students League of Denver website by Clicking Here Also, mark your calendars for my upcoming art show. Invitation Here Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton