I hope this finds you happy and healthy and getting in some good creative time!
I’ve been finding myself thinking a good bit lately about the positive and negative. There’s positive and negative when it comes to attitudes (I’ll take extra helpings of the former, thank you, and don’t have the time or inclination for the latter) — and then there’s positive and negative space, an essential understanding when you make art.
In that case, it’s not like one is good and the other is something you want to avoid — it’s more like yin and yang. When it comes to the visual representation of space, each defines the other.
Generally, in life, when we think about something in particular, let’s say, a tree (okay, you know I love trees!), we think about the tree. We don’t think about the air around it, the sky, the wind, the bird song wafting from its branches… but all of those are a total part of the experience of the tree.
When you put it into a two-dimensional space — such as in a painting — it’s easier to see how it works. So there’s Tree (Positive Space) and Not-Tree (Negative Space). Negative space just means everything that is Not-Tree.
And learning about Not-Tree (or Not-Flower, or Not-Bicycle, or Not-Chair, or Not-DogBuddy, or whatever you happen to be looking at) is essential for painting that Tree (or whatever). When you paint, that which is Not-Tree helps define Tree. It takes both to make the painting work.
Who knew something negative could be so helpful? Making art can be mind-bending sometimes, can’t it? 🙂
I hope this finds your week going well, and that this finds you creatively inspired and coming up with ways to bring much-needed beauty into the world. I just had my first vaccination today, and now, after a little nap, I feel ready to paint again!
When you make art or get into pretty much any kind of creative mode, it’s helpful to stay in a playful, experimental state of mind. If you can keep it exploratory, and think of it as a discovery process, you will help keep your inner critic at bay, and perhaps make some new discoveries that could open up wonderful new art-making possibilities.
And when you keep it playful, you actually do learn more, because you’re open to it!
As you may have noticed, I’ve been painting using a bunch of different styles and methods lately. I get to use teaching as my excuse — because it’s so much more interesting and educational for folks in classes to see different approaches and find the ones they relate to the best, than to only see one (and in time-lapse demonstration videos, it's easy to see the whole process quickly).
Last night I finished an 11” x 14” primarily-palette-knife painting — not a method I generally use, unless it’s a demonstration painting. But it is so fun to explore! It's the one you see above — I’m calling it Sunset in the Carneros, at least for now. (No, it’s not fire.)
Last summer I painted two other paintings, in different styles with different approaches and different palettes, of the same scene, albeit taken a little further down the road, so the perspective and the composition’s a little bit different….
Each is definitely something completely different….
Have you ever tried that? Taken one subject, and explored painting it in several different ways? One of my painting teachers in college, Maurice Lapp at Santa Rosa Junior College, had his students do that. Then, I did, I think, five different kinds of paintings of an apple. The last one was inspired by Wayne Thiebaud, and decades later I rediscovered it, and realized just how much it foretold much in the work I generally do now (just in a slightly different, but limited, palette).
If you haven’t tried something like this before, and want a little creative push, or an opportunity to play, you might give it a try.
Do you usually draw your composition in? You might try massing in the colors of the big shapes first, and refining them later. Do you usually use a particular kind of brush? You might try using one or two brushes that are very different, or try palette knives (you can get inexpensive sets of plastic ones in different shapes at art supply stores).
Or…? Is there anything you’ve seen or thought of lately, that you might enjoy discovering? So… what are you waiting for? 😊
Karen Lynn Ingalls
I am a working artist in Napa and Sonoma Counties, in northern California. I paint colorist landscapes of rural California, teach art classes, workshops, and private lessons, live in Calistoga, and have my art studio in Santa Rosa, California.