Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Edge Contrast

One of your primary tasks when painting realistically from life is make decisions.  If you're confused about what you see or what you're doing, what goes onto your canvas will likely be confusing to the viewer.  There are all sorts of decisions we need to make in a painting, but there are some easy places to look for information to help you out.

One of those places is along the edges of every form.  This is a great place to judge contrasts in value and color- one side of each edge will be lighter, and one will be darker.  Occasionally they will be the same value, and only very occasionally will both sides of an edge be the same color.  Really paying attention to these relationships around each form and clarifying them in the painting can solidify your forms without a lot of effort. Of particular interest is where the relationship switches- as you trace along the contour of one form, the inside edge might be darker than the outside edge, but then at a certain point (often as the form is leaving shadow) the inside form will be lighter and the outside darker.

For some reason these judgments are very easy to make along contours.  Say we have two swatches of similar, but not the same, color.  If someone held the two swatches up a couple feet apart, it would be difficult to tell the difference between them.  But, if we saw one swatch right next to each other or partially overlapping, the difference would be very easy to see.  This is useful to take advantage of while painting.

Edge contrast is different from- but related to- edge quality.  Edge contrast refers to the difference in color on either side of a contour, and edge quality refers to the softness or hardness of the edge between the two colors.

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