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Lesson 10: Negative and Positive Space

Page last modified 13:51, 3 Jan 2016 by Karen_Simion
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    Class# 10: Negative and Positive Space            March 14-18, 2016              

    Materials needed:  ?Strathmore Sketchbook Pad (9 x 12)?Drawing pencils ?Pencil sharpener?Sanford kneaded erasers

    CSLO 1.7 Student will be able to manipulate positive and negative space in a work of art.

    CSLO 3.1 Student will be able to evaluate his/her own work of art.

    What is negative and positive space and why is it important to art?  In today’s class, we will be learning about negative and positive space, how it applies to artwork and you will be doing some drawing exercises that will help you to understand it.

    But first let’s define the word “Contrast”.?Contrast is a principle of art that refers to the arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark colors, rough vs. smooth textures, large vs. small shapes, etc.) in a piece of art so as to create visual interest, excitement and drama.

    Here are some examples of art with contrast:!Adams_The_?Tetons_and_the_Snake_River.jpg

    Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, and not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition.??Although negative space is everywhere, it is most clearly visible when you look at black and white images.??Such images have strong contrast.  

    Usage of negative space will produce a silhouette of the subject.  The use of equal negative space, as a balance to positive space, in a composition is considered by many as good design. This basic and often overlooked principle of design gives the eye a "place to rest," increasing the appeal of a composition through subtle means.

    One famous image that demonstrates the idea of negative space is the image on the link below:??

    What do you see???Two faces looking at each other???If you focus your eyes upon the white shape in between the two black shapes you may see a shape that looks like a cup.  This shape is made by the negative space in the image.??If you look at the link below you can see how the artist came up with the negative space in this image:??

    Many artist use negative space in their artwork.  One example of a famous artist who uses strong contrast and negative space in her artwork is Kara Walker.  Here are some links to her work:

    Now it is time for you to try drawing negative space.  Your will find images in the files on the introduction page.  They are titled Space 1 - 6.  You must select two images.  On each image, you must draw the negative space (the area that is not black) in the picture. Your drawings will be opposite of what you find in the image.

    1.           Take out your sketchbook

    2.           Each drawing should fill 1 page

    3.           Begin drawing the space around the black part of the image

    4.           Fill in all the white space of the image you see. 

    After you have completed your two drawings, sign and date them.

    Now it is time for you to try seeing negative space around you.  To do this you are going to need to  gather several objects together.  This might include anything like a few coconuts, a spear gun, a soda can, a pair of zorries and some leaves. 

    Now, you need to arrange the object you have gathered together so that they are close together.  What you are making is called a still life.

    Once you have your objects (at least 3 objects) set up, you need to start drawing the space around the objects.  That means, rather than drawing the coconut, the leaves and everything, you are only going to draw the space around them.  Here are some examples of the kind of drawings that you need to do:


    Try doing at least 3 negative space drawings, each one from a different angle.

    Each of your five drawings should be on a separate piece of paper. After you have done your five drawings, scan your work and upload it onto your Flickr page.

    Complete the "Student Rating" section of the rubric for this assignment.  The rubric is located in the files at the bottom of this page. Email the completed rubric toart101@com.fsm.

     In the Flickr “Description” panel be sure to include what kind of composition you used for your drawings.  Any work that has not been uploaded by the evening of March 18th, will be marked down one letter grade for each week day it is late.

    This concludes the tenth class for AR101.  If you have any questions regarding the material or assignment please email your instructor at

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