Edges by portrait painter Brian Neher


Hard edges draw attention. They draw the viewer’s
attention because it’s just very stark. It almost forms a line is what it does and,
by forming a line, it immediately grabs the viewer’s attention. Now, the opposite of
a hard edge is what I would call a soft edge. A soft edge is just what it implies. It’s
very soft, it’s a transition. A soft edge would be something like this, between this
light value and this dark value underneath the lips. Do you see that transition right
in there between the light and the dark? It’s very soft. Soft edges can be used to downplay
certain areas in your paintng. They can be used to de-emphasize things, areas that you
want to sort of downplay a little bit. Soft edges come into play when you get very close
value relationships. I’ll give you another example. When you get up into the head here,
say in the cheeks. See the pinkish color in these cheeks as it comes around and starts
to turn towards more of the jaw line? Do you see the transition betweeen this color, this
pinkish color and this yellow color? Do you see an edge in there? Not really, because
it is a very close value relationship. Thery’re very close in value, so you sort of lose the
edge altogether. So, that’s another example of a soft edge in there. Now, we also have
different types of edges. There’s an edge called a broken edge. A broken edge would
be something like this right up here in the hair. You see how it’s not really a hard
edge and it’s not quite a soft edge, but you get all of these broken pieces in there.
That’s referred to as a broken edge. The same thing goes with the flicks of the hair
up here. Those are what I would consider broken edges because they’re not completely solid
and they’re not completely soft, not totally hard, not totally soft, so they’re broken
edges. The same thing is down here in this shoulder. That is what I would consider a
broken edge. And then there’s an implied edge. I’m trying to find an implied edge.
That’s an edge that doesn’t really exist, but you’re eye fills it in. I’ll give
you an example; this is sort of an example here. The way that the eye comes in the back
here, do you see how close these values are? You don’t really see an edge there. You
don’t really seen an edge between this transition, this value next to that slightly lighter value
in the corner of the eye but when you squint down or step back and look at this painting,
your eye sort of fills that shape in. And that’s what I would call an implied edge.
Today, I want to give you an example, a little demonstration. I have up here on my easel
just a picture of a statue of a little rabbit and, basically, I just want to paint the rabbit
to give you an idea as far as the variety of edges that you can use in your painting.
I’m going to do the same thing over here. I can get a soft edge right in here by just
using my fingers. That’s a soft edge. Let’s try another transition. It’s almost a soft
edge but not quite as much, just like that. A lot of these soft edges I can get with my
finger. I can’t do it too many times or else I’m going to remove too much paint,
but I can do it a couple of times. I can do the same thing on the back here.
This book needs to come up. Okay, I’m going to put a very light value right here because
that’s my lightest value, and then we can work a few edges into there. I don’t want
this value to be totally white so I’m going to knock it down just a little bit with just
a little bit of that color, but it will still appear very light in comparison to what’s
there. When I did this, when I pulled this across in sort of one motion, you can see
right here that I’ved ended up with more of a broken edge that happens. And, usually,
you can get broken edges more so when working over dry paint. So, if you paint over something
that is already dry and then you go back and re-work over top of that, you usually end
up with a broken edge because it is not a fluid surface to work into like it is with
wet paint.

16 Replies to “Edges by portrait painter Brian Neher”

  1. L.O.V.E. your video, man. This finger smudging technique is something i'm just finding out about, but apparently so many people use it. Thank you for making this technique attainable

  2. Thanks so much, Mauro! I'm glad to hear that you've enjoyed the video and that it's been a help. Take care and I wish you all the best in your studies!

  3. Down the vanguardists, should be vanishing, to be gone forever. Beauty in a painting Art is money ,fame and career, sales moore, and is democratic,.Those that paints for the common citizen the
    peoples gains popularity, is a hard work.

  4. I like the finger smudging but the cane, which you didn't mention, is a fantastic way to  have something available to stabilize your hand.

  5. Thank you Mr. Neher! Being a realist and studying edges have been quite a challenge for me. I have watched other artist describe edge work. And Wow! Your ability to describe and simplify the different edges is amazing. I made notes in my journal (painting) so that I can commit your definitions to memory.

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