Australian Fine Artist

Painting Nudes 2017

The Fourth of Five Workshops with David Chen

This workshop followed on fromthe previous subject about “loosening up” your painting style. One thing that I have noticed over recent years is how edges can make or break a painting. The softer and “looser” result that you may be looking for has to do with how you approach painting edges, particualrly those on you main subject in relation to the surrounding composition.

There are a few different methods to help with creating interesting edges that also bind your subject to their surroundings, rather than having them look like cardboard cutouts.

Creating Focal Points or Points of Interest

  • Choice of Colour
    Use a strong contrast of colours, like complimentaries against each other.
  • Arranging Values
    Darks against lights so that the contrast in values creates and edge.
  • Emphasis on Line and Shapes
    Creating dynamic shapes without using lines to gain the effect of strong edges.

Use One or a Combination

You can use a mix of these methods or just one at a time, to see what sort of effect you can create. Remeber thought, to vary the intensity of the edges, so that the objects work in with their surroundings. This means introducing some softer edges that pull in the adjacent colour or value, or bringing the adjacent colour into the edge colour as a soft line.

These alternating harder and softer edges will create movement and life to your paintings taking away that staic look that makes fugres look artificial. It also helps to guide the eye around the painting, making it more interesting.

By thinking about where, how many and what type of edges you use, you can create the exact focal point in your paintings that you want, so that there isn’t confusion about the areas you want to make of most importance.

Examples of artist who have used these techniques are:

  • Degas
  • Sargent
  • Whistler
  • Renoir
  • Gaugin

Remember that harder edges will push objects forward, and softer ones will push things into the bacground, so if you want to de-emphasize somethign, keep that in mind.

Below is my painting for the day. Both have had improvements made by David, where he showed me the spots I needed to soften, and alter my use of colour. I also changed to a larger brush for less detail in areas and painted against the contour on the abdomen.

In the bottom final version David marked where I needed more soft edges on the legs and pointed out that a dark area behind one of them would help to bring the model forward. I wasn’t trying to complete her face or feet during this session as my main concern was working on working the bulk of the body in with the surrounds and creating interesting skin tones that reflected the warm light. (note that the light coming through the nearby window changed significantly from the first to second photo, resulting in a difference in the colours)

As with all my workshop blogs, I acknowledge David Chen for producing the instruction that formed the basis of this information. If you would like to contact David to go on the waiting list for workshops, the link to his web site is below.

© Janice Mills and David Chen

© Janice Mills and David Chen

If you would like to go on the waiting list for workshops with David Chen, you can contact him via his website at:

Note that David does not allow photography in his workshops so if you want to photograph your work it is suggested that you do so when you get home.

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

Also Note: All paintings begun or completed at workshops under the supervision of a tutor, who has physically improved the painting,  from supplied or students’ references, are for academic purposes only, and can not be entered in to judged art competitions/exhibitions, or made available for sale online or in a gallery, as they are not the sole production of the student. These are considered collaborative works and not the sole production of the student.

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