February 24, 2014

A New Painting: "Blue Cylinder"

Blue Cylinder, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 x 7 7/8 in.

Recently, there was a very interesting discussion on Facebook about the edges of paintings, initiated by the artist Mark Dutcher. The edge: where the painting ends and the rest of the world begins; how an artist treats the edge may say something about what they want a painting to be. Does the paint continue to and around the edge, as though to say the image could be continuous with the wall around it? or does the paint hover toward the center, making the painting a self contained world? does the edge mark a window behind which the action happens? or is that edge contiguous with a flat plane that can be broken? Does the edge disappear or is it insistent? 

In my paintings of the past several years I've been interested in edges as places of tension, like pricks on the skin. I am always aware of how close to the edge a form comes, touching it, or being cut off by it. My compositions are planned with corners and edges in mind. In this painting, the form at the right curves closer and closer to the edge and meets it at the upper right corner. The cylinder's left edge coincides with the left edge of the painting, so it swells from that edge. 

Blue Cylinder detail

The curve of the projection at the top of the cylinder rests against the upper edge of the painting. 

Blue Cylinder detail

There are other compositional choices to be made, along with those on color and light and form, but how the forms relate to the edges of the painting is always an important consideration for me.


  1. Very interesting. In many of my paintings, I tack unstretched canvas on my big easel, rule out about a 4" border all around to allow for what will wrap around a stretcher, then in the process of painting, I violate my own boundaries, leaving less and less empty space for the wrap-around. I'm not sure why. I think my hand and arm swing wide in the exuberance of applying paint. It makes for edges that are spontaneous whispers of the main painting. I'll write a blog about a new black piece that I've recently finished that exhibits this unplanned edge.

    1. I imagine that there are many artists who work with the unplanned edge as you do, Cecelia.