Friday, March 15, 2019

Edgy about edges?

What are the essential elements that make up a painting? In no particular order, composition, drawing, perspective, values, edges, colour – all of these contribute to the outcome. Edges are arguably the least appreciated of these, but contribute greatly to the three-dimensionality of a painting that aims at being representational.
I was re-reading Charles Sovek’s “Catching Light in your Paintings” recently, in which he lists the four kinds of edges – Hard, Firm, Soft, and Lost.  Hard, and Lost, are probably the easiest on figure out.
Hard edges are clear, well-lit, in focus, and catch the eye.
Lost edges are valuable in all styles for taking bits of the picture out of focus, in contrast  with the bits that are sharp and meant to take the attention. Lost edges automatically occur when two edges share the same dark tone, even if the colours are different. I find them especially useful for getting edges that are on the shadow side lost in the dark background that l often use.

Soft edges occur when there is a transition of colour or value (tone) with no distinct margin – you can simply soften adjacent edges by blurring them or blending them together.

Firm edges are somewhere between hard and soft -  a distinct transition, but clearly neither sharp nor blurred.

The images below illustrate the different types of edge.

In the pastel with the Samovar and Tilly lamp, there are two light sources – the set-up is lit by a spot from the right, and the Tilley lamp has an internal light. 

The lemon is the brightest object, and as you go around the circumference you proceed from a Hard edge to a Soft edge – and internally there is a Soft edge between the half-tone and shadow. The reflection of the lemon goes from Firm to Lost. The samovar goes from Hard where it is highlighted, to Lost in the shadow, along its perimeter. Internally there are firm to soft passages. Likewise for the Tilley lamp, specially the top.

The Spanish coffee mill shows similar transitions in its edges to emphasise its three dimensionality.
I hope this clarifies the mystery of the edges!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Tea for the Tillerman

Two diverse objects found in a French brocante. I can't resist brass, and the tea urn was a lovely large surface to paint. I associated the two, and put in a  lemon for a bright link and reflection.
First off, I scribbled in some undercolours with pencils and hard pastels.

Based on the undercoat, I chose a selection of pastels that would be the main workhorses for the next phase. As you might be able to make out, it's a varied range of ochres, yellows, and umbers, and draws from Artisan Pastellier, Blue Mountain (the square ones), Sennelier, Rembrandt and a few Caran d'Ache. You can make out a colour reference  on top.

Working from the top left, I started with the urn.

First overcoat on the lemon.

The lemon is large and bright, so  I needed to check its value and chroma against the mooted background colour (Sennelier dark greens 178 and 179). Also the light green in the lamp.

The lemon was too light in value overall, so that needed adjustment.

The background was completed, with a contrasting dark for the surface on which the objects were placed. Reflections were painted in, and this is when I realised I had a painting 42 cm wide by 48 cm high, with a lot of empty space on top. So I took off 6 cm from the top to make it square.

Tea for the Tillerman © Niall O'Neill