The Devil is In The Line

by Alex Castro

In my opinion, one of the biggest objections in painting miniature figures is the hard line. There is no place to go after you have created it visually. I remember reading the words of a dying disgruntled artist who said that the straight line must be the invention of the devil!

Softening the line is as important as the surrounding colors. The painted line in the miniatures is a real or imaginary straight line positioned in relation to a fixed point of reference, a border or boundary. The issue here is the transition from one side of the line to the other. To create softness in the figure the transition must be gradual; colors must be blended creating a symbiosis. For our purpose, I will define symbiosis as the combination of two colors creating harmony, advantageous to the figure.

To accomplish this, the opposing color must be neutralized by a third color that contains the two original colors, which makes the transition smooth. For example, if you are using white and black the middle color is grey. Whatever two opposing colors you are using they must be blended together to create the neutralizing one.

Painting miniatures is a visual language. The more effective you can communicate, the better your work will appear to others. In the visual language of miniatures, extremes are visually upsetting. We can draw a parallel between communicating verbally and communicating visually. One can give the same message in a harsh tone or soft tone. Clearly the soft tone would be better received. The same holds true for the soft line!

We can learn by the mistakes and accomplishments of the great masters. Albrecht Durer (1471-1578) was one of the greatest painters of his time, but because he couldnâ??t get past the hard edges in his paintings limiting the illusion of depth in his work. The sfumato or smoke like-edge was developed later by great masters like Giorgione and Titian. This technique, which soften the lines, created a sense of air between surfaces, giving the painting not only depth but softness. This technique is applicable to the figures, and the use of it will give you a softer, realistic figure.

The essence of a master is in his line. For me, a true master defines himself by the line and therefore the softening of the line is a paramount issue in painting miniature figures in a realistic way.

Written by Alex Castro ©

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