Kristie has been influential in my success as a professional artist! She has been my full time master of critiques, and her keen eye has not only improved my artwork, but it’s also helped me grow as an artist and a painter. Because of her experience critiquing my work I now also rely on her as we prepare critiques for our students for the Monthly LIVE Critique Webinars.

As we’ve studied hundreds, going on thousands, of students’ artwork we’ve noticed a tendency to avoid the edges of their canvas, leaving a halo around the painting. Considering Kristie’s experience, we thought it might be valuable for her to share her perspective on ‘painting to the edge’ and why it’s such a critical principle for artists to master.” – Bill Inman

Kristie and I preparing the Monthly Critique Webinar

Guest post from Kristie Inman –

In the early days when I would watch Bill paint my mind would immediately compare him to the swashbuckling Zorro.  His brush arches high and wide leaving a swath of paint that somehow transformed into sections of a landscape.  He would jab with his paintbrush as if going for that final strike in a duel, yet the canvas grew more alive with every parry.

There are quite a few comments on his videos about the speed at which he paints, but it’s nothing compared to what he used to do!

Bill and I spend 2 days each month meticulously reviewing submitted artwork from Master Oil Painting students, and we’ve noticed a timidity from some artists regarding painting to the edge of their canvas.

That’s when the light bulb lit up – Extreme Painting – Paint to the Edge” a title to remember!

I’m not an artist so I don’t see your artwork the same way Bill does, but that also seems to be an advantage when it comes to critiquing art – I’m not gushing over the texture, or the color harmony or any of the other principles that Bill teaches – I see only what might bother the typical viewer, like a line cutting the painting in half.

That’s why paintings that have that unfinished halo around them stand out to me.

There are probably a lot of reasons an artist leaves the edges unfinished, and I’m sure some of them are intentional and well thought out – meant to enhance the painting.

It takes hordes of courage to be an artist, so I don’t think the artists in our community are necessarily frightened to paint to the edge.  I think it may be more along the lines of unsure.

“How do I place this branch so it leads the viewer in, and not out of the painting?”

“If I leave the edges soft and blurry, maybe it will look kind of romantic and it will put the focus on the middle where all the good stuff is.”

“How do I carry my painting around the studio or to my car if paint is all over the edges?”

“What about the frame – won’t paint on the edges get in the way?”

Believe me, we’ve been there- done that- and we understand wet edge problems!

We have had many, many incidences where we unwittingly got paint all over us or the car, and more than once we’ve had to carefully peel a frame off a painting because it had been wet when we framed it.

Bill is bold with his work.

His colors, his brushstrokes, his choices of scenes.  You’ve probably seen his palette by now – huge mounds of paint rounding the border.

He puts out a ton of paint when he’s at the easel!

I’ve seen him working on a small 5X7 with a brush that’s an inch wide.  He manages copious amounts of paint on a colossal brush and still gets such details from it all. 

There’s a freedom there, like watching someone slalom down a black diamond slope with such grace and beauty that the difficulty of the slope isn’t apparent until I’m looking down the side of a mountain wondering if I can survive a 50% grade.

Often Bill has little droplets, or balls, of paint clinging onto the edge of his pieces.

The easel in his studio has so much paint on the holders that it would be difficult to know what color they started as.

Since I didn’t grow up in an art minded family I think of painting to the edge like throwing my rope (warning – cowgirl moment happening). Dad always told me to continue the motion, even after I released the loop. What sense does that make, once the loop is released it really doesn’t matter what my hand is doing, right? But it’s the thought of following through that makes the throw stronger while still in my hand.

How much stronger could you make your artwork if you followed through, and committed all the way to the very edge?

Bill and I have been married for nearly 30 years, but it took almost no time for me to realize that he’s very mindful about appearance and cleanliness. As I’ve traveled around the ‘art world’ I’ve noticed there are many like him.  Always dressed well, conscious about health and nutrition, and incredibly concerned about neatness and orderliness.

This isn’t a rule of course, but it sure seems typical for an artist to be extremely meticulous about certain aspects of organization.

All that cleanliness doesn’t stop Bill from painting like a rogue 5-year-old at times though – paint finding its way across the studio walls.

With paint brushes sticking out from between his fingers while he paints I can’t help but compare him to the Wolverine (Marvel Comics). There have even been times when I’ve been the victim of paint splatter, but I’ve learned to stand right next to him- because for some reason he never gets a drop on himself!

Notice that Bill carries branches, leaves, and land off the edge – as if the landscape, or trees or whatever, continues to exist outside of the confines of the canvas.

The edge of a painting is a tricky location. Do we want the eye to go there?

Do we have something in place to bring the eye back to the focal point?

Is there a strong line or shape or texture that will tangent the frame (see Bill’s White River Painting post)?

Are we unconsciously creating a frame within the frame with that blurry halo?

Sometimes these methods work and create a unique composition, or put emphasis on the center of interest or create movement or a resting place for the eye.  And occasionally leaving the outside edges of a painting soft and unfinished creates a strong aesthetic statement. But most of the time when I see those things in Bill’s work or any other artists’ paintings, they jump right out and distract me from the beauty of the painting because they don’t fit – they feel out of place or demand all my attention.

Bill talked a lot about that in November’s Members Only Monthly Critique Webinar, which Monthly Members and 6 Week Course owners were able to attend. They’re also the only ones with access to the webinar replay library. Fortunately, with these awesome artists’ permission I’d like to share the November Monthly Critique Webinar with our whole community to help illustrate this principle.

We hold a LIVE critique webinar every month for Master Oil Painting Monthly Members and 6 Week Course owners, which alternates between ‘Paint Togethers’ (based on a shared image) and ‘All Out Critiques’ (open to any artwork).

You can learn more about the Master Oil Painting art training programs and our LIVE Monthly Critique Webinars here:

Have confidence in yourself – you are amazing artists! I am in awe of what you do. You are each so skilled and create such beauty.

Be bold. Paint to the edge.