Daniel Gerhartz is a prize-winning artist and workshop instructor, and his new book, Not Far From Home,
is a high-level guide that both inspires and instructs. The book's pages are filled with beautiful reproductions of Gerhartz's paintings as well as experienced instruction from the artist that is based on his years of painting. Gerhartz's a blog dedicated to methods and techniques that provide a foundation for his work, and his book. A few months ago he brought us some great info on squinting, and today he's coming to us with a lesson on edges. Enjoy!
|Mr. Johnson by Daniel Gerhartz
Often as I survey a model's appearance, I look for the one key visual
aspect that initially catches my eye and make it the focus of my
study. This can be an elusive, fleeting quality of light that lasts only moments or a
lyrical rhythm of line. In essence, all these
characteristics are variations of line, harmony, tone, color, or edge.
In Mr. Johnson, my focus was a study in edges as I strove to
convey the power of the form and drama of the subject.
The key to painting edges accurately is to truthfully observe how the look in proper relation to each other and then paint that relationship. Before I set my brush to the canvas, I find it very important to
take an assessment of the subject in terms of the extremes in value, color, and edges, and organize my thinking around these from the outset. In this
case, as edges were my focus, I squinted down at Mr. Johnson, and made
a mental note of the hardest visible edges. These are circled in red.
Why do I squint? If I don’t, everything appears to have a sameness
of edge. By gently closing my eyes about half way, the forms are
simplified and the variety between hard and soft becomes more visibly
You will notice in the circled areas that the edge quality is razor
sharp in some spots. This is how they looked when I was squinting
down! It is so important to paint these areas just as they appear: razor sharp! See the difference between the
sharp edge circled between his eyes and the edges of his brow line as
the eye sockets rounded up into the forehead or the hard edge of the
hat visor compared to the softer edges on the cast shadow on the
forehead from the hat.
Another area of great edge contrast is on the
area of the neck beneath the chin. Notice the extremely sharp edge
between the neck and shirt compared to the softer edges of the cast
shadow of the chin on the neck. Also, an area that I often see painted
too hard by students is the edge quality of the transition between the
top plane and the bottom plane of the nose. Observe the very soft
quality of this turning form.
Early in my development, I admired many of the "broad brush"
painters whose works I studied. I was seduced by the bold sweeping strokes they made as they rendered a head or figure. But those “beauty strokes,” as my
friend Scott Christensen so aptly calls them, should not destroy the
form or take away from the sensitivity with which you paint the subject. What I failed
to notice was the painstaking attention to the accurate rendering of
the form that was always beneath the bold surface quality of these artists.
||Mr. Johnson, detail.
So the next time you have a subject before you, carefully assess the
subject, squint down and let the sharpest edges emerge. When beginning
a work, establish the sharpest edges as early as you can in the
painting so that you can use them to compare against. This is critical! As you progress, hold onto the sharpest edges as reference
points and notice the how all of the other edge transitions relate to
them in descending order. It is this great contrast that will give
your work new dimension!
For more instruction from Dan, check out his website and blog as well his new book: Not Far From Home. Enjoy!
|**Reader reviews for Not Far From Home**
“The quality and overarching sheer beauty of the book is inspirational.”
--Dr. Bruce T. Faure, collector
“Absolutely stunning…needs to be on your bookshelf if you are an artist or art lover.”
--Tony Pro, painter