focus is on the spaces between things

The space between the dish and the pitcher, that I paint also.
Georges Braque

One needs to  learn to see the space in-between things before one can bring the concept into play in a composition.  The focus in this assignment is the negative space. Students learn to look at and draw the space between the flowers, leaves and stems. Because it’s the opposite of how we are trained to see, the brain can get a little confused.  Everyone makes one or two mistakes before they start to flow with it.

Critique begins in an unusual way, in the dark.

Chuck, an advanced student, wants to try some new things. He follows the basic assignment. He works in class with the markers but then takes his drawing home and in the middle of the night, yes in darkness, he works on it with fluorescent paint markers.

The result in regular light is interesting in that the positive space, where he has used the paint, looks textured…fuzzy.  I like the surface.  But to really get a sense of what he is doing we need to see it  in darkness.  Chuck floods the work with fluorescent lighting, we pile into the darkest area available, a narrow storage room, and there…the drawing comes alive.  It’s bright, colorful and full of whimsy.

Chuck shares his process as the students stand cramped and excited, in the space. This is the best photo I get to share.  You can’t tell, but 19 students are cramped into the area. It’s worth it we decide. Chuck is pleased.

A general positive-negative study is always high in contrast and bold, the assignment always results in strong compositions.  We move on with excitement about all the other work.  Here are some examples.

Eruption by Crystal


Little Pleasures by Eddie

You've got Nerves by Jose



Bri's Magic Tree

This Is, by Andres

The students understand negative space now.  And because we will use the concept for the rest of the semester, the highlight and balance of both the positive and negative space will continually strengthen with each assignment.

Here is how I sum up the afternoon (and the project)…we were standing in the dark, focusing on the negative… consequently the positive was highlighted…that’s it.

2 thoughts on “focus is on the spaces between things

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