Edges


Boy with Chicken

Watercolor
Copyright 2011 Margaret Sloan

I met this young boy at Hidden Villa one late afternoon. He was with his family, looking at the chickens. Suddenly he scooped up one of the hens and cradled her in his arms. She didn’t seem to mind.  I asked if I might take a photo of him. He nodded silently, so I snapped a few photos. I wish I knew who he was so I could give him and his folks a copy of this.

I made this painting after taking Ted Nuttall’s watercolor workshop. If you compare it to the painting of the fiddler that I finished before the workshop, I think you’ll see a lot changes and improvements. At least, I can see them.

In past paintings, I’ve worried the paint to death. I’ve tried to make every transition smooth, and ended up making everything is bland, and even, and lifeless. Ted’s workshop made me finally see that what was missing were edges (although other art teachers have preached edges to me, I evidently wasn’t ready to hear that painting gospel). When I did paint edges, they were too abrupt, unsubtle, unsophisticated.

Edges are important. They give a painting movement and life, tell the story, sing the song. Hard edges can describe a fold, a crease, or the boundary of a cast shadow. Soft edges show a rounded structure, a form shadow, or a distant horizon. Between the nounage of hard and soft edges, there is a whole visual dialect—a spectrum—of edges that make a painting speak with nuance and grace.

When I think about edges in a painting, I’m always reminded that in nature, the edges of eco-systems are the places where life is most abundant. And now, when I paint, I’ve been trying to remember that edges are ok; they are, in fact, necessary to the life of the painting. Edges are where things happen.


Face—Detail of Boy with Chicken

Feathers—Detail of Boy with Chicken

6 thoughts on “Edges

  1. I recognize this boy’s “look” and feel disturbed by its intensity—-beautiful. I like how the trees seem to cradle him (just as he is cradling the chicken), a clear message coming through about the power of nature. . . .

    I looked up “nounage” in my Oxford but couldn’t find it. Is it an art-term or one you’ve coined so poetically to describe that precise edge you’re referring to? I, too, have been considering these edge-places lately, watching for deer (and witnessing their carnage) at roadsides.

    I’m inspired to paint. Thanks!

    1. Oy, Chris, I find kids of that age to sometimes be very intense. I think it’s something about childhood starting to dash against the doors of adulthood that makes them so wonderfully focused.

    1. Thanks Jane. I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I’ve been thinking a lot about edges lately, and how important they are.

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