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? 🙂
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.