But this is not how we actually experience the "look" of a live scene. When we are interacting with the components of a location most of what is visible is out of focus. How much of a painting, then, should be soft edged? How can you decide where hard edges are really needed when the image shows you everything in focus?
Acting on the premise that the best way to see if something belongs in the painting is to leave it out, making a study with no hard edges should provide you with a tool that you can use for a road map. With a "soft edges only" study in hand, you can ask where a hard edge is essential, and proceed incrementally toward just enough.
The technical requirements for this activity are important. It's not easy to keep the paper wet long enough to get even a quick study to be entirely soft-edged, but you can do it if you resolve to put the brush down as soon as a hard edge appears. Then dry the paper thoroughly and re-wet it where you want the next soft edge to appear.
after making a simple drawing, begin by wetting both sides of the paper. Wetter, please. Even wetter! It should be very shiny, but not quite dripping. Work that water into the sheet of paper.
Remember, This study is supposed to be approximate. Look at the middle ground and background in Trevor Chamberlain's boat painting, above. Half of the page is made up of non-specific shapes. Use a limited palette, say, one red, one yellow and one blue, so you won't spend too much time finessing your colors.
When the study is done, ask where a hard edge would enhance the feeling you want. Practice restraint here. It's easy to add too many specific marks. I want to stop while I think it still needs one more hard edge. I can always add it next year, if the painting still calls for it.
Here are some examples of paintings with a variety of edges, and a couple of candidates for a soft study.