Within the ranks of artists, the term lost and found edges is quite a cliche - we hear it a lot.
However, when it comes to actually painting it can be forgotten, right along with other things we thought we had learnt along the way. It's easy to forget when we are busy at the easel!
Lost edges are not a natural part of painting. The natural urge is to get everything down that we see, including all those hard edges.
Tight, hard-edged paintings are found in all types of work and many well-known successful artists do it. A trend today is seen in the prevalence of the trace-and-paint method. The art of exactness is increasing and becoming a common style.
But there’s a strong case for lost or blurred edges.
A painting that is all in focus can lack any focus. The eye cannot stop until the whole painting has been looked at - then it has to keep on going. It can be restless to look at and flat.
A painting that has passages of obscurity and softness prepares the eye for the focused bits. It has a visual drama that can be lacking in the everything-in-focus work. Good sharp edges with contrasting colour looks spectacular with adjacent softness.
Interestingly, every genre of painting has artists that use the art of the soft edge, from portraits, still life, landscapes and abstract work. Their work has movement, depth and is just enjoyable to look at. It is time well spent to discover and appreciate their work.
A combination of hard and soft edges in a painting gives paintings a visual harmony - an equivalent to a melody that is easy to listen to. These are paintings that are easy to live with.
Importantly, the hard and soft edges can prevent objects from looking 'stuck on', particularly in still life but in any type of work. Sometimes a few soft blurred edges will transform an otherwise ordinary painting by adding a touch of looseness and intrigue.
As with all things that relate to painting looser, it takes a particular mindset to begin with. A reference, whether it’s a photo or real life needs to be considered not for what it is but for what it can be. Unthinking duplication can only ever be a skill, and it can lack that artistic touch completely. It's that artistic element that will stamp interest in your work - there is no other way.