In the picture below - you will probably be fooled. It is designed to make you see comical faces looking at some kind of floating blob and weird tongue-like things but the real image is hidden in the negative space. See if you can find it.
Click on the image for a large view.
1.2.21 Negative space.
Beginners often draw the shapes and objects which are the subject. This might be an apple, pear, banana and a bowl. If, however, you consider the arrangement of items, and instead, study and draw the shapes which make up the space between the objects, then you get a different understanding of what you are seeing. These negative spaces are part of the composition. Sometimes, a negative space is more important than the objects, and it will often contribute to the overall result of your drawing in an unconscious but significant way. When you draw negative space, you use the more 'arty' sections of your brain because these shapes are usually abstract. Since they are abstract, you can draw what you see, and not what your logical part of your brain tells you to see. If you are using a reference in the form of a photograph or a live set-up then it's very common to draw what you know and not what you see. Initially, this often leads to an average or poor result. The problem is how our brain works. We seem to symbolise many shapes, so that an eye has a standard simplified shape, and a mouth has a simplified shape. It is as though our brains store a set of approximations which we use for some kind of pattern-matching machine when observing the world. Perhaps for this reason, the non-artist looks at a person's face and spends sub-seconds on each feature while the seasoned artist will tend to focus on a particular area and study it deeply. As you do more drawing, you will find that your interest lies not so much in the shape of a mouth or nose, but in the way that the shadows fall over the contours of the face, and how the light picks out imperfections in the skin. Study of negative space aids this artistic way of viewing the world. In some complex scenes, where the foreground consists of many tiny shapes - like tree branches or hair, then it is often easier to identify and draw the negative space before filling in detail in the foreground.
(C) Jeremy Lee 2010, all rights reserved.
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spOOk's art is owned by Jeremy. He has practiced drawing and painting for about 40 years, and might get good at it one day. spOOk's art is focused on graphite portraits.