Living on the edge

Degas' monoprints

Degas was introduced to monoprinting by a friend who was an amateur printmaker. His earliest prints used black ink rolled out on to a plate, sculpting the form by removing ink with a variety of implements, perhaps a pen, fingers, sponge, brush or cloth. Just look at the amazing range of tones and textures he was able to achieve.

A LESSON IN -- Edges

Today we looked at edges. In drawing, an edge is any boundary between shapes. This relationship can be clearly delineated or vague-- and everything in between. An edge is considered hard when a tone stops abruptly at the place where one shape ends and another begins. Softer edges take time to build through graded tones. The skillful manipulation of these two kinds of edges account for the quality we admire in a beautiful tone drawing. 

Below are examples of how line quality is used to record student observations as they look at the relationship of objects in a still life. A hard edge is drawn with a sharp tool or an incisive line, whereas soft edges describing indistinct borders, and areas of low contrast are created using lighter, delicate lines. 

A selection of drawings

To start the final drawing, student's looked at the still life and chose a place where they saw the hardest edge-- and used this point to begin. They did not use a contour line, but built the drawing out from this location using "blocks" of tone.

What was challenging about this exercise, especially to those who use certain habits in their work, was focusing on one area at a time instead of "mapping" out the journey before it began. Each shape and tone was to be carefully considered before moving to the next--  like walking along a path of stepping stones.

Student's recognized they had to learn to trust the process to achieve a cohesive result.


Georgy Vereisky (1886-1962) was considered one of the best Soviet portraitist and a lithography master. We discussed his work in class, specifically how he achieved such a large variety of edges, especially in the shadows.