Another Reality

This is the third lesson in the Art of Visual Expression Basic class

When I was first introduced to the concept of Negative Space I was blown away. I kept trying to sneak into a room and catch my own negative space, but obviously never did. Negative space is the space an object occupies and to the artist this concept is very significant, for to define an object in space requires attending not just to the subject of the work but to all of the space surrounding that subject. I often paint in the negative, meaning I paint around the 'subject', thus using the background to expose and develop the subject. This way of thinking is critical for watercolour and pencil works. The only way to have light in a work that uses the paper surface as white is to remove all the other white from the work so that darkness creates the light. 

Awareness of the space an object occupies also gives visual information about its relationship to other objects. The still life is an excellent way to explore negative space for to do a still life study demands paying attention to how objects relate in the composition. We tend to see objects separately rather than see the overlapping nature of all objects in three dimensional space. The line of one is broken by the line of the next. Thinking in the negative takes practice because we tend to think in the positive, i.e. seeing the object rather than the space it occupies, but to master this other way of perceiving reality is a huge step in the art of visual expression.