accentuate the negative and the positive shows up anyway

The poet John Keats wrote that understanding poetry required that we must be willing to put ourselves in a special state of mind, which Keats called “negative capability.”  He described this state as one in which a person “is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts; without any irritable reaching after facts and reason.”

My drawing students play with uncertainty in this assignment…

New semester, new class, new Positive and Negative studies…

A few students found the assignment easy enough and  jumped right in. But most students were somewhat confused.
I explain this is a whole new way of looking, seeing and drawing.  We are looking at the space between things. It’s completely different from how we are trained to see. One by one, they do get it.  It takes practice I remind them.  And a few mistakes. One student did 3 homework assignments to really get it. His perseverance impresses me. Once you get it, it’s yours, you don’t lose it.

The assignment is important in understanding how to create a strong composition. Students first learn to identify negative space and then they learn to use it. In the assignment that follows this one, they’ll be utilizing what they’ve learned.

The assignment might be a bit of a challenge, and then there’s the coloring in of the negative space, which requires some work. When the positive image, the subject-matter, starts to stand out, the work becomes visually exciting. They see it, they know it.

The homework is the same, and I am pleasantly surprised by what some of the students are willing to do outside of the classroom. Their willing to look, and put it down, makes my eyes happy. Maybe it will please your eyes as well.  Critique is particularly fun for this beginning drawing group. Take a look at a few of the class favorites.








1 thought on “accentuate the negative and the positive shows up anyway

  1. This was my favorite part of your class. There is so much surprising energy in negative space. Kudos to Jonathon. Beautiful placement!


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