Sunday, November 21, 2010


Edge modeling is an essential ingredient to successful representational painting. The first thing I look for is what Reilly called the "Big Blur". Where does the subject blend into the atmosphere? Look for areas where the value on the subject is nearly the same value as the adjacent background and obliterate the edge. This is your softest edge.

Go to the light side and look for the main (light) effect, the focal point in the light. Establish your hardest edge here. 

All other edges can vary between these two extremes. Hard edges help project the form toward the viewer, and soft edges help make the form recede. I use edge-modeling as a design tool to control the viewer's visual path around the painting.

"Purple Scarf"  oil  30"x24"  by John Ennis

From Reilly's notes:
Edge Modeling is basically a skill, without it no painter excels. 
It helps to create atmosphere, putting the model in the room, existing in space. 
It relates the form to the background.
It heightens the effect of light on the subject.
It aids selective looking.
It is done at every stage, Wash-in, Lay-in, Painting.

The diagram below illustrates the variety of edges and the process for softening edges of varying hardness. The two strokes of paint adjacent to each other represent a hard edge. A slightly softer edge can be made by dragging a clean brush over the border of where the strokes meet. To create an even softer edge, take a clean brush and zig-zag the brush, pulling paint into the adjacent areas all along the length of the stoke. Then with a clean brush softly brush down over the zig-zag creating the soft transition. When the size of the area to be softened exceeds the width of your biggest brush, lay in a half-tone value, and brush the light into the halftone and the halftone into the shadow using the technique described.

© John Ennis 2010

Next Topic: The Munsell Color Notation