Lost and Found Edges -- Paint Outside the Lines

Artists use edges to establish focus and to take advantage of the beautiful painterly qualities of watercolor.  Look at any scene, and consider what you are focusing on and what you are not focusing on.  You see the sharp edges in your area of focus, while the edges in the area what you are not focusing on will be blurred. 

Sharp edges draw attention to an area.  Look at a painting filled with hard edges.  There is an impression of looking at a series of cutouts.  Each item may appear to be on the same level or plane.  Each of the shapes fight for attention.    You can limit your hard edges and thereby establish the focus of the painting.

If you are looking at a photograph or painting from life, squint at your reference.  The distinction between similar values, even with different colors, will disappear.  That can give you some direction on an area where the edges should be lost.   

Also look at your photograph or other reference.    You want more harsh edges where you want the view to focus.  If you see a harsh edge, consider whether you want the viewer’s eye to go to that harsh edge in your painting.  If not, than consider how you will lose that edge, and perhaps change the values.

Leather Feather, YYYY

Leather Feather, YYYY

Lost edges take advantage of the characteristics of watercolor.  You are not coloring a coloring book, painting within the lines.  You are creating a painting and want to use all the qualities of watercolor to their advantage.  Let colors blend into each other.  In so doing, you will be creating and mixing different colors on the paper, not on your palette, increasing the vibrancy and interest your painting.

In my painting, Leather Feather, if I had created a harsh edge for the hat, I would have created a secondary focus on the hat that would fight with the face and draw the viewer’s attention. Therefore, I lost the edge of the hat, creating a more effective painting.

Connect to the Viewer Emotionally

Wassily Kandinsky was a pioneer abstract artist as well as an important aesthetic theorist.  In his treatise, Über das Geistige in der Kunst (On the Spiritual in Art), he outlined a discussion of art and the relationship of the artist, artwork and the viewer.

A work of art consists of two elements, the inner, and the outer.  The inner is the emotion in the soul of the artist; this emotion has the capacity to evoke a similar emotion in the observer. . . .Emotions are aroused and stirred by what is sensed. . . . .And again what is sensed is the bridge from the material [ the artist and his work] to the immaterial [the emotion of the soul of the observer]. . . . The inner element – i.e., emotion – must exist;  Otherwise the work of art is a sham.
— Wassily Kandinsky

Artists reflect and reach into themselves to create their art.  Once a painting is created, the art takes on a separate meaning as it connects emotionally with the viewer.  The viewer reflects on his or her own experience as he or she forms a separate emotional connection to the art – which may be similar to or completely different from what the artist intended.  Effective art engages the viewer and connects with him or her.  If the artist does not have an emotional connection with the concept, then there generally will not be an emotional connection to the viewer – in Kandinsky’s words, “the work of art is a sham”.

Artists know that by connecting emotionally with the viewer, they increase the probability that they will create a lasting and memorable impression on the viewer.  Otherwise, their work is in the category of the proverbial sofa painting – the painting that the viewer selects because if goes over the sofa and works well with the colors.  As far as the viewer is concerned, that piece might as well be a print or a poster.  Because the viewer places no more value on the work than a reproduction or a piece of decor, it makes no lasting impression.  In addition, once installed, that work is ignored or forgotten, because it isn’t important and it doesn’t mean anything for the viewer.

Alternatively, if the artwork triggers to some emotionally charged memory in the viewer, he will connect with it again and again.  He is repeatedly transported back to that connection, and, more importantly, seeks out the piece art to renew it. The artist may have no concept of what that memory is.  The viewer has taken the work of art, the emotion that the artist is communicating, and layered on his own interpretation to create his own connection with the work.