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  • Writer's pictureBeverley Johnson


Lately I've been thinking about edges. When I first started painting, I used to continue the image around the edges of the canvas. However, my teacher at the time told me this was old fashioned. Present day artists, she said, prefer to leave any marks that fall onto the edges during the process of painting. That way, the viewer can see and enjoy the layers.

My paintings involve many layers of glazes, printing and splatters, often made with the painting lying on the floor. This means that by the time I've finished a painting, my edges can be filthy. Added to this, the layers underneath may not match the finished painting. Dirty edges can attract too much attention so the viewer looks at the edges rather than the painting itself.

So for the next couple of years, I painted my edges white. They were neutral and clean, they didn't detract from the painting and looked attractive on the walls of a home. And if a buyer chose to add a frame, they would not be covering any of the painting itself.

But recently I've been a bit more creative with my edges. White isn't always the best colour, and choosing an alternative can add a different dimension to the painting.

For example, I have a painting inspired by the walls of a cave in Bristol. It has a large, dark area, created by layers of transparent glazes. Today, I decided to paint its edges in cadmium red light, a beautiful bright colour that contrasts pleasantly with the rich, dark glazes. Once I'd painted the edges, I added a few additional splatters of the red to the painting itself, bringing the painting to life and making more connection between the painting and its newly painted edges.

Another work in progress has lots of dark bluey greens and muted yellow ochres. I am finding edges in a fresh cornflower blue complements these colours perfectly.

However, my painting Whooper Swan has a large amount of bright orange and does still benefit from white sides, which balance the intensity of the orange.

It's fun to make the edges part of the painting itself and to include them in the creative process. When I get the colour right, it helps to make the painting feel finished.


When you're looking at a painting, do you notice its edges? Do you like them to be white or coloured or do you prefer to see splashes from the layers underneath? Maybe you prefer the painting to continue round the edges? Or perhaps you just like to see a painting in a frame?

Please let me know what you think!

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Beverley Johnson
Beverley Johnson
Feb 01, 2021

Thanks for your insight, Ryan. I like the idea of continuity. It's fun that we all have different approaches to our edges. It gives the viewer something more to look out for.


Jan 31, 2021

Thank you Beverley. In the early days I painted my edges in harmony with the painting but I am no longer doing that. I like to avoid that finished look and prefer to look over the edge of my work and see a form of ´continuity'


Jan 31, 2021

"Do your paintings change colour radically while you paint?"

That happens. When I paint with another dominant color than the groundcolor I prefer to paint the edges in the dominant color to become an equivalence.


Jan 30, 2021

Very nice, the contrast of the red sides and the few reminders of red in the painting.

my artist aunt (now 96 years old) used to do that. But she often continued the painting on the fame as well.

I think painted edges can be really interesting, especially if there is such an interesting contrast.

Thanks for your blog!


Beverley Johnson
Beverley Johnson
Jan 29, 2021

Thanks for your reply, Philippe. I also like to put a base colour on my paintings so that I am not painting on white canvas. I started one today with orange, but I think the painting might end up being a muted green. Do your paintings change colour radically while you paint?

I agree that paintings are never finished - unless hanging on someone else's wall. Rubens had a painting in his studio with evidence that he had worked repeatedly on it over years. You could see the development of his style. And galleries would take Francis Bacon's paintings out of his studio to stop him working on them. They thought they were finished while he wanted to take them…

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