Friday, May 9, 2014

About Silva and Beckett - the push-pull of hard versus soft edges, and the illusion of surface

One thing I notice about both of them is a mix of hard and soft edges, not entirely intentional. I think I had left some soft fuzzy edges on Silva when I stopped working on it a few months ago that I intended to come in and firm up, and also some hard edges that still need softening. When I picked it up recently I just wanted to get it done, and I left them. In fact it's pretty rife with weird edges. Beckett has a couple too, though far more subtle.

Looking at them both today I really noticed that what Jason said about lines is true of edges too - hard sharp ones come forward in space while soft fuzzy or fainter ones fade into the background. There's a whole soft mushy area on Silva's side (left side of the picture, his right side) that just looks somehow like distant mist that's out of focus, and the too-sharp edge under the pectoral just above it pops forward jarringly. The edges that are the proper firmness seem to sit on the actual surface of the form, like skin, while the too-soft edges seem to be somewhere behind the picture plane. There;s also a weird area just over his left nipple (right picture edge) - a few drops of blood seem to float several inches in front of the soft darker area of skin behind them. I'm not sure if this illusion applies to all soft edges, or just ones made with very transparent brush marks layered over each other.

With Beckett it's mostly just a couple bits of hair I added right at the end in a hurry and didn't soften them appropriately. They stand out too much.

Something similar also happens with texture, something I noticed a while back (really it was when I did White Cap with the freckles). The texture created by the chalk brush, when it looks right (not too soft, not too hard but juuust right) seems to create the illusion of surface - of actual skin. That picture is the first one where I feel like I created such an illusion - it's surface patterning, like a zebra's stripes or a leopard's spots. Very illusionistic. It can really make something look much more real and solid. It's there faintly on Beckett's face where you can see a very fine skin texture (chalk brush again). Not nearly as visible as the freckles on White Cap, but it still creates the same effect.

Another thing Im doing lately that helps with the illusion of reality is the subtle color blended in everywhere. Oh, and looking back at the over-saturated Silva and the more toned-down one, in a way I actually like the over-saturated version better. De-saturating it did something to the colors that sort of makes the illusion fall apart. Weird - I have much to learn about this beautiful beast color.

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