Sunday, August 18, 2013

Artist Tip #19 - Design Guidelines: Dark Edges

We continue our conversation about Design Guidelines with a discussion of how dark edges can improve our paintings.  First, let's consider the doorstep... darkening the lower portion of our painting can bring design benefits, and fits particularly well into landscape paintings.  It can

  • take a mostly mid-value painting into a more interesting value pattern
  • cause the viewer to skip over the foreground and enter into the major part of the painting
  • in water, it's natural for the water closest to the viewer to look darker due to the angle of sight
  • on land, a dark shadow can be inserted without having to describe its source

This device is used in the painting Heading In, where the dark foreground sends the viewer directly into the middle distance of the painting:

And in On the Farm, the shadow in the foreground has the same effect.  Shadows like this can be added as a last step in a painting, and need not be closely related to any object in the painting:

The frame is a similar compositional device.  Placing mid-value or dark objects on one or both sides, and even on the top, of a painting, can have some of the same benefits as the doorstep, and some others:

  • take a mostly mid-value painting into a more interesting value pattern
  • keep the viewer away from the edges and trap him/her in the major part of the painting
  • enhance the illusion of depth
  • in urban scenes, tall buildings can provide a frame
  • in rural scenes, trees can provide a frame, even at the top edge

On the Farm above shows the effectiveness of a dark tree branch at the top corner of a painting.  Besides keeping the viewer away from the top and right edge, its obvious closeup provides a feeling of depth to the rest of the painting.  Copenhagen Street Scene shows how a dark building can be used to "frame" one side of an urban painting, while also "pushing back" the rest of the painting:

And Bathhouse Row below shows a scene framed on the left and top by dark leaves, trapping the viewer in the center of the painting:

Finally, the extreme case is incorporation of darks on every edge of the painting, constructing a tunnel through which we view the major part of the composition.  The painting Twilight Sail is an example of this approach:

So, in general, dark edges can help to improve the value range, keep the viewer inside the painting and focused on the main subject, and increase the feeling of distance in the painting.  If a particular painting seems weak, simply adding some dark edges may rescue it.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Venice Canal - Original Watercolor Painting

d0710: A gondolier plies his trade on one of the narrow canals in Venice.

If you'd like to purchase this 11" x 15" original watercolor painting for $200 including shipping within the United States, you can do it securely on my website (click on the image). There are additional paintings for sale there, and my smaller paintings are available on my other website  Add a unique original painting to your collection!

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