Soft Edges are Telling Part of the Story.
By Timothy John-Luke Smith
Edges are crucial elements when painting the portrait or any subject in pastel. Pastel is, by nature, very soft. We can’t just let the medium of pastel have its way with us. We need to bend the pastels to our will. How do we bend the materials to do what we want when it comes to edges? We need to look harder and add some practices that are unorthodox to do this.
Variety is the Spice of Life
A painting or drawing will appear flat and uninteresting if all the edges are either hard or soft. When there is no variation in edges, the work does not move about in space. Our eyes can only focus on one thing at a time. What we see in focus is sharp and what we are not concentrating on is usually more blurred.
The sharper edges occur when the eye focuses on a specific area. Ingres stated that each portrait should have an area with the most focus and everything else should be less sharp or detailed. With that being said, in every portrait, one eye should be more in focus than the other.
The blurred and less sharp areas of the portrait need to be reserved for the areas that you would like to recede into the distance. You actually do not need to make this up because edge variation is found in nature. That is not to say that we can’t change the edges of a portrait to accentuate depth and clarity. It helps us a great deal when we look for these edge variations in our subject; Be mindful of the edges and where you want the focus of the viewer to be.