Thursday, May 3, 2012


For every positive shape, there is a negative space surrounding it.  This is as important to the overall success of your compositions as the subjects.  Our job is to turn that negative space into interesting shapes.

You'll need your sketchbook, a pen or a pencil, and conte' crayon or charcoal.  (Or, try all of these.)

For a week, make drawings in your sketchbook, of negative shapes from a variety of subjects -- chairs, a stool, an open ladder, a paned window at night, are just a few examples.

When you're drawing and painting, it's tempting to just look at the objects themselves, without thinking about the space around them.  This time, you will DRAW THE SPACES AROUND AND BETWEEN THE OBJECTS.  In fact, you are not going to draw the objects at all.  Concentrate solely on the negative shapes, and see what results . . . 

You'll need to look carefully, compare one thing with another, and draw what you see -- not as easy as it sounds!

It is helpful to check that the shapes are drawn correctly if you fill them in with your pencil/pen/charcoal.  Draw a "frame" around it, so you have an edge to work with, when drawing the outside negative shapes.  

Relate one shape to another.  You may find it hard at first to ignore the subjects; but, as you draw, they will begin to emerge like a ghostly cutout.  Leave them as a single abstract pattern.  Resist the temptation to develop them as recognizable objects.

These exercises will help you become more aware of the negative shapes, so you can capture the relationship between objects with greater accuracy.  See these negative areas as additional shapes -- not as wasted white background space on your paper.

If the empty spaces are right, the whole body is alive, and the more such places there are, the less boring the whole thing becomes.  - Ch'ing master

1 comment:

  1. This is very helpful along with your two negative watercolor tutorials. Another exercise to help see differently.